Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dealer: West

Vul: N/S

K 10 9 2
Q 3 2
J 6 5
K 9 3
West East
A 8 6 3 Q J 7
6 4 J 5
A Q 4 2 K 9 8 7 3
Q 4 2 10 8 5
5 4
A K 10 9 8 7
A J 7 6


South West North East
  1 Pass 2
2 Pass 3 Pass
4 All Pass    

Opening Lead:A

“Question not, but live and labour

Till yon goal be won,

Helping every feeble neighbour,

Seeking help from none.”

— Adam Lindsay Gordon

Eddie Kantar, in his “Kantar on Kontract” (, wonders why there are so many bridge books aimed at preventing you from making a mistake rather than preventing partner from making a mistake. Everyone knows that most mistakes at the bridge table are made by partner.


Assume you are West playing matchpoint pairs in four hearts with a partner weaker than yourself. This should be easy because everyone you play with is weaker than you. South ruffs the second diamond and continues with the heart ace and a heart to the queen, dropping your partner’s jack, and ruffs dummy’s last diamond. At this point you should know that South started with six hearts and one diamond. Declarer continues with a spade to the king as you play low, and now a spade from dummy, partner playing the jack. Which spade do you play?


It seems obvious to play low, but West regretted his play a moment later. His partner shifted to a low club, declarer played low, and West was forced to play the queen. Now the defenders’ club trick had vanished. What West should have done is overtake partner’s jack and play another spade to partner’s queen. Yes, South trumps and the spade 10 in dummy is high, but so what?


Declarer has four clubs (remember, West is counting and can tell from the way spades are being played that declarer has a small doubleton, leaving him with four clubs). One club discard on a spade won’t help. He still has a club loser.

ANSWER: Partner has shown a strong no-trump, so you have enough to invite to game, but is it worth looking for a spade fit via Stayman or a forcing call of two clubs? I think not. The danger of ruffs in one minor or the other — even if partner does have four spades — is so large that you should just bid two no-trump and let partner take it from there.


South Holds:

K 10 9 2
Q 3 2
J 6 5
K 9 3


South West North East
Pass 1 1 NT Pass


For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2009. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Nara NarasimhanApril 7th, 2010 at 5:30 pm

In spite of West’s good play, overtaking the J of spades with the Ace, and returning a spade to the Queen, South has his endplay intact. Declarer discards a club on the third round of spades, forcing East to lead diamonds for a ruff and discard, or to break the club suit, thus avoiding any club loser. If East has another spade and leads it, declarer discards a second club on the spade winner in dummy.

Judy Kay-WolffApril 7th, 2010 at 5:42 pm

I’ve never usurped executive privilege by responding on Bobby’s Aces site, but Eddie’s comment about not giving your partner the opportunity to make a mistake (by breaking the club suit) was reminiscent of something my late husband Norman Kay always preached to me: If you place partner in the position of making an error on defense that YOU could have prevented (either costing a trick or not beating a contract), the FAULT (otherwise known today belittlingly as a ‘Charge’) IS YOURS. Good partnerships make life easier for one another as is evidenced at the high levels of the game. Of course, the nuisance of counting out declarer’s hand most times makes the decision much easier. I personally prefer blogging to counting — but to each his own.

Bobby WolffApril 7th, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Hi Nara,

This was a match point pairs hand and the prize for declarer would be to take 11 tricks in 4 hearts rather than 10 tricks. When and if the declarer discards a club on the third lead of spades he would automatically hold himself to only 10 tricks instead of 11, therefore making minimum. Since it was a match point event it is assumed that the reader knows what the goals are and although it WAS NOT MENTIONED how many tricks were taken it is assumed that everyone kept their own count.

Thanks for writing. However, it turns out that your comment could be misleading to other readers since there is no gain for declarer to discard a loser on the spade, but rather it would be normal for declarer to hope to guess the club himself (he cannot but he does not know that before he tries it).

Nara NarasimhanApril 7th, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Hi Bobby,

thanks for the clarification. I agree with you that my comment here could be misleading. If possible, feel free to delete my original comment, your reply, and this request.

David WarheitApril 8th, 2010 at 7:13 am

There’s another way declarer can run 10 tricks into 9 and then back to 10 again: after drawing trumps and ruffing out diamonds, he leads a spade to the 10. East wins and 1) returns a spade to west’s ace. West leads a spade, declarer rises with the king and now has two spade tricks to pitch his losing clubs; 2) returns the queen of spades to west’s ace with again two spade pitches; 3) returns the queen of spades, west ducks, and now south only must lose one more trick, a club, no matter how the clubs are distributed. All of this is fun, but I’m not sure it’s bridge! And please, feel free to delete this comment as well, unless your laugh quotient is short today.

Bobby WolffApril 8th, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Hi Everyone,

There used to be a wonderful feature in long ago Bridge World magazines with an appropriate title well discussed called the “Theatre of the Absurd”. Recent comments would be well stored to be so labeled.