Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, April 1, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: Both

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


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

Opening Lead: King

“Since all that I can ever do for thee

Is to do nothing, this my prayer must be:

That thou mayst never guess nor ever see

The all-endured this nothing-done costs me.”

— Earl of Lytton

Are you a good guesser? Whatever the answer to that question, why speculate when you don’t need to? Good players guess better than poor ones, but what they really try to do is avoid the need to take a chance at all. Cover up the East-West hands and make a plan in this four-spade contract.


Superficially it looks as if four spades depends on the spade position. Should declarer play for spades to be 2-2 or take a second-round finesse?


Norway’s Geir Helgemo showed why such a guess was unnecessary. West started with three rounds of diamonds. Declarer ruffed and cashed one top spade. He then led a club toward dummy, a heart to his hand and a second club. This was quite safe because if West had started with a singleton club, he would have been ruffing thin air. Declarer now played another heart to his hand and ruffed a heart in the dummy. When West followed suit to this trick, he was known to have started with six diamonds, three hearts, at least one spade and at least two clubs. This left precisely one unknown card. Accordingly, at this point declarer was safe to play a spade to his 10. He would be home if the finesse held and West showed out, or if the finesse lost to the queen, because then West could have no more clubs. He would now be endplayed and have to lead a diamond to give a ruff and discard.

ANSWER: These days it is standard practice at all levels of the game, and not just among experts, to play a jump to three spades here as pre-emptive, suggesting four trumps and 3-7 points or so. Accordingly, one needs a call to show a limit raise; and the standard bid for that is two no-trump. This convention is called Jordan (or Truscott) and I recommend it to everyone.


South Holds:

J 9 8 4
J 6
6 4 3
A K 7 6


South West North East
    1 Dbl.


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


Felix ShenApril 15th, 2010 at 10:21 am

Mr. Wolff, there seems to be problems with West’s diamond and club suits.

DarinTApril 15th, 2010 at 12:45 pm

The duplication of North’s and West’s minors would be appropriate for April Fool’s Day, when this article appeared in print, but I imagine that it also made following along with the commentary quite “tax”-ing, appropriate given that it is income tax day here in the USA.

OK, I’ll go away now.

Bobby WolffApril 15th, 2010 at 2:17 pm

HI Felix and DarinT,

Obviously I am seriously embarrassed by the layout presented in today’s hand. West should have shown:

s. 2

h. Q43

d. AK10752

c. Q109

as his hand. As the play progressed with (after his 2 diamond overcall) and the first nine tricks with East showing out on the 3d diamond and West following to 1 spade, 3 hearts and 2 clubs, at trick 10 when, declarer after ruffing his 3d heart in dummy leads a spade from dummy and East follows low, declarer now has a cinch to make the hand by finessing the 10. If it wins he loses only a club at the death. If it loses to West’s queen, West would have nothing left but diamonds therefore allowing declarer to have a ruff and sluff enabling declarer to trump in dummy and throw his losing club from hand.

Sadly, this hand represents counting at its most satisfying moment instead of the total confusion I have wreaked. I’ll now set about to correct the hand diagram to what it should have been. Please accept my sincere apology.

THE GOOD NEWS: Perhaps the negative flap caused by my negligence will cause many readers to pay more attention to this particular hand and that, in turn, will accent how important counting the hand can be, and, at least to me, is the lever which stirs the drink and allows a player to ascend his overall game, in the direction of high-level.

Bobby WolffApril 15th, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Hi again DarinT,

Your comments (and humor) were very appropriate considering what happened and when. Add to that our circumstance on this blog of an exactly 14 day wait between the original publishing of the column in the newspapers and then the internet.

Perhaps an April Fools gremlin appeared knowing the column’s logistics on the internet. He then capitalized on April 15 which has only served to further tax us all as much as possible. At least we won’t have to wait in long Post Office lines.