Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, April 2, 2010

Dealer: West

Vul: Neither

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


South West North East
  2 Dbl. 4
5 Pass 5 NT Pass
6 All Pass    

Opening Lead: King

“Teach me to feel another’s woe,

To hide the fault I see;

That mercy I to others show,

That mercy show to me.”

— Alexander Pope

If you look at the North-South cards, you will see that the heart slam seems to hinge on not losing a heart trick and a club trick. You can afford one loser but not two. Now look at the East and West hands and you will see that the cards are not cooperating for you. What can declarer do to avoid going down?


South won the spade-king lead with the ace and discarded a club. This play turned out to be the first good decision. Then he cashed the heart ace, ruffed the spade jack back to hand, led the heart jack (just in case), and went up with the king when West discarded. The club finesse could be taken any time, but declarer saw that it could not cost to cash the top diamonds first. It was now revealed that West had started with precisely three diamonds, one heart, and presumably six spades. He must therefore hold three clubs, so there was no point in taking the club finesse. If the queen was onside, it would be doubleton.


So declarer cashed the club ace-king — no luck there either. However, declarer was still in control. He led the fourth diamond and discarded a club from dummy. East also discarded, postponing the evil day for one more trick; but South could now exit with a trump. East had to win and give a ruff and discard on his return, so declarer’s last club loser went away, and the contract came home.

ANSWER: One of the hardest things to do at the bridge table is give up on a good hand. Here you showed an opening bid with short spades, and partner wants to stop in a partscore. Who are you to say he is wrong? Pass two hearts, since a raise to three hearts would show a trick more (make the spade jack the king, perhaps).


South Holds:

A K 6 3
Q 9 8
J 10 9 8


South West North East
Dbl. Pass 2 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


bruce karlsonApril 16th, 2010 at 10:32 am

Regarding the bidding problem:

Passing with is tough, but with 1/3 of my hcp in their suit it is easier. When they have spades and the deck appears to be split, the opps can be depended upon to take it to 2 spades. Presuming partner then passes, I can now bid 3 hearts nonvulnerable and partner has a better understanding of my hand. Normally going off a trick doubled is a decent board. And, of course, we should have decent shot at setting 3 spades.

Bobby WolffApril 16th, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Hi Bruce,

While your synopsis about not raising to three hearts immediately is right on, I would take a more conservative view than yours. If the opponents (LHO) now does compete to 2 spades and partner does pass, I would let them play it, especially if I was playing against matchpoint wary opponents or even at IMPs (or rubber bridge).

1. Since LHO didn’t immediately raise to 2 spades, he well may have only a doubleton spade, probably leaving 4 for partner, therefore my jack of spades takes on more defensive potential and partner’s hand becomes not as suitable for being declarer.

2. Partner was in position to do the heart (or even another suit) competing for our partnership and declined, and having not done so, we need to respect his wishes.

3. My guess as to trick potential, assuming everyone at the table measures up in quality, is that on average, both sides figure to take about 7 3/4s tricks with their respective suits as trump.

4. There are many variables, not to mention luck, but, at least for our side, I have a good lead, a high heart and the partnership confidence that we will defend correctly and with normal playing luck we hope to go plus 50 against the possible down 50 at 2 hearts for us and, at least to me, almost a certain set (when partner opts not to bid again) it will be for us at the 3 level.

5. This is not rocket science, but rather cold statistics based on much experience. Remember, your partner should be as well versed at the value of competing as you are. Yes, it is a bidder’s game, but in a dog fight, keep in mind that the 3 level is for the opponents.

6. As a final thrust and if you are West, holding s. 10x, h. J10xx, d. K10x, c. Kxxx and after passing the first time what would you bid when the bidding got back to you? I would bid 2 spades and plan on doubling 3 hearts at match points the next round. Also, please realize that if West had a 3d spade we would already have heard from him.

The bridge world should appreciate your inquiring mind.

bruce karlsonApril 16th, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Thank you!!! Sent your comments to a new partner with the admonition that bidding, doubling and defending part scores is enormously more important than the most modern, marvelous conventions. Even rudmentary counting will often point the way…