Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 14, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: All

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


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

Opening Lead: 2

“I to my perils

Of cheat and charmer

Came clad in armour

By stars benign.”

— A.E. Housman

This week’s deals all come from the Cavendish tournament in Las Vegas a decade ago. Today’s deal shows Paul Soloway getting the worst of it against a fine defense.


Soloway was South in the delicate contract of four hearts. West found the best lead of a low trump to South’s ace, and Soloway drew trumps in two rounds, then led a club from the board, intending to put in the nine.


If West had won his 10, his best play would have been to return the suit. Declarer wins and plays a third club, and West can do no better than exit with a fourth club. Declarer discards dummy’s spade, ruffs out the spades, and has to guess diamonds for his contract.


Shifting to a diamond at trick four is no better for West. That clears up the diamond guess, but lets East play a spade. Now the second club loser will eventually go away on the spades.


However, at trick three East put up the club queen! This was the critical defensive play, in that it enticed declarer to release the club ace prematurely and set up two quick club winners for the defense. When Soloway took this trick with the ace and exited with a low club, West took his 10 and led a small diamond to his partner’s ace.


That allowed East to win and switch to a spade, which set up the defense’s fourth winner before declarer had any discards coming for his black-suit losers.

ANSWER: In this auction three clubs by you (the cheaper minor) is commonly played as a very weak hand, all other calls being natural and game-forcing. The question is whether your hearts are good enough to bid now, or if a temporizing bid of two no-trump might prove more economical. I can see both sides of the case, but I’d prefer somewhat better hearts to introduce the suit now. So bid two no-trump.


South Holds:

Q 7
K 9 7 6 4
J 10 5
5 4 2


South West North East
    2 Pass
2 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 2010. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitMay 29th, 2010 at 6:40 am

It seems to me that South should draw trump ending in his hand and lead a spade. If the king is well-placed, he only needs to guess diamonds (which he must do no matter what his line of play). Even if East has the king, he still succeeds if clubs play for only one loser.

Bobby WolffMay 29th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Hi David,

Your suggestion of drawing trump, winding up in hand, and then leading a spade seems at least as good as any other line, perhaps better, but very difficult to be measured accurately.

When one gives up playing clubs first, he loses the possibility of being able to establish clubs in order to throw the losing spade away from dummy. Also, declarer is manuevering to wait as long as possible (trying to glean more information) to make the critical diamond guess, which if somehow he persuades West to not switch to spades, while not holding the King but perhaps holding the Jack but not the ten, making the spade switch less attractive, he might gain a tempo advantage.

Granted there are many factors, some real, some psychological, all contributing to making this hand discussion friendly, at least among us bridge nerds.

Thanks for writing.