Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: All

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


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

Opening Lead: 6

“Until you understand a writer’s ignorance, presume yourself ignorant of his understanding.”

— Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Today’s deal comes from Patrick Jourdain’s “Problem Corner,” a collection of excellent bridge problems with degrees of difficulty ranging from relatively simple to intriguingly difficult. This one ranks somewhere in the middle. How should South play three no-trump on a low spade lead?


The answer is that you should make the unnatural move of rising with dummy’s spade king at once. This is not your best play to maximize tricks in the spade suit. Rising with the king virtually ensures two losers sooner or later, but you need only one spade trick for your contract.


More to the point, your plan is to win the first trick and set up the diamonds for your nine winners. To succeed in this plan, you must obtain the lead before the defense has a chance to switch to hearts. By successfully putting up the spade king, you have gained a vital tempo. The defenders can win the diamond ace and unblock their spade winners, but still have only three fast winners. Meanwhile, you have nine tricks — four diamonds, three clubs, and one trick in each major.


Finessing in spades by playing low from dummy at trick one is an error because even if West has the queen and East the ace, a heart switch beats you. And if the cards lie as shown, East will find it easy to switch to a heart after winning his spade queen at trick one.

ANSWER: This is more of a problem of system than of judgment. You want to get to four hearts as fast as possible. (Who knows who can make what here?). Equally, you would jump to four hearts with a far weaker hand, so that action might easily miss a slam. The solution is to reserve the response of three no-trump to one heart as artificial, suggesting a shapely raise to four hearts with some defense.


South Holds:

Q 4
K J 8 7 2
A 8
10 8 7 5


South West North East
    1 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