Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: None

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


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

Opening Lead: 5

“It is the talk, and not the intrigue, that’s the crime.”

— George Granville

Today’s deal comes from Patrick Jourdain’s “Problem Corner,” a collection of puzzles that have appeared on Britain’s Channel Four Teletext, or in Bridge Magazine, where Jourdain has been offering a monthly problem for the last decade.


In today’s deal how should you play three no-trump on a low heart lead won by dummy’s jack?


With five tricks in the majors, you will need to set up diamonds to have any chance of getting close to nine tricks. The natural play seems to be to lead up to the diamond honors twice, hoping that the ace is well placed for you; but there are breakers ahead.


You will need diamonds to be 3-2, but even then, communications are problematic. Imagine that you win the second heart in hand and lead a diamond to the king, come back to the spade ace, and lead a second diamond. When East wins his ace and returns a spade, you can no longer establish and enjoy the diamond suit.


Nor can you play a high diamond from dummy at trick two: East may duck, leaving dummy short of entries in just the same way.


Instead, lead a low diamond from the table at trick two. You can win any major-suit return in hand and lead a second diamond to set up the suit. Because you left the majors intact, you can ensure reaching the diamonds later by using the spade king.

ANSWER: In this auction the call of three hearts, giving preference to partner’s first-bid suit, is consistent with either a decent doubleton heart or three hearts. The point is that you sometimes will have initially raised hearts with three, rather than rebid a moderate six-carder. So partner should not expect the earth from you in the way of heart support. And you can still get to three no-trump if appropriate.


South Holds:

K 8 2
J 10
K Q 7 6 5 4
Q 3


South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 Pass 3 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 WarheitJune 9th, 2010 at 12:12 am

Really minor point, but when you say “You will need diamonds to be 3-2” you should add “or 4-1 with the singleton ace”.

Bobby WolffJune 12th, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Hi David,

Your point is well taken and worth mentioning. With 5 out, the liklihood of the ace being singleton in one hand or the other figures out to be 20% of a 4-1 break (32+%) which multiplies out to about 61/2% of the time. That 1 in 13 chance occurs too frequently to not be worth a mention.

Thanks for suggesting that improvement.