Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, July 1, 2010

Dealer: North

Vul: N/S

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


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

Opening Lead: 7

“Turn with me from the city’s clamorous street,

Where throng and push passions and lusts and hate….”

— Thomas a Kempis

If you are going to bid aggressively and push the opponents around, then you may need to defend accurately when they end up in a poor contract, or it will be a case of “the biter bit.” Today’s hand was just such an example.


Left to their own devices, North-South would surely have ended in a hopeless three no-trump. But after the weak-jump overcall, South ended up declaring a delicate four hearts.


West led the spade seven to East’s king. Declarer ducked and won the next spade with the ace. Declarer now ruffed a spade with the heart eight and carefully led a low heart to the jack and queen. Now there was nothing more the defense could do. If West played another spade, declarer could ruff with the 10, cross to hand with a diamond, and play a top heart. West could win and play yet another spade, but with hearts 3-3, declarer could draw trumps and claim.


Note that if declarer had led the heart 10 from dummy on the first round of the suit, another spade would have allowed East to overruff the dummy, forcing declarer to ruff in hand. Now, continued spade plays by West would beat the contract.


However, look at the effect if West ducks the first heart. If declarer plays another heart, West wins and continues spades, forcing declarer to ruff in hand. Now declarer has just the heart king left, while West has the ace and East the seven. Declarer cannot prevent the defenders from making both of their trumps separately.

ANSWER: Facing a two-level overcall, you have enough to drive to game, rather than inviting game with a call of two no-trump. Your choice is to make a two-diamond cue-bid, looking for a 4-4 heart fit, or to blast to the no-trump game. Given the possible weakness in spades, I prefer the more circumspect approach of the cue-bid.


South Holds:

A 6 3
K J 9 6
Q J 8 4
8 2


South West North East
  1 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


Amnon HarelJuly 15th, 2010 at 10:40 am

Thanks for this beautiful hand. So hard to find those defensive ducks at the table…

BTW: Declarer erred badly in ducking the first trick. Not so much because spades may be 7-1, but that winning and leading the 2nd spade himself is much better for the common 6-2 break. The main danger is than lefty has the AQx(x) of trumps, in which case a trump shift at trick 2 kills the contract – can’t get to 10 tricks without the spade ruff. But if declarer wins the first trick, the 2nd one will be won by lefty, the safe hand – the lead marked him with a high spade and dummy’s Jack is just high enough to save the day.

Bobby WolffJuly 15th, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Hi Amnon,

As the mustachioed villain of yore might have exclaimed, “Foiled, again”!

You are, of course, right on that if East, at trick two, had switched to a trump and West followed through with two more rounds, it would have been curtains for the contract and the fair damsel tied to the railroad track would not have been saved.

However, if that would have happened, we would have been deprived of what you have described as “a beautiful hand”. And you went on to say that “it is so hard to find those defensive ducks at the table”. The real game of “high-level” bridge can be so difficult with this hand as an example. While hoping the queen of hearts would be onside (with East) in this case and with the stated play to the first three tricks, an overruff with the hypothetical queen, “might” have, with a different distribution of the defensive trumps, put paid to the contract.

Furthermore, since 4-3 major suit fits are not the goal, especially for most game contracts, sometimes it is refreshing to see one which is made, even if it required a defensive error.

None of the above is said to belittle your brilliant analysis. Your comment is what stirs the bridge drink and without which, all of us would be less well off.

Thanks for writing.

David WarheitJuly 16th, 2010 at 9:01 am

East’s failure to lead a trump at trick two is more than just an error. He knows, from the bidding, that his partner almost certainly has a singleton diamond, but he didn’t lead it and instead led from a broken spade suit. Why? Almost certainly because he has good trumps and doesn’t need a ruff or at least feels it very unlikely that his partner can ever get in to give him a ruff. All of this fairly screams: Lead a trump!

Bobby WolffJuly 16th, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Hi David,

Your new name is Detective Warheit. Obviously you have a penchant for gathering evidence and then putting it into good use.

In bridge, more than any other popular game, except perhaps poker, evidence gleaned during the auction, opening lead and subsequent play and defense becomes transparent to the astute observer.

Although I am not aware of any specific testing results, years ago when I mentored the up and coming North American Junior Teams (at that time up to 25 years of age) my aptitude tests consisted mostly of essay questions which asked the student to reply how he would go about finding where the opponent’s important hidden cards would be located.

From my keeping up with the leading developed younger players today the ones who scored highly on my contrived exams seemed to be doing the best.

Thanks for your continued learning help.