Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 12, 2010

Dealer: North

Vul: All

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


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

Opening Lead: 6

“It is so easy to exchange meaning; it is so easy to see the difference.”

— Gertrude Stein

Consider North-South’s club suit in today’s three-no-trump contract, without looking at East–West’s cards. At first glance it seems there is little room for maneuvering. Either the finesse works, or it does not. Well, there is more to it than that.


When the deal cropped up in the Bermuda Bowl encounter between Poland and Brazil, Michael Kwiecien won the spade lead and could see that he would need to run the clubs to make his contract.


The natural play seems to be to run the club 10, then play the suit from the top if that card is covered by the queen, but Michael saw a little more deeply into the position than that. The point is that the only way three no-trump can come home is if the club queen is onside. Since declarer could not see through the backs of the cards, he was never going to negotiate a 4-1 split onside by finessing the nine on the second round. The one distribution he could easily cope with was a singleton queen onside — that would not jeopardize any other favorable lie of the cards. So after carefully leading a low club to the queen and king at trick two, he could now unblock the club 10 and was then able to return to dummy by usiing the heart ace to collect 10 tricks. That was worth a game swing when the Brazilian declarer missed the play in the other room.

ANSWER: Declarer is surely going to need to ruff hearts in dummy, and perhaps also to discard spade losers on dummy’s diamond winners. Which should come first? My guess would be to lead trumps, but I can understand the spade lead too.


South Holds:

K 9 3 2
J 6 5
Q 9 5 4 3


South West North East
1** Dbl. 1**
1** Pass Pass 2**
Pass 3** All 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


Paul BetheJuly 27th, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Surprising that West did not bid a natural 2S over 1S. His side could have easily had a game the way people open and respond light these days.

That would have also made it harder for N-S to reach the cold 3NT, or even give West +670 in 2SX.

Bobby WolffJuly 27th, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Hi Paul,

Right you are! At least to me, West has an automatic 2 spade natural overcall, over South’s 1 spade response.

It is possible that EW played a same suit bid by 4th chair as some kind of take out, but if they did before they should change it to natural. A double would of course, serve as a TO and most sound players would then use 2NT as not natural (hardly ever useful that way) but a weak, very distributional hand with the other two suits (at least 10 cards and probably more in the unbids).

The play in 2 spades (doubled or not) would require West to first lead a low diamond toward dummy, forcing North to rise with the King and then after creating a spade entry by first leading low to the J10 and then the second time being able to enter dummy for the contract fulfilling diamond finesse. However, even that sensible line of play might fail if South manuevers the diamond plays to put declarer in the wrong hand at the wrong time at the near death of the hand, therein allowing South to discard his 4th diamond as declarer is forced to ruff himself out of his contract fulfilling trick.

Bridge can offer so many interesting positions that they even arise when not intended.

Thanks for your right-on comments, although when West bids 2 spades, North will probably either bid an aggressive 3 hearts (my choice) probably resulting in South bidding 3NT or a conservative 3 clubs which will probably buy the contract short of game.

barry rigalJuly 31st, 2010 at 7:16 pm

It is my experience that only North Americans play ‘cuebids’ in fourth chair as natural.

For example in the Uk where minor-suit openings show four the cuebid of opener’s suit is less useful. And the idea of bidding RHO’s suit as a natural call was iunknown in the 80’s/90’s in Europe.

This is one area the US has it right to my mind. There is some merit to differentiating which suit is longer in your two-suited bids, but not nearly as much as there is in being able to bid a suit when you have it!