Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: All

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


South West North East
1 NT 2 3 NT All Pass

Opening Lead: King

“Up goes the lark, as if all were jolly!

Over the duck-pond the willow shakes.

Easy to think that grieving’s folly.”

— George Meredith

“Duck or no dinner” is a British expression meaning “all or nothing.” In a Spingold Knockout Teams match from last summer’s national championships, it was Steve Bloom who produced the duck, and it was his opponents who had no dinner. His play won the match for his team, and so his opponents got no dinner, because they had to prepare for their evening match.


Bloom (South) reached three no-trump after West had bid hearts. The lead of the heart king put him in a perilous spot, but East’s jack was a welcome sight. Bloom ducked the heart king, then the heart queen, East discarding a low spade, suggesting an initial holding of five spades. West was now unable to continue hearts without costing himself a trick. He shifted to the club nine, ducked all around.


At this point Bloom had a fair idea of the defenders’ hand-patterns. He decided to play for West to be 2-6-2-3, with a diamond honor. Accordingly, he cashed his clubs and spades, went to the diamond ace, and had reached a five-card ending in which West was down to the bare diamond queen and four hearts.


Bloom ducked a diamond to West, who was endplayed to lead a heart into dummy’s tenace and concede the rest. Declarer won the heart cheaply and cashed the heart ace, pitching his two spade losers, and had two diamond winners at the death.


In retrospect East might have done better to pitch a club at trick two. Declarer might then have misguessed his opponents’ hand patterns.

ANSWER: Your hand looks just too good to sell out by passing. Bid two no-trump natural, showing a good 15 to 18. You may have a minimum hand, but that does not mean that bidding will lead to a bad result.


South Holds:

A K 6 3
9 3
A 10 7 2
A 6 3


South West North East


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


bruce karlsonAugust 14th, 2010 at 8:30 pm

It appears that West could have made a very nice unblock and forced N/S to buy their own dinner. Should West have seen the end position and unblocked the Q under the diamond A??

I doubt very much that I would have seen it, but it does not seem an unreasonable play for an expert.


Bobby WolffAugust 15th, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Hi Bruce,

Nice try, but no cigar.

West’s unblock of the diamond queen in order to prevent being endplayed would be yours and my recommendation. However, at least on this hand, South has the diamond TEN to insert on the way to the forum. Your thoughtful unblock would not have worked as it would have, if your partner had been dealt both the Jack and ten of diamonds.

From plays and more to the point, discussions, about such beauties as unblocking the diamond queen, come sidebars such as what happens when West has the Jack and a small diamond and East has the Q10x. After both follow low on declarer’s leading to the diamond honor in dummy, then when declarer leads back to his hand from dummy, East must open his jaws, like a crocodile, rising with the Queen in preparation of his partner being left with the lone Jack so that, at least from the defense perspective, the hand would be set. This second hand high play, contrary to accepted practice of second hand low, is appropriately named the crocodile coup and will forever be part of bridge teaching and bridge lore.

“Little by little we can learn great things”. It is a little bit like falling in love and if one does, and treats the subject (game) right, one will be treated to much pleasure and satisfaction to boot.

Thanks for always opening the door. Nothing can be gained and thus learned without the most important ingredient, YOUR ENTHUSIASM!

bruce karlsonAugust 15th, 2010 at 5:36 pm

I thought East’s play of the D 4 on the lead from dummy would be count but he would presumably make the same play from J4 tight.

It is becoming very clear to me why experts can discuss the play of a suit for 15 minutes. I can imagine the sessions you had post match when you played with the Aces. They must have been exhausting and excruciating!!!

I will put the Crocodile and Vienna Coups on my “bucket list” which probably means I need to live a long time…

Thanks again,


David WarheitAugust 16th, 2010 at 6:18 am

I believe that Bruce is correct about dumping the diamond queen. If south cashes the diamond king, instead of the ace, however, there is nothing that west can do. Given south’s analysis of the hand, that’s exactly what he should have done.

Steven BloomAugust 16th, 2010 at 1:01 pm

To David, I did play the diamond king, not the ace. I think that was just a misprint. There was no defense.