Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: N/S



J 4 3

Q 6 5

Q J 10 9 7


J 10 9 7 2

9 7 5

3 2

A 6 2


5 4 3

A Q 10 8

10 9 8 7 4



A 8 6

K 6 2


8 5 4 3


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

Opening Lead: J

“He listens well who takes notes.”

— Dante Alighieri

When declarer has limited his hand via an opening bid or a rebid in no-trump, one can often judge just how much help partner’s hand will contribute to the defense.

Here, for example, after West led the spade jack against three no-trump, East knew that his partner had few high-card points. On winning the lead in dummy, declarer continued with the club queen, and East was rather surprised to find that his king held the trick. Now the South and West hands had become transparent. West was marked with the club ace, and having led the spade jack, West probably did not have any other honor cards.

A spade continuation would be a waste of time, East reasoned, as declarer and dummy between them had three stoppers in the suit unless declarer had a doubleton ace — not impossible, but not likely. East would have played for that chance if it was the only way to defeat the contract, but he figured that a more realistic hope would be to take three heart tricks in addition to the two clubs tricks. But which heart should East return?

If East returned a low heart, South would run this to dummy’s jack and still have a second stopper with the king. The card to play was the queen, leaving the jack surrounded. South played his king perforce, but when West got in with the club ace, a heart continuation through dummy’s jack produced the requisite three heart tricks.


South Holds:

J 4 3
Q 6 5
Q J 10 9 7


South West North East
  3 Dbl. Pass
ANSWER: The most likely game to succeed is three no-trump, so despite your diaphanous diamond stop, you should up and bid it. Of course, if partner has a void in diamonds, you might be on somewhat shaky grounds. Equally, though, if he has a relatively balanced hand or a diamond honor, you might find no-trump far better than clubs (and the opponents do not always lead diamonds on auctions like this).


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


Alex AlonSeptember 1st, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff

I am reading your column here for few months and enjoy it a lot. I also try to learn some thing from each hand.

On this hand please explain why it is right to declarer to play the KH on the Q? i mean even if he thinks that Ace on his left and the JH from dummy will stop the suit, he still needs to give the hand to the opponets after they clear the hearts… so blocking the suit ( Ace doubelton) is the best chance, isn’t it?

Thank you for your answer, and even if my question seems stupid to you ( there is a “bit” difference in our bridge level 🙂 ) please explain.

Alex Alon


joe ranselSeptember 1st, 2010 at 4:04 pm

alex, if declarer ducks, continue with the 8 of hearts, same result. joe ransel, indiana

joe ranselSeptember 1st, 2010 at 5:00 pm

alex, sorry, don’t think i answered your question.

Bobby WolffSeptember 2nd, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Hi Alex,

First things first. The Aces on Bridge is meant for entertainment and bridge instruction. You are a reader who obviously is interested and possessed of an inquiring mind. From you, there is no such thing as a stupid question, only a forward going desire to learn and to interact.

The last thing I and everyone connected with the column wants is a cherished reader to feel even slightly intimidated by asking a question to which he would like an accurate answer.

Now, to business (or pleasure, the feeling of choice). In a broad sense you are correct. I guess it is possible that the declarer’s RHO was dealt Q10xxx, but if so, it would be a most strange way to be defending by offering the queen. He should rather play a small one, hoping for partner to have either the Ace or just as effective, the king, in order to establish the defensive fluidity to gather in a number of heart tricks albeit, somewhat slowly. Having said the above, which could be called the experience of playing and defending thousands of hands against all sorts of players, great and small, the conclusion would be that East led the queen, as an encircling play of the jack in dummy (on his right) so that when and if his partner got in and with you having the suspected king of hearts he would be in a winning position.

On this case, there is nothing the declarer can do but congratulate the imaginative defender on his right. I guess it is possible that East also has the Ace of clubs to go with his king, and if so declarer will wind up making his contract, but on this hand, featuring this defense, do not bet the farm on it, e.g. unless you are very tired of farming.

To Joe,

Thanks for answering Alex. You, of course, are basically correct and are only joining in while discussing bridge. While some might think that you are presumptuos, I am not one of them. Little by little and with help from each other we can learn and better yet sometimes, soar to the top of the greatest game ever played.

Alex AlonSeptember 2nd, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Thank you both for the answers.

Amnon HarelSeptember 3rd, 2010 at 7:48 pm

Alon’s on the right track – declarer doesn’t want to win the 1st trick, so he should duck. This saves the day when righty has AQTxx – just switch the red 9s…

joe ranselNovember 9th, 2010 at 4:54 am

bobby, as always, you are a gentleman. joe