Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: All


A 5

A K 7 6 4

J 5 3

10 6 2


J 9 7 2

Q J 8 3

Q 7 2

Q 5


K 8 6 3


10 9 6 4

J 9 7 4


Q 10 4

9 5 2

A K 8

A K 8 3


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

Opening Lead: 2

“Reminiscences make one feel so deliciously aged and sad.”

— George Bernard Shaw

Today’s deal was played almost 50 years ago as evidenced by the bidding. It is a good example of the edge declarer can create for himself if he knows the opponents to be honest.

The auction predated transfer responses to a no-trump. Despite holding three-card heart support, South, with his sterile 3-3-3-4 shape, exercised good judgment in rebidding three no-trump rather than four hearts — a contract that would have been doomed.

Playing fourth-highest leads, West led the spade two to East’s king, and the return of the spade three removed dummy’s ace, as well as almost guaranteeing the 4-4 spade break.

One heart trick had to be lost inevitably, so declarer led the heart four from the table at trick three. Winning with the 10, East played a third spade, won by South’s queen. Declarer fell from grace by next playing a heart to dummy’s ace. With no outside entry to dummy, the 4-1 heart break spelled defeat, eight tricks now being the limit of the hand.

Do you see what declarer should have done better, or differently? Once both East and West had followed to one round of hearts, the contract was assured, so long as the defensive carding in spades was honest.

Declarer knew he could afford to lose two tricks in each of the majors. Therefore, by ducking in hearts for a second time (leading a second low heart from each hand), South would have assured himself the three heart tricks needed to fulfill the contract.


South Holds:

J 9 7 2
Q J 8 3
Q 7 2
Q 5


South West North East
  1 Dbl. Pass
1 Pass 1 NT Pass
ANSWER: You had planned to bid hearts at your next turn if partner showed a minimum and the opponents competed. Instead your partner has shown 18-20, so all you have to do is decide on which game is best. You might cuebid two clubs, hoping partner will introduce hearts. But equally sensible is a jump to three no-trump. (You may not want to play a 4-4 heart fit even if you have one.)


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 karlsonSeptember 21st, 2010 at 4:26 pm

As one who hates leading 4th best from a J, I would take a long hard look at a heart lead. If partner has one honor it should not cost and, in this hand, it appears that my tactic would bear fruit.

However, my question is: Would you consider a similar line??


Bobby WolffSeptember 22nd, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Hi Bruce,

On the hand in question, 9/21, the dummy had shown 5 hearts and a game going hand opposite a strong NT, 15-17. Consequently a heart lead is certainly not recommended since on that bidding a low heart lead from the QJ does not figure to help, only hurt.

However, if your thinking only concerned West’s lead and supposing it had gone 1NT P 3NT all pass, yes then a low heart lead should probably be preferred to a 4th best spade lead away from the jack, but IMO the margin would only be about 55% to 45%.

Perhaps the caveat to be learned is that all of bridge playing, both declarer’s play and defense, is based on a combination of talent and experience. Talent (arithmetical bent plus understanding card games and their nuances) will come into play, but not until one experiences what really happens at the table and against others who have similar attributes.

Summing up what is being discussed here is that flapping one’s wings has a place and sometimes, even at the highest level, unilaterally determines who wins, but in the relatively early stages of a player’s high-level development he (she) needs to rigidly follow his mentor’s (and he would be very lucky to have a good one who is vitally interested in his student’s success) discipline and only begin to form his own judgment after playing thousands of hands.

Yes, it is a long journey to the Emerald City, but the sure way to not get there is to detour off the Yellow Brick Road since wicked witches and poisoned flowers are everywhere.

Thanks for writing and expressing your thoughts. Without that enterprise the journey gets longer.

bruce karlsonSeptember 22nd, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Damn- I thought all I had to do was click the heels of the magic slippers!!!

Your comments are absolutely accurate (hardly surprising) as I am too often looking for the dog that did not bark as opposed to accepting the one that did.