Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dealer: East

Vul: E/W


9 6 2

A 10 5

Q 10 8 2

Q J 9


8 5

K 8 7 4 3 2

7 3

A K 2


K J 10 4 3

J 9

J 9 6 4

10 6


A Q 7

Q 6

A K 5

8 7 5 4 3


South West North East
1 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass

Opening Lead: 4

“Not to admire is all the art I know.”

— Lord Byron

When West led the heart four against three no-trump, declarer ran the lead to his hand, then played a club to dummy’s queen as West ducked. Now when a second club went to West’s king, he paused to count out the hand and concluded correctly that his partner had no more than six points and no more than two hearts. The problem was now to construct a hand that would lead to the defeat of the contract.

West eventually decided that his only hope, unlikely as it might be, was for declarer to hold the doubleton queen-jack or king-jack of spades. He therefore tried the effect of a switch to the spade eight, but met with no success.

After declarer had wrapped up 10 tricks, West explained why he had not continued hearts. He knew that even if he had found East with the doubleton heart jack, his partner would have been left on lead. The defenders would still not have been able to set up the suit, as West had only one side-suit entry.

It was only much later that inspiration dawned on West as to what would have been his best shot. If he had led the heart king at trick four, it would have looked completely natural for declarer to duck this trick. But then West remains on play and can press on with a third heart while he still has the club entry to run the heart suit on regaining the lead.


South Holds:

A Q 7
A 6
A K 5
8 7 5 4 3


South West North East
  1 1 1
ANSWER: There seem to be an awful lot of points in this deck! Rather than drive directly to game, cue-bid two diamonds to show a good hand and follow up with an invitational call, even after a sign-off in two hearts. At that point either a raise to three hearts or a call of two no-trump looks right on values; I prefer the latter.


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 BetheOctober 14th, 2010 at 5:07 pm

But then again, why would it be “completely natural” for declarer to duck the King of hearts? That would only be a winning play when East had both club honors. But we already know that West has at least one.

But If the hearts were KJxxx(x) J9(x) and club honors split, why did East not take the Ace of clubs at trick 2 to continue hearts while partner has an entry? The only answer is that West has both club honors.

So if, in addition to club honors, West has both heart honors 5th or 6th, then game-over. However, declarer has one legitimate shot when West has both club honors and the King of hearts appears at trick 4… the layout shown, and therefore should play the Ace in this position.

Bobby WolffOctober 15th, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Hi Paul,

Thanks for your accurate, authoritative comments.

However, there is, more often than one may think, still another step that should be taken by a would be world class player, before he makes his final decision and a great example of this type of play is exemplified by the above column hand.

While much evidence, just as you say, is that East would have been only too happy to win the first club to fire back the jack of hearts, still he might realize that declarer might duck it and so look for other avenues to try and defeat the contract.

One thing that sometimes is even more difficult than finding a legitimate shot at making one’s contract is to put yourself in the shoes of an opponent. We all think differently (even world class players) and at different tempos making it virtually impossible, even for the best bridge psychologists, to determine exactly the thought process of an opponent.

Whatever, and in any event give West credit for finding a defensive play that worked (at least on this hand), and although it would not have succeeded against the likes of you, it did against his current opponent.

Thanks for bringing up your important worthwhile opinion.

Steven BloomOctober 18th, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Actually, the best defense is for West to win the first club and play the king of hearts. This is certainly how West would defend with, say, KJxxx in hearts and a singleton K of clubs. I can’t imagine any declarer seeing through that defense.