Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, November 8, 2010

Dealer: East

Vul: All


K 9 8 3

Q 9 6

K Q 7 5

Q 8



A K 5

10 9 8 3

J 10 7 6 3


A 10 7 2

10 7 4 3

J 4 2

5 2


Q J 6 5

J 8 2

A 6

A K 9 4


South West North East
1 NT Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 4 All Pass

Opening Lead: K

“I think the necessity of being ready increases. Look to it.”

— Abraham Lincoln

Defending against four spades, how should you (East) signal when your partner leads the heart king? Should you encourage or discourage? The answer is that you should encourage violently, using the heart seven to make sure your partner does not shift. You do not expect your partner to have a side-winner, but a heart continuation cannot cost and, as you shall see, is actually the key to the defense.

Accordingly, your partner continues with ace and another heart. Declarer wins the third heart in dummy, plays a spade to his queen, and then guesses well by leading a spade back to dummy’s king (your partner discarding the diamond three). You have the choice of winning with the ace or ducking. Plan the defense.

The first step is to count the points. Your partner cannot hold more than a side jack, so you have no side winners to come. Can you manufacture any other trick?

Yes, you can. Ducking the spade will achieve nothing — declarer will simply continue to draw trumps and has 10 winners. Instead, take the second spade and play a fourth heart, giving declarer a useless ruff and discard. This promotes a trick for your trump 10, whichever hand declarer ruffs in. If he ruffs in dummy, you can cover dummy’s remaining spade spot; if he ruffs in hand, he can no longer finesse against the spade 10.


South Holds:

10 9 7 4 2
10 9 7 2
J 8 6


South West North East
  2 Pass 2
Pass 5 NT Pass 6
All Pass      
ANSWER: West was looking for higher things when he used the grand-slam force, but he got the weakest response. Your best chance is to try to set up a side-suit winner and hope partner has a trump trick. Dummy rates to have a long suit and a spade fit, so take your pick of hearts or diamonds and cross your fingers. My bet would be on the shorter suit; hence, I’d lead a diamond.


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


jim2November 22nd, 2010 at 2:42 pm

With high cards in all suits, no singleton/void, and a combined point count known to be 27-29, perhaps North should simply bid three notrump.

Here, it seems West would need to find a diamond lead to give the defense a chance, as even the club jack would make West vulnerable to a later endplay. Should a safe lead be made and declarer proceed to guess spades wrong, west looks to get squeezed in the process anyway.

bobbywolffNovember 22nd, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Hi Jim2,

You are surely right on with this hand. However sometimes, especially with an excess of the needed HCP’s (28+), an 8 card major suit fit plays in a safer way to make game.

The argument you mention sometimes happens, such as this hand, but the contra arises when the declarer and the dummy have the same short suit doubleton and after the opponent’s lead that suit as they often will, your stoppers are either non-existent or not adequate.

There is not enough language (bidding) available for a side to be able to tell any where near the exact distribution of his partner so the partnership has to go on probabilities rather than certainty. However the good news is that the opponents will also have to guess so that if your partnership’s judgment is better than theirs the odds will favor you winning.

Thanks for writing.