Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dealer: West

Vul: All


K Q 10 8 7 5

10 9 8

K 3

8 3



K 7 6 2

J 8 6 5

K Q 10 6


J 6 2

J 5 3

Q 10 9 2

A 5 4


A 9 4

A Q 4

A 7 4

J 9 7 2


South West North East
  Pass Pass Pass
1 NT Pass 4* Pass
4 All Pass    
*Texas transfer

Opening Lead: K

“They fight with the wiles of fiends escaping

And underhand.”

— William Rose Benet

In honor of the Thanksgiving National Tournament being held this week in Orlando, this week’s deals all come from last year’s Fall Nationals, held in San Diego.

On today’s deal most of the field played four spades, emerging with 10 tricks by taking two heart finesses. At one table, though, South was declarer (and always is in print), and West knew no better than to lead the club king. The contract is still impregnable, but Eric Leong as East was not going to let that put him off. He overtook the club king with the ace and returned the club five, looking like a man who wanted to get a club ruff or an overruff. Suitably fooled, West won the club 10 at trick two and played back a low club to go for the trump promotion.

Declarer now had three plausible strategies available. He could ruff high in dummy and hope to negotiate trumps and hearts, with some excellent endplay chances if trumps split. He would ruff with a middle trump, hoping the spade jack was well-placed for him, or he could discard a heart, hoping for the actual lie of the cards or for a winning heart finesse.

I’m not sure what is best, but when declarer followed the first line, by ruffing with the spade queen, then laying down the trump ace and king, he had turned plus 620 into minus 100 and Leong into a hero — if just for one day.


South Holds:

K 7 6 2
J 8 6 5
K Q 10 6


South West North East
  2 Dbl. Pass
ANSWER: Your partner’s double of the weak two-bid is for takeout. Though your spade shortage may lead you to suspect that partner has an unusual shape for his action, you have no reason not to show your invitational hand with hearts by jumping to three hearts. Now your partner can introduce a long spade suit if he has an atypical double with extra values, letting you bid three no-trump.


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


jim2December 8th, 2010 at 4:24 pm

At many tables, I would expect North opened 2S, as I confess I would. South might go straight to 4S, but also might go scientific with 2N. If North replied 3D (feature), they might end up in 3N, as South could essentially count to nine with chances for more.

At 3N, some Wests would lead clubs – limiting South to 9 tricks – but (expecting East to have 4 spades) others could lead a diamond to attack the feature to try to kill a late spade entry.

How should the defense then deal with the run of the spades?

bobbywolffDecember 8th, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your imaginative responses and questions continue to impress.

At matchpoints and, of course, to consider the play with an unhelpful diamond opening lead, I would probably win the diamond in dummy (eschewing the safer play of winning in hand in case of a 4-0 spade break with the 4 held by East) and lead a club from dummy to my 9 and LHO’s 10. When he continues diamonds, especially after his partner’s positive signal, I would win and then run my spades and look for clues in the end game in order to raise my total trick score from 9 to 10.

From experience, I can safely say that it would take a world class pair to disguise the real location of where the key defensive cards are held.

Sometimes it will matter not, but over the course of a large number of years, usually the advantage that the declarer always has (looking at all his assets) against his unfortunate opponents who have less information, more times than not the winner of this battle within a battle will usually, but not always, be the declarer.

As an aside, and to answer you and others who may also be interested, at least to me, this is the most rewarding and therefore most fun part of the game itself, since it tends to take on the personality of all three of the active participants on this hand.

It seems that every hand of this type is original with technique, deception and continuous mind battles the order of the day.

To answer your question about the defense, I can only say, it is their duty (depending on the quality of the declarer), to try to confuse the declarer, while at the same time leaving it up to partner to do the right thing based on the direction of the declarer. At the table, the defense is aware of their disadvantage, but in spite of it, the great players of this world usually justify their reputations.

JeffDecember 9th, 2010 at 3:14 pm

To continue the line of questions should EW be defending a contract of 3NT …

Early in the defense, West would realize that he is going to have to make five pitches on the run on the spades. Assuming he stops to consider the order of such pitches much sooner than on the fifth and sixth spades, and that he decides to pitch down to stiff HK, a diamond, and CKQ, is there a “best plan” for the order of pitches? My inclination would be two hearts, a diamond, a third heart, and then a club.

Paul BetheDecember 9th, 2010 at 8:33 pm

The article says “emerging with 10 tricks by taking two heart finesses”. Shouldn’t that be 11? 6 spades, 3 hearts and 2 diamonds.

Therefore after the clever defense, didn’t declarer still take 5 spades 3 hearts and 2 diamonds to make 10 tricks for the bad matchpoint result of 620 not 650?

bobbywolffDecember 9th, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Hi Jeff,

The order of discards is what the top professionals (world-class) feed upon when playing against lesser experienced (euphemisms for relative novices), less talented opponents. For whatever reasons, most players are not realistic enough to see what is happening to them and consequently not only do not think about their order, but then at the critical moment totally give away their hand by only studying when the key discard is upon them.

However, for purposes of our discussion, let us assume that everyone concerned has won his spurs and has scalps on the wall. With those conditions there are no specific rules to follow, only to consider the order of discards the perfect flow to befuddle that specific declarer.

He will know your mindset as you presume to know his, so it becomes every person for himself. Obviously legal deception is the order of the day, ruling out the unethical move of showing contrived emotion before grudgingly unprotecting a deuce rather than what you are trying to perceive as a likely king.

None of that is allowed, which is what makes the high-level game so great. All plays need to be made with the same emphasis (basically none). It always tickles me when I am asked who I think the best woman player of all time was or is, and I remember back, (unfortunately I am very old, but after due consideration it is the better alternative), when I had an opportunity to play against Helen Sobel in her prime (or close to it) and I’ve never seen any player play better (perhaps Benito Garozzo) and with more legal deception than she did.

In those early years bridge bidding was terrible and she and the other top players would be slaughtered by today’s best because of the incredible advances in expert bridge bidding, but only for play and defense there is hardly a speck of difference.

Edith Kemp (still alive) was IMO slightly behind, but she also was great and probably because of the experience she gleaned by having played with and against the top men players.

Continuing on that subject Edgar Kaplan said it best when the women were granted their own world championships in the early 1970’s, far away from playing against the men, “The women are celebrating the opportunities to win bridge world championships, but little do they know that they have won a “curse” which will forever haunt their development and their achievements. And so it goes.

Again my only advice on your specific question is to tailor your discards to the talents of the declarer and, in order to consistently win you must be one step ahead of him. Ironically somtimes being two steps ahead will only lose, since that extra step will result in your lesser opponent being “lucky” and getting it right.

I apologize for getting carried away with your provocative question. My blog is much too long, however, good luck to


bobbywolffDecember 9th, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Hi Paul,

The mystery is solved, since taking two heart finesses, as stated in the column, doesn’t mean winning two heart finesses, but rather only one of two (since the heart king is offside).

Therefore bidding and making 4 spades was standard for +620, although Eric Leong did one better defensively with his brilliant overtaking with the ace of clubs and leading one back deceiving the declarer in route to his +100.

Paul BetheDecember 9th, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Aha – sorry about that, for some reason having viewed the diagram I saw KJx or hearts in the East hand.