Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 6, 2010

Dealer: East

Vul: None


Q 8 3


K 7 2

K Q 4 2


K J 9 5 2

8 5

Q 8 6 3

A 5


10 4

10 9 6 4 2

A J 9 4

9 6


A 7 6

J 7 3

10 5

J 10 8 7 3


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

Opening Lead: 5

“We should never despair. Our situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better; so I trust, it will again.”

— George Washington

Occasionally, the world of bridge problems smacks of artificiality. Sometimes, however, you can identify the only chance of bringing home a contract or of defeating it. In that instance, when playing teams or rubber bridge, you are generally justified in going for that chance no matter how slim it may be.

Take today’s deal, where you lead the spade five against three no-trump and dummy’s queen wins the first trick. Partner follows with a low card, which it is sensible to play as an attitude signal, denying the jack. Had dummy won the trick with the jack or a lower card, partner would have signaled count because his attitude was already defined by his inability to beat dummy’s card.

Declarer now continues with the club king (partner plays the nine), which you duck, and the club queen (partner playing the six), which you win perforce.

Your partner’s high-low in clubs shows an even number, here surely a doubleton, so you can work out without too much trouble that declarer has nine tricks (four clubs, two spades and three hearts), unless you can come to five tricks immediately.

Your only chance will come from diamonds, but declarer will simply follow low from dummy if you shift to a small diamond, and the danger will be past. Therefore, you must switch to the diamond queen, hoping to make four diamond tricks. This needs a fairly specific holding in your partner’s hand, but as the cards lie, your luck will be in today.


South Holds:

6 3
J 10 8 6 5
9 3
Q 8 6 2


South West North East
  1 1 1 NT
Pass 2 NT Pass 3 NT
Pass Pass Dbl. All Pass
ANSWER: Does this double call for the lead of dummy’s first-bid suit (not likely here), or for an unusual lead, or for the normal lead? All three interpretations are possible, but since you would have led a spade without the double, it is best to interpret the double as calling for the lead of partner’s second suit — surely, diamonds. So lead the diamond nine.


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 20th, 2010 at 3:07 pm

I goofed, thinking this a play problem, and covered the E-W hands.

I divided the risks into two camps: (1) East having the king-ten doubleton of spades and no aces, and (2) East not having the spade king but the diamond ace.

For the first, I had to withhold the spade queen on the opening lead. For the second, I had to find a sequence of plays that would reduce the chance of a diamond shift by West.

If declarer decides to play the spade queen, it seems better to continue with a low club from the board and cover East’s card with the jack. Then, if the jack held, advance the club trey (trying to look like J83).

The column declarer’s playing clubs from the top made signaling easy and obvious.

bobbywolffDecember 21st, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Good morning Jim2,

At the risk of you now considering yourself to be profiled, I would like to make the following comment:

You are progressing with your questions in what I consider an optimum manner, one in which you are inexorably moving to more sophisticated levels, but in an orderly fashion (not skipping over more important subjects for whatever reason).

My shortcut but immediate response to your concern about fooling the opponents (in this case West, the danger hand) into not shifting to diamonds is right on target, but will receive this answer:

All 1st class West’s (or borderline and while playing rubber bridge or IMPs) will find the diamond shift upon winning the club ace since the only ruse available to declarer would be for him to first lead his ten of clubs, getting LHO to duck, winning the queen in dummy, come back to hand and lead another club. However there are 2 reasons for that to not work:

1. East’s 9 of clubs (assuming standard count signals would show an even number) which could practically (considering the bidding) only be 2 and even more applicable,

2. There are no usable entries back to South in order to effect that play anyway.

Yes, you should try and obfuscate as best you can, but your effort would be similar to going bear hunting with a switch, not likely to succeed.

However, from a positive side you have 2 chances to score up the game.

1. If you are playing match points, the switch to the queen of diamonds could cost LHO an important overtrick if you had the jack and,

2. West may have the ace of diamonds as well.

Is it important to be realistic? Only if you can adopt a mindset of trying to play bridge as well as possible, but when the opponents can overcome and prevail, to be able to shrug it off as being a very normal part of playing bridge.

Good luck and by all means, keep climbing.