Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: All


8 4

10 8 7

10 9 7 2

A 10 9 5


Q 10 9 7 3

K 4 3

K 5

7 4 3


J 6 5

Q 6 5 2

6 4 3

K 8 6


A K 2

A J 9

A Q J 8

Q J 2


South West North East
2 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass

Opening Lead: 10

“But society has now fairly got the better of individuality; and the danger which threatens human nature is not the excess, but the deficiency, of personal impulses and preferences.”

— John Stuart Mill

Some deals that require nothing more subtle than basic technique nonetheless can be surprisingly difficult until you see the point.

In today’s deal from the Dyspeptics Club, South was at the helm in three no-trump. He started well when he ducked the opening spade lead and won the second. Then he took the club finesse, won the spade continuation, and ran off his club winners before taking the losing diamond finesse. Alas for him, West had two spades to cash — down one.

North snapped his pencil and muttered something uncharitable about bridge in the slow lane. Was he right to be upset?

I can understand his frustration, although I suspect I might have been sympathetic to an inexperienced partner who had made the same mistake. Nevertheless, South had a blind spot, the point being that he needed to establish both minors, but also had to keep the danger hand (West) off lead once spades had been established.

The right approach on winning the first top spade is to play the diamond ace followed by the diamond queen, not caring who takes the trick. As it happens, West wins the diamond king and plays a third spade to your ace. Now South can run the club queen; East can take his king when he likes, but cannot prevent declarer from scoring three clubs, three diamonds, two spades and one heart.


South Holds:

8 4
10 8 7
10 9 7 2
A 10 9 5


South West North East
    1 1
Pass 2 Dbl. Pass
3 Pass 3 Pass
ANSWER: When you passed initially and made a minimum raise of clubs at your second turn, you essentially denied holding more than about a six-count. Now that partner has made a try for game, you cannot treat your hand as a minimum anymore. In context, your values must be enough to give partner a play for game, so bid five clubs.


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


jim2January 6th, 2011 at 1:34 pm

The column does not mention what East played on Trick 1.

It looks to me like South should not duck if East plays the jack.

This seems like an unexpected “echo” from your hand of December 19 – January 1.

bobbywolffJanuary 6th, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Hi Jim2,

As Mollie McGee used to often say to her husband, Fibber, on their beloved radio show back in the 1930’s and 40’s, “You are a tough man, McGee”.

Although I am dating myself again, your play of winning the first spade (after East hypothetically covered West’s ten of spades with his jack), instead of ducking it (a successful alternate choice, so long as the 2d spade is ducked), would prevent East from immediately switching to a heart and then continuing with another heart if, in fact West had both heart honors and East the king of diamonds, with, of course, East also possessing the king of clubs.

If you were a police detective in a very visible murder case, I would choose you for the lead dog in analyzing the evidence and plotting our course.

Of course all of the above could happen, but in real bridge life, and even against the world’s finest, how could East know, at trick one, where all the cards are and plot such a right-on defense? If such a thing did occur, I think as a bridge administrator, I would again choose you to surreptitiously monitor that particular East or alternately look down to see if I was holding my cards up.

With you around, I need to also look down to make sure I stay on my toes.

Since, at least on a very high level, bridge is the ultimate “thinking mans game”, you would be a great hire to be the offensive coordinator, no insult intended!

jim2January 6th, 2011 at 4:58 pm

You are kind!

I could not think of any holdings where, holding Jxx after a 10 lead, the spade layout could be much other than in the actual hand if declarer ducks. (With KQ109x, pard would lead the Q to demand the J.) The Board’s minor holdings are such that any shift would almost surely be a heart.

(BTW, I meant December 18 – January 1, not December 19.)

bobbywolffJanuary 7th, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Hi Jim2,

Also for East to play the Jack on partner’s 10 runs the risk that partner has only 109xx(x) which, although almost certainly not of importance on this bidding and dummy layout could sometimes result in partner’s being end played into having to lead into declarer’s created tenace (original AK7(x) opposite the 8x in dummy) because of the overtake.

Just something to consider as a general rule and one which should remind a 3rd seat follower to join the honor conservation society for a more successful career as a high-level defender.