Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dealer: West

Vul: N/S


7 5 3

K 6

K Q J 9 7

7 4 2


J 10 9 6

J 9 8 3

10 6 4 3



K Q 4

Q 10 7

A 5

J 10 8 6 5


A 8 2

A 5 4 2

8 2

A K Q 3


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

Opening Lead: J

“Things have their due measure; there are ultimately fixed limits, beyond which, or short of which, something must be wrong.”

— Horace

Against three no-trump West leads the spade jack, overtaken by East’s queen. You duck and East continues with the spade king and a third spade, which you win with the ace.

You need to develop three tricks from diamonds to bring your total to nine. This will not be a problem if diamonds are 3-3 or the 10 drops doubleton, but with today’s layout you need to be careful. Suppose you play a diamond to dummy’s king, East will surely duck and win the next top diamond to exit with a club. You will win and cross to dummy with the heart king, but when the diamond 10 does not fall, you will no longer have an entry to dummy to be able to enjoy your extra diamond winners. You would be reduced to hoping for a 3-3 club break.

Even if East wins the first diamond, you would still be in trouble. Suppose you win the club and continue diamonds from the top. Your heart entry is still intact, but West will win the diamond 10 and cash the 13th spade, the fifth defensive trick.

So instead, why not run the diamond eight on the first round of the suit? If East wins with the 10, he can do you no harm. You win his return and now play your top diamonds, knowing you will be able to reach dummy’s established winners by crossing to the heart king.

Had East shifted to a heart at trick three, that would be another story.


South Holds:

7 5 3
K 6
K Q J 9 7
7 4 2


South West North East
    1 1
ANSWER: This hand falls inconveniently between a simple raise and a limit raise of diamonds. However, it would be reasonable to promote the heart king (given this auction) and upgrade the hand to a 10-count. If you think that makes sense, cue-bid two hearts, rather than jumping to three diamonds. The latter would show a weak shapely raise, not one based on high cards.


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 13th, 2011 at 12:38 am

The heart shift at Trick 3 is a different story, indeed!

Declarer would win with the ace, of course, but suppose declarer tried two rounds of clubs before committing to a diamond play? What would West discard? If a diamond, declarer is home. If not, what possible holding could make West uncomfortably part with a spade or heart?

bobbywolffJanuary 13th, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Hi Jim2,

You pose an important sidebar in your pointed question.

If the defense does continue spades through trick 3 and then declarer brilliantly cashes the Ace, King of Clubs at tricks 4 and 5, the one discard West must not make is a low diamond since declarer’s club plays usually would indicate the possession of the queen as well, and thus, unless he had no heart honor, would deny holding the key ace of diamonds.

If all that is true, then while defending in bridge even though West has only 3 small diamonds he should still not throw one of them away since after the King of clubs play from declarer he, while holding the ace of hearts and not the ace of diamonds would switch his attention to diamonds by leading them which, by West throwing away a diamond would certainly be enabling to declarer to have no trouble playing for the would be ten of diamonds to be guessed later in partner East’s, hand.

Conclusion: high-level bridge is the greatest of all competitive mind games (with poker very close behind) but since bridge has so much substance coming from so many different directions, it tweaks and then challenges a player’s talents often enough to indeed be nothing short of scintillating.

True, the amount of world good, while playing bridge, does not equal the genius required to either invent a brilliant life-saving medical drug or process, a new and safe innovative form of transportation or even be close to be as valuable as radio or television in creating educational and entertainment for the masses, but for sheer mental stimulation, self-satisfaction and the use of our God given precious mind, it tends to keep our thought process young and active.

Thanks again Jim2 for your continued contribution to discussion.