Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: E/W


Q J 10 6 4 2

J 10 2

K 7




Q 9 4 3

J 6 3 2

10 6 3 2


K 9 7

A K 5

10 8 5 4

9 7 5


A 8 5

8 7 6

A Q 9

A Q 8 4


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

Opening Lead: 3

“We live in an age disturbed, confused, bewildered, afraid of its own forces, in search not merely of its road, but even of its direction.”

— Woodrow Wilson

Today’s deal comes from “Masterpieces of Defense” by Julian Pottage, a writer who has demonstrated imagination and creativity in constructing bridge problems of all sorts. I wholeheartedly recommend his book.

Put yourself in the West seat and cover up the South and East cards to re-create the real-life problem you might be facing. A strong no-trump opening bid by South and a Texas Transfer by North sees you defending four spades. You lead the heart three, and partner plays king, ace and another, declarer following three times. What now?

The first question is whether your side might have a minor-suit ace to cash. You should assume that the answer is no — if you can trust your partner. The point is that if your partner had a minor-suit ace, he should have cashed it at trick three and not left you to guess what to do.

Assuming that to be true, where else might a defensive winner come from? Obviously, if partner has a natural trump trick, he will get it whatever you do, so try to determine when your play might make a difference. The answer is that if partner has precisely K-9-x of spades, you might be able to build a trump trick for him.

Your only legitimate way to achieve the trump promotion is by continuing with a fourth round of hearts. Whatever declarer does now, East must make a trump trick (provided he remembers not to overruff the spade queen.)


South Holds:

Q 9 4 3
J 6 3 2
10 6 3 2


South West North East
  1 Dbl. Pass
1 Pass 1 Pass
ANSWER: Although a takeout double normally shows support for all the unbid suits, an auction like the one shown (where your partner has suggested 17-plus in high cards and a good spade suit) does not promise suitability for any suit except spades. With a hand as weak as yours, where game is highly unlikely, pass one spade and try to stay out of trouble.


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


John Howard GibsonJanuary 13th, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Yes it is the nine of spades which is the key card, because that could winkle out the Ace, if declarer decides to ruff in hand. However if declarer ruffs in dummy with the queen, East can then by discarding a useless club/diamond set up a guaranteed trump winner for himself later on. So much depends on West reading the situation and having the wit to proceed with a 4th heart.

bobbywolffJanuary 13th, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Hi John Howard,

Yes, thanks for adding the final emotional touches to a well defended hand.

As one of your countries most famous fictional characters, Sherlock Holmes once said to his buddy, Watson. “When you eliminate the impossible, whatever is left, however improbable, is the answer”.

As long as the opponents were playing strong NT (15-17), not weak NT (12-14) generally used in the UK, then that great detective was right on in his assessment and the dummy’s 4 level transfer, even without inquiring, indicated they were so doing.

Furthermore, if partner had them defeated anyway, such as partner being dealt Kxxx or maybe just the ace, in spades, it would not take anything away from the defenders brilliance. It does feel better though when the hand demands genius and it is delivered.

Furthermore, so many hands lend themselves to other important informative discussions, such as should East make a lead directing double of dummy’s artificial 4 heart transfer, and if not, should that possibly suggest to the opening leader that in case of a quandary, should he choose a minor instead of hearts?

Is bridge a great game, or what?

Thanks for writing.