Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: E-W


10 7 5

9 7 4 2

A 9 5

10 7 6


A 9 8


J 10 8 7 4

8 4 3 2


6 4 3 2

8 5 3

K 6 2




A K Q J 10

Q 3

A 9 5


South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass
4 All Pass

Opening Lead: Jack

“I think no virtue goes with size.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

When today’s deal first arose, a sizable percentage of the field opened the South hand an inelegant two no-trump — it is, after all, closer to a balanced 20-22 count than anything else. They played in three no-trump, missing out on their nine-card heart fit when North sensibly rejected the opportunity to use Stayman, and they found that nine tricks were immeasurably easier than 10.


I’m not convinced that one deal proves anything, and there is certainly something to be said for the one-heart opening, given South’s lack of first-round controls. But at some tables where South declared four hearts, he was able to prove that there are few nearly hopeless contracts that cannot be brought home by a well-timed display of technique or virtuosity.


Against four hearts one could hardly blame West for selecting an unfortunate diamond jack as his opening salvo. Dummy played low and East took the trick with his king. If declarer had unthinkingly followed low he would have preserved his two sure diamond tricks, but with no way that he could reach dummy to cash the diamond ace and discard one of his slow club losers.


To succeed in four hearts, one must break the rules by discarding an honor unnecessarily. Notice the difference if at trick one declarer unblocks his diamond queen under the king. Later, declarer can lead his low diamond and finesse the nine, so that he can reach dummy and generate the discard he needs for his contract.


South Holds:

6 4 3 2
8 5 3
K 6 2


South West North East
    1 1
Dbl. 2 Dbl. Pass
ANSWER: Your partner’s double is card-showing and should show extra values, denying four spades (since he would have bid the suit if he had them). He will therefore typically have both minors and extras, or a balanced 18-count or so with an unsuitable heart stop for no-trump. You should simply revert to three diamonds to show support in a relatively minimum hand.


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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


John Howard GibsonJanuary 18th, 2011 at 11:24 am


I love these hands where you have to at trick one think ahead and not succumb to impulsive play. Declarer knows that when the King of diamonds takes the trick, East will switch to a club, and four losers could be staring him the face. But the play of diamonds sets up a simple finessing position of West’s 10 of diamonds, providing declarer has the wit to jettison his awkward queen.

Now this is a play I would have got this right at the table !

bobbywolffJanuary 23rd, 2011 at 3:48 pm

And the top of the morning to you!

Yes, there is little doubt you would have found the play of the queen of diamonds, under your opponents king, at the table.

What should it take to do so?

1. Above all, discipline, since we have all been taught to, as declarer, not to play too quickly at trick one, otherwise we may later be looking back and ruing the day.

2. Supreme patience, since the temptation of following suit with one’s lowest card is more times than not, the preferred choice.

3. Love of the game, since bridge gambits (term derived from the cerebral game of chess) are specifically designed to gain advantage by doing and, suffering succotash, this one certainly qualifies.

4. Be like a Jewish mother by before doing, consider what may go wrong. Sure the opening leader may be leading from Jx, but even mom would surely follow through with the jettison since no other likely

play, because of the supreme blockage, has even what could be described as a remote chance, e.g. winning the second diamond, drawing trump, knocking out the ace of spades, winning the return and playing for one opponent to have a doubleton club holding with both clubs being honors.

Thanks for writing, HBJ, and, as always, your comments are appreciated.