Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 11th, 2011

Dealer: East

Vul: N-S


A J 8 5 2

10 6 3

K 9

J 10 4


K 10 3

Q 9 5 2

10 8 5 2

9 6



K 8 7 4

A Q 7 6

8 7 3 2


Q 7 6 4


J 4 3

A K Q 5


South West North East
1 NT Pass 2 Pass
3 Pass 4 Pass

Opening Lead: two

“Dangers by being despised grow great.”

— Edmund Burke

Today’s deal exemplifies one of my favorite themes, which crops up here in two variations. No more clues — plan the play in four spades as South when West leads the heart two to East’s king.


The extra trick you could make by winning the ace and establishing the heart 10 is an illusion, because when West takes his heart queen, he will play a diamond through dummy’s king and put you back on what is at best a diamond guess. As the cards lie today, you cannot guess right.


However, you can in fact guarantee your game if you can keep West off lead. Duck the heart lead and win the continuation. That is necessary, but not sufficient. If you play the trump suit in mundane fashion (low to the jack, then the ace), West will regain the lead prematurely by ruffing the third club and can then deal you a mortal blow by shifting to diamonds to establish a fourth winner for his side.


The secret of the deal lies in making an avoidance play in both hearts and spades. Having ducked the first heart and won the second, you must run the spade queen from hand. West will cover, of course, and if either the nine or 10 falls from East, you cross back to hand with a heart ruff and play a spade to dummy’s eight, insuring you can keep West off lead for the duration of the hand.


Today this line yields an overtrick — a nice reward for your care and attention.


South Holds:

A J 8 5 2
10 6 3
K 9
J 10 4


South West North East
1 1
1 3 Dbl. Pass
ANSWER: The double of three diamonds suggests extras and no clear bid. (East rates to be strong and balanced without a good diamond stop, or to have long clubs.) Since you have a few extras and a diamond guard, it looks logical to bid three no-trump and take it from there. Partner can bid again if he has an unusual hand-type.


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


alberto romanoFebruary 25th, 2011 at 10:35 am

incredibly, starting with the spade queen is the right play in the suit anyway, winning with either blank 9 or 10 and losing with blank K (on left) or doubleton 109, less probable. What’s more, it wins again K109x on left !

John Howard GibsonFebruary 25th, 2011 at 2:43 pm

HBJ : It’s strange how the need to avoid putting West back on lead forces you as declarer to play the spades in such a way that you end up with no trump losers.

East might do better at trick 2 to shift to the 9 of spades. If it goes Q-K-Ace, declarer just might play East for the 109 (although unlikely ). If declarer foolishly ducks allowing dummy’s jack of spades to win, then the defence will triumph. East knows declarer has the Ace of hearts since West is hardly likely to underlead it. The heart continuation offers declarer little in the way of a problem.

As you stated earlier in an earlier post, conjuring up a deceptive picture of one’s defensive holding might lead to declarer into going astray. Wouldn’t East be more likely to lead a spade from 109 rather than a stiff 9 ?

JaneFebruary 25th, 2011 at 3:12 pm


Why would the NT opener make a jump bid over a transfer? Partner could be sitting on the three point wonder with five spades to the nine, or some other horrible holding. I understand super accepting with a stayman call as partner would (or should) be holding some values, but with a transfer? I love to bid, but I am not that brave. My partners are not usually dealt the lovely hand you have shown. Loved the play analysis however. Wish I could figure out these really tough ones.

Yesterday, at a club game, we got this auction- opener bids three clubs, opener’s partner tanks for a little while (he holds 13 HCP with three clubs to the ace), bids five clubs, then opener tanks himself and bids six clubs! No one else bid a slam, although most are in some type of game, usually NT, making six. Opener has 13 HCP points and singletons in the majors. (The slam bidder is also a director) . I wonder if opener had a card covered, (that happens, of course) but then to go to slam on this type of auction? We did not see any reason to call the director of the day since although the auction was unusual to say the least, I imagine it is allowed. Oh well, just another day at the table!

bobbywolffFebruary 25th, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Hi Alberto and HBJ,

You both make good and better than that, simple points, pertaining to different trump (spade) combinations which are effected by you, the declarers avoidance intentions. Obviously the curious point in this hand is to, almost at all costs, to keep West from having the opportunity to gain the lead and inflict the mortal blow of leading a diamond through the dummy.

If this was a parable and not a bridge hand perhaps it would read. “West is the bogey man and is not to be allowed on lead to satisfy his need”.

Sometimes carrying out a mission in bridge, like in war, there are some casualties (an unnecessary trump loser), but also like in playing bridge, the object of the mission is to win the overall result (make your contract), not the individual parts.

Thanks for voicing your ideas.

bobbywolffFebruary 25th, 2011 at 4:54 pm

HI Jane,

Your concern is one which must bother many enthusiastic bridge minds, gaining momentum in the game as she goes, but sometimes pausing at what she might think as, at least, somewhat illogical reasoning.

First, the playing of bridge is far from an exact science, since like in medical science with lives sometimes at stake, a creative thinker in medicine must keep in mind that stricture. The relative looseness in playing bridge is similar to a casino’s overall strategy in developing gambling games. They do not mind at all, actually even relish, giving the player hope by having him win at times, as long as the law of averages (a theory which continually proves itself every day since the beginning of time, as a fundamental true concept in the history of thought).

The jumping to 3 spades, instead of merely accepting the simple transfer to 2 spades which your partner has asked, is the percentage action by the 1NT opener. He has the basics, a maximum NT and at least 4 trumps, so that, in the opinion of sophisticated bridge minds (a law of total tricks advocate and a slightly different group than just being a top bridge player), it becomes a percentage action to so do. First it is enabling to a 6+ HCP hand responder with, of course, 5+ spades to accept partner’s unusual positive jump response by probably bidding game and, please DO NOT underestimate the following negative inference with a possible 7 HCP balanced hand with 5 spades, one can pass partner’s theoretical 2 spades taking advantage of partner’s negative inference of his not bidding three spades immediately.

Add to that, sometimes partner may have (as you have mentioned 0 to 3 HCP’ with possibly 6 spades) and, of course, pass partner’s bold invitation to game, but unknowing to the spade partnership has prevented a successful balance by the guessing opponents who because of how the points are distributed actually have a 3 or 4 level make in their best trump suit. The above is an extra bonus which, although not predictable, occurs more often than most of us realize.

Changing the subject to what happened to you in your last bridge game with the opponent who opened 3 clubs, then after being raised to 5 committed an expert, or even a less than expert, NO NO of then bidding again, but nevertheless succeeding, merely serves to remind all who witness this type of thing the sheer luck which sometimes plays a large part on any particular hand and favors the unknowing. It can be likened to a hole-in-one in golf, certainly not predictable and decidedly against the odds, but nevertheless a sometimes possibility which, at least to me, makes bridge an even greater game, by injecting chance rather than strict exact science which sometimes bores people while playing chess since at that game, being 100% cerebral, wild luck, or for that matter no luck at all, never occurs.

While sometimes, of course, a bidding sequence like the one which devastated you yesterday may have happened because of nefarious reasons (the six club bidder had heard about the hand earlier) the odds are very much against that and the likely reason was when sheer chance meets up with faulty reasoning and poor discipline, causing that liaison to achieve a windfall, it is better for your side to accept it, congratulate your opponents, and move your thinking to the next hand.

Remember you are blessed with an inquiring mind which only serves to make you a more interesting person for all to seek out and befriend.

Good luck!

JaneFebruary 25th, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Oh, accept it we did, without complaints, and moved on to the next hand. Did we feel the need to offer congratulations? Not so much! Next time, maybe. I do not believe the hand had been revealed to the bidder. Of course, luck plays a part in bridge, and in life. And I know that anyone can bid whatever they want, as long as ethics are maintained. Just seems like some of the bidding rules make more sense to follow. Maybe slam bidder felt that the five club bid was a loser anyway and went for the gold. Indeed he was right, as three NT making six was the right contract.

Thanks for the explanation on the jump bid. I understand the thinking. Partner can always pass the jump bid and hope for the best. I imagine it works out most of the time, especially if one can figure out how to play these difficult hands.

Onward and upward. Have a great weekend!

jim2February 26th, 2011 at 12:38 am

On the jump transfer response, South not only has a maximum in HCP, but four quick tricks and a potential ruff in hearts. Additionally, the weaker North is, the better the bid acts as a preempt! If North has a yarborough with six spades, N-S might be cold for four hearts, but getting there over South’s three spades might be impossible.

bobbywolffFebruary 26th, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your specific comments should be appreciated by all those interested in gaining the experience necessary to improve one’s game on the fast track.

You have a remarkable talent for feeling and therefore judging other valid consequences which accompany discussed actions.

No reader of these blogs and comments should ever feel neglected of the opportunity to make significant leaps forward by the simple process of keeping ones eyes wide open, and sometimes even goosing the process by writing in with a specific heretofore unasked question.

I, for one, sincerely appreciate your involvement.