Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, February 12th, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: Both


K 10 7 5

8 7 3

A 10 9 3

K 4


Q 8 3


6 5

A 8 7 6 5 2



A 10 9 5 4 2

Q 8 4

10 9 3


A J 9 6 4

K 6

K J 7 2



South West North East
1 Pass 3 Pass
4 All Pass

Opening Lead: Queen

“Never fight fair with a stranger, boy. You’ll never get out of the jungle that way.”

— Arthur Miller

When South played four spades on the lead of the heart queen to the ace and a heart return, he won, cashed the spade ace and king, then played a club. West took the ace, cashed the spade queen, and exited with a club. When East turned up with six hearts, declarer played West for the diamond length and went one down.


Let’s revisit declarer’s play. At trick three it looks far better to lead the club jack. If West ducks, you win and take the top spades, East pitching a heart, planning to ruff a heart and then play a club. If West captures the club jack at trick three and exits with a club, you win and take the top spades, then ruff a heart and exit with a spade.


Either way, West will be on lead and has only minor-suit cards left. He should know that a club would give a ruff and discard, but since declarer has a 4-4 diamond fit, a ruff and discard will do him no good.


So West exits with a club, and declarer needs to guess diamonds himself. But now he has a better count of the East-West hands. While East might have started with 1-6-1-5 shape, his heart discards combined with his play of the club nine and 10 on the second and third round of the suit make it more likely that he had three clubs and thus began life with 1-6-3-3 pattern. If so, declarer should play East for the diamond queen.


South Holds:

K 10 7 5
8 7 3
A 10 9 3
K 4


South West North East
1 1 Pass
ANSWER: Opinions differ as to whether it is acceptable to introduce a moderate four-card major here. I say no, when the alternative of showing a strong diamond raise exists via the cue-bid of two clubs. If partner has extras and a four-card major, he will bid it now. If he has a minimum, it looks better to stop low in diamonds than to shoot the moon in an optimistic spade game.


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


jim2February 26th, 2011 at 2:47 pm

I would have been far more comfortable with the cue bid if South were a passed hand, particularly with the club king in front of the club bidder on any likely opening lead.

bobbywolffFebruary 26th, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your objection to the cue bid, inferentially, at least, supporting diamonds is valid and, as you say, might be OK if you had already passed, therefore helping to curb partner’s enthusiasm. Might I suggest a compromise bid of 1NT which on opening lead does protect your king of clubs and is perhaps a better description of the balanced nature of your limited values.

Those opposed to that choice would be ones who at least would try to get spades into the game and encourage partner, the diamond overcaller, to bid them if he had four.

Let’s hope that partner will still bid them if he is 5-4, so at least we will not lose a major suit fit if we have one.

Chalk this discussion up to the complex nature of the game itself, constantly having to make compromises because of the limited amount of language available, not to mention positional advantages to playing a contract from the right side.

jim2February 26th, 2011 at 6:54 pm

I like 1NT!

I don’t know why I had not thought of it. Still, I confess admiration for those who would one spade, full of confidence that they would get a comfortable chance later to raise diamonds.