Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 4th, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: E-W


Q 5 3


Q 6

10 7 6 5 4 2


9 8 7 2

Q 10 9

J 10 9 8 5



K 6

8 7 6 5 3

K 7 3 2



A J 10 4

K 4 2

A 4

A 9 8 3


South West North East
1 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass

Opening Lead: Jack

“An active, ardent mind;

A fancy pregnant with resource and scheme

To cheat the sadness of a rainy day.”

— William Wordsworth

When you cannot use your major source of tricks, it may be a case of any port in a storm. However, you may need to husband your resources carefully.


West led the diamond jack against three no-trump, and South correctly tried dummy’s queen. (If dummy had held three diamonds, it would have been right to duck and preserve the tenace, but not here.)


As South had feared, East covered the queen with the king. South withheld the ace, but was forced to take the next round. Clubs were a broken reed now, for to take five club tricks, declarer would have to surrender the lead, and the defenders would surely have five tricks before declarer could run nine.


The remaining possibility was that hearts would supply three tricks, and spades, four. So at trick three, declarer finessed dummy’s heart jack, which held. One hurdle was overcome — but would spades be equally obliging?


About to call for dummy’s queen, South paused. If spades broke 3-3 with the king onside, it did not matter which spade was led. But what if East had a doubleton spade king? He would cover the queen, and there would be a fourth-round spade loser.


Changing tack, South led a low spade to the 10, which held, then re-entered dummy with the heart ace and led another low spade, on which East’s king was a welcome sight. It only remained to cash dummy’s spade queen, then re-enter hand with the club ace to take the remaining two winners.


South Holds:

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


South West North East
1 Pass
1 Pass 2 Pass
ANSWER: There are a few minimum hands where slam will make, but even if your partner provides you with a maximum hand with both black suits, you may need a split, or the right doubleton, opposite. If you want to try for slam, you can bid three clubs — a help-suit game try, ostensibly for game. But my instincts tell me it is right just to bid four spades.


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


jim2March 18th, 2011 at 2:58 pm

In 6 spades with the same diamond jack lead, it appears that declarer must adopt a similar line for a similar reason.

That is, after trying the diamond queen, declarer cannot play out the club suit (draw trump) without the defense setting the contract via the diamond suit.

Declarer cannot make the slam unless the spade king is onside, just as 9 tricks in NT are not there without the spade king being in the pocket. Nonetheless, declarer cannot attack that suit for a diamond discard, anyway, without risk of the third round being ruffed (as in the column hand layout) and a diamond cashed, even with the spade king onside.

Thus, declarer is forced to take the seemingly-unnecessary heart finesse (as at 3 NT) for the diamond discard. It wins and declarer plays on, getting the needed diamond pitch on the heart king.

On the bidding quiz, is there a risk that partner raised with three spades? Is there any benefit from a bid of 3NT to give choice of games?

jim2March 18th, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Uh, that was supposed to be 6 CLUBS, not 6 spades! Excuse me, I need to go get my eyes checked ….

John Howard GibsonMarch 18th, 2011 at 3:44 pm

HBJ : Yet another nil desperandum play situation with an added touch of sound logical reasoning. The club suit ( such a shame has to be abandoned ) pinning all hopes of making the contract on both the heart and spade finesses working……BUT with the added precautions of retaining Ace of hearts as an entry , and NOT running the queen of spades in case East has Kx.

I am learning so much I think my declarer play is definitely moving up a notch or two. Tx.

bobbywolffMarch 19th, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Hi Jim 2,

Since I do not relish being thought of as an exaggerator, may I politely comment, that to bid 6 clubs and make it (via the heart and spade finesses) I would estimate that board to be above average.

And, as a bonus, we do not have to conserve our spade holding by not wasting our queen by leading it too early. Our wonderful game always seems to provide treats for those with stout hearts, not to mention on this hand, long clubs.

bobbywolffMarch 19th, 2011 at 2:03 pm


Thank you for recognizing the real beauty of what bridge is all about.

Your summation has reminded me of a question once posed, many moons ago: Is telling someone that he has a lot to be modest about a compliment or notso?

In any case, to say that I appreciate all you have to say and the way you say it, is a distinct underbid, and will always be cherished by me.

And remember, that there is only so far you can improve your game and recalls the lyrics of “Thank heaven for little girls” when it claims that you will be “crashing through the ceiling”.

bobbywolffMarch 19th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Hi Jim2,

Since I failed to answer your apt question, I totally agree that jumping to 4 spades after being merely raised to 2 is presumptuous, but basically caters to those who always have 4 when opting to raise partner’s response. A temporizing bid of 3 grapes (or whatever) would tend to clarify whether partner had 4 trumps for you as well as judging whether he is minimum or maximum for his raise. With the exact hand held, it would be acceptable to just bid 3NT yourself (since both unbid suits are stopped) and await partner’s passing or insisting on spades as trump.