Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 23rd

Vulnerable: Both

Dealer: South


A Q 10 3


K Q 9

A Q J 10 7


9 7 4 2

A J 10 3 2

K 6 2


J 6

A Q 7 4

8 5 4

9 5 4 3


K 8 5

K J 9 6 5 3 2

7 6



South West North East
3 Pass 4 All pass

Opening Lead: Spade seven

“It is a consolation to the wretched to have companions in misery.”

— Publilius Syrus

Four hearts made more often than not on this deal from a national pair game, but the fate of the game bounced from side to side at one table.

West led the spade seven, which declarer won in dummy. Dummy’s heart 10 held, and declarer continued with the ace and another club, ruffed in hand. The heart nine lost to East’s queen, and South took the spade-jack return with his king. The heart jack came next. East captured it with the ace, then played a diamond to West’s ace. Now East could ruff the spade return for down one.

Had declarer given proper thought to the possibility of a spade ruff, then after the heart 10 held, the play of a top diamond (or if this is ducked, a second diamond) cuts the communication between the defenders’ hands before a second spade is played.

Equally, East could have set the contract by force by rising with the heart ace at trick two, then returning his last spade. Now when East regains the lead, he can cross to West’s diamond ace for the spade ruff.

To bring home 10 tricks against any defense on the actual layout of the cards, South must win the spade lead in hand and play on diamonds before touching trumps. Then, with the defensive communications cut (and declarer able to pitch his third spade on the good diamond), only the three obvious tricks are lost: the ace and queen of trumps together with the diamond ace.


South holds:

J 6
A Q 7 4
8 5 4
9 5 4 3


South West North East
Pass 1 Dbl. Pass
ANSWER: Rather than inventing a suit by bidding an honorless three-card holding, make the practical call of one no-trump. You have the hearts well under control, and even if the opponents can set up the clubs against you, you should be able to establish either spades or diamonds to come close to making seven tricks.


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


jim2April 6th, 2011 at 6:18 pm

It would never occur to me to open four hearts with the South hand vulnerable in second seat in any form of scoring. Yes, the hand is too weak for 1H, the suit is too long for 2H, and the hand is too good a spade dummy for 3H, but the solution to all those flaws hardly seems to bid 4H!

I would have expected the bidding begin more like:

P — 1C

1H – 2S

South would now have to choose between rebidding his suit or supporting spades with three. Whatever that choice, North would likely bid 3N and South would choose the game.

The 4H contract seems the toughest, as the 4-3 spade fit looks like it plays very nicely, and 3N appears cold for at least 10 tricks.

bobbywolffApril 6th, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Hi Jim2,

You tend to discuss a variety of bidding choices, all pertaining to judgments on this hand, so I’ll give you my opinion(s).

First, I agree with you about too weak (by a significant margin) for one heart and to bid 4 hearts vulnerable is much too great a gamble. However either a heart weak two bid or more classic three heart preempt suits more to my taste. Because both sides are vulnerable will break the tie in favor of deciding on three. The holding of three spades to an honor would in no way influence my decision since, after all, I am making a preempt and sure, we might instead belong in spades, but bridge being far from an exact science, my choice is to follow through by attempting to make it difficult for the opponents while coming at least close to covering myself with enough offensive potential.

While two hearts may also miss a valid spade contract, it also, because of the seventh heart may possibly mislead my partner as to both my offensive potential and defensive shortcomings.

If you ask for percentages here they are:






While I cannot justify the above with any sort of proof, nevertheless those ratings represent my judgment.

Playing bridge, especially at high-levels, in not for the faint of heart and bridge, being a percentage game, needs at least to be played that way with aggressive ahead of passive.

BTW, I will pass on to you my experience in choosing between a vulnerable three or four preempt in a major. With a three bid you allow guessing opponents to wiggle more which can be good for our side since it keeps them from having their backs to a wall and will pass partner’s take out double of a game contract by us, not knowing whether it is right or not, but merely because the level has gotten too high to experiment. It then follows that we need to have a better suit and more playable distribution to come out alive when the opponents have guessed right.

I hope the above makes sense to you and you are definitely right to ask questions about competitive bidding since that subject ranks at the top of the list in determining winning.

jim2April 6th, 2011 at 10:16 pm

The bidding in the column hand previously displayed on my browser as:

South — West — North — East

— – – – – -Pass- – – 4H- – – – Pass

Pass – – -Pass-

I thought the mistake was a mis-positioning of the bidders (South bidding 4H), not that the South bid of 3H was not visible and the 4H was a raise.