Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Vulnerable: North-South

Dealer: South


6 3

A 2

Q 9 8

A J 9 7 4 3


A J 9

K Q J 5 3

5 3

K 8 2


Q 10 5 4

9 8 7 6 4

4 2

Q 10


K 8 7 2


A K J 10 7 6

6 5


South West North East
1 1 2 3 *
3 Pass 5 All pass


Opening Lead: Heart king

“The secret of success is constancy to purpose.”

— Benjamin Disraeli

In today’s deal, when the opponents bid and support hearts, North should not attempt to play the hand in three no-trump, but should raise to game in diamonds. This bid is fully justified by his significant trump support, not to mention his two aces. Additionally, his doubleton spade rates to be useful in the trump contract, while the weak club intermediates suggest there will be work needed to establish that suit.

Of course, neither West nor East has a hand that suggests a sacrifice at the five-level to save a vulnerable game that may not be made.

At first sight, from South’s perspective on the lead of the heart king, the contract of five diamonds seems to depend on the position of the spade ace. Since this is almost certainly with West, South should look for another line of play. The solution, once you think of it, is simple but ingenious. The heart king is ducked, a club is thrown on the heart ace, and now the club suit can be set up for the discard of three losing spades.

This is a nice example of an avoidance play. However, for the purists it should be noted that the lead of either a trump (followed by a trump continuation) or an initial low club defeats five diamonds. The former lead works because it attacks entries to dummy’s long suit, while the latter succeeds because it insures that East will gain the lead to put a spade through declarer’s gizzard.


South holds:

6 3
A 2
Q 9 8
A J 9 7 4 3


South West North East
1 1
2 Dbl. Pass Pass
ANSWER: Your two-spade cue-bid promised at least invitational values and club support, and your partner’s pass of the double suggests no great spade stop but a better hand than a sign-off in three clubs. You are too strong to stop in three clubs now; so temporize with a forcing call of three diamonds, hoping partner can bid no-trump, or else you will head for five clubs.


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 19th, 2011 at 12:50 pm

With a trump lead, declarer would surely place the spade ace with West (as described in the column) and realize the contract could be made only if West held either the missing club marriage or the missing heart honors.

South risks nothing by winning the trump lead in hand and advancing the heart ten. When West covers, South can transpose into the column line (doubtless holding breath anxiously awaiting East’s card). Should West play the jack and South fear East overtaking with the queen/king, South could always win with the ace, ruff the small heart (and/or draw a second trump), and then revert to clubs (hoping both club face cards were onside).

If West followed low to the heart ten at my table, I would win the ace, play on clubs, go down, offer my congratulations, and then go find another table. After I had regained my composure (if I ever did), I would send you the hand.

bobbywolffApril 19th, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Hi Jim 2,

Well analyzed, well revered, well humored, but as a great American news commentator, Paul Harvey and a patriotic hero, would have said, “But now for the rest of the story”.

In order to prevent some wise guy (another noun could be used) from saying, “Why not the opening leader, West lead his 4th best heart instead of the King, the singleton 10 was carefully put in declarer’s hand just to warn off that claim and suggest that if West was good enough (clairvoyant) to underlead his KQJ, the declarer, South, was good enough to “let er ride”!

Perhaps Paul will be proud to know that his legacy lives on, and especially so in bridge, where Jim2 thrives, to add zest (and humor) to most analysis.

bobbywolffApril 19th, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Also left unsaid is another fairly common card combination which would allow declarer to make the hand (other than the whole club marriage being intact and with West), and that is Kx onside.

With Jim2 around, one needs to stay on his own toes and off the ones of his readers.

jim2April 19th, 2011 at 3:25 pm

I confess that I discounted the West club Kx holding chance (probably too much) due to the bidding. That is, West could not hold four spades (no takeout double) and East almost had to have five hearts (and probably not five spades). Hence, West seemed certain to be 3-5 in the majors, with the absence of additional bidding showing that neither defender had a minor suit singleton/void.

Collectively, that made West most likely 3-5-2-3, but I should have looked further, as it was by no means a certainty.

Assuming a low trump lead, should declarer elect not to try the 10H gambit, it looks feasible to draw a second round of trump as an exploratory play. The heart ace would remain a late entry to the clubs in addition to the third trump. Once diamonds are shown to be 2-2, West would be known to have at most 10 non-clubs (max 3 spades in addition to the known 5 hearts and 2 diamonds). That would rule out Kx.

Should (say) East show out on the second diamond placing 3 diamonds in the West hand, then West could well have a doubleton club. Declarer would also need to be careful to win the second trump in hand, of course, so as to be able to lead clubs towards the dummy and prevent West from jettisoning the K from Kx under the ace (as would likely happen if the ace were led from the board).

bobbywolffApril 20th, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Hi Jim2,

I do agree to most of what you say, except that I think West has a better chance to have Kx in clubs than you do because:

1. With a minimum type of TO double with 5 good hearts and 4 spades and a doubleton unbid minor many good players prefer to overcall 1 heart because of the awkwardness of a minor suit response by partner and also the possible lead direction of the bid major.

2. Do not rule out the overcaller having a 6 card suit and his partner only 4 to still preempt, especially at favorable vulnerability.

Although usually not discussed, it helps to know your worthy opponents and their bidding tendencies. In the distant past and at World Championships the ACES used to employ a good player to go scout our upcoming opponents (usually in round robins) and report back with what he (she) gleaned to be their bidding habits. I cannot say for sure now, whether or not it was helpful. but to do so was like eating chicken soup, it was unlikely to hurt.l