Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Vulnerable: East-West

Dealer: South


10 6 5

K 6 3

9 7 2

J 10 6 4


4 3

Q J 10 9

J 4

K 9 7 3 2


9 7 2

A 8 7 4

Q 10 8 5

8 5


A K Q J 8

5 2

A K 6 3



South West North East
2 Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 3 Pass
4 All pass

Opening Lead: Heart queen

“A wondrous knack has he to find resource,

Even where all might seem to baffle him.”

— Aeschylus

In today’s deal it would be facile for declarer to look at his side’s combined assets in four spades and assume that he needed the club finesse to succeed, and also needed to ruff a possible diamond loser in dummy. His chances are far better than that, so long as he is careful.

The hidden treasures in dummy are the club jack and 10, which may represent a home for declarer’s diamond losers — but care must be taken to exploit them to the full.

The defenders start by leading the heart queen followed by the jack, and continue with a third heart, which must be ruffed high. This allows declarer to preserve his possible late entry to dummy in the form of the spade 10.

At trick four declarer can cash one high trump, but then should lead the club queen out of his hand. If West takes the club king, South can win any return, cash the club ace, then take the spade king and enter dummy by leading the spade eight to the 10 to throw the diamond losers away on dummy’s master clubs.

It looks almost as good to start clubs by leading the ace then the queen, but West can take his king and play a third club, letting East ruff in and kill the discard.

Incidentally, if the club queen is allowed to hold, declarer simply plays the diamond A-K, leads a third diamond, and ruffs a fourth diamond high on the board if necessary.


South holds:

4 3
Q J 10 9
J 4
K 9 7 3 2


South West North East
1 Dbl. Pass
1 Pass Pass 1
ANSWER: You have too much for a pass, but it is certainly not right to bid two clubs. And who knows what a double would show — more in spades than a small doubleton, in my book. My instincts suggest that repeating the hearts won’t get you into too much trouble, with an imaginative bid of one no-trump as a second choice.


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


JaneApril 20th, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Hi Bobby,

Shouldn’t the north hand jump to four spades instead of bidding three spades? With only four points and a balanced hand, why encourage partner to look past game? I was taught that a three spade call in this type of auction promises a better hand. Wrong??


bobbywolffApril 20th, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Hi Jane,

Thanks for presenting a relatively simple bidding problem which, in truth, provides a caveat worth remembering.

NO, it is certainly not necessarily true that 4 spades shows this hand, while 3 spades is a likely move toward slam. If the weak hand held:

s. Qxxx

h. xx

d. xxx

c. xxxx,

then a jump to 4 spades would be satisfying your description. However, with the actual hand, you MUST give partner an opportunity to bid 3NT which you should be happy to pass. Partner could hold: AKQJxx Ax, Axx, Kx or even AKQxx, Axx, AKx, Kx making 3NT, especially in rubber bridge or IMPs, markedly better.

The litmus test to determine what bids mean what is usually not passed along the grape vine, but rather the expert bridge logic involved in the determination.

Picture yourself on a desert island with no distractions, trying to formulate the better meaning of whatever bids needed to be discussed. It would immediately (or at least pretty fast) come to you that when a bid is jumped to, like 4 spades in this example, the hand should represent one that is only going to play spades, after the opening salvo of bidding, regardless of what partner conjures up. The hand with length in spades, but very weak (no outside controls) then becomes the choice but not the Aces on Bridge hand which certainly might prefer a 3NT final contract. Of course, 3 spades can also be bid on a much stronger hand, trying to elicit partner into cue bidding, rather than just bidding out a minimum strong 2 bid.

High-level bridge learning needs intense concentration and creative knowledge of the way the game itself should be played, not half-hearted street corner discussion.

“Little by little we can do great things, at least with the subject of bridge”.

Thanks for writing and opening up various bridge subjects.

JaneApril 21st, 2011 at 2:17 am

The only island I would consider being deserted on, given a choice, would be Hawaii or Bermuda, and then I would prefer a nice resort. Probably too many distractions there for me to become the thinker that you describe. Isn’t it usually better to play in a known major suit fit than NT? My concern would still be how partner would read my raise to three spades, thinking I have more than I do. I agree if partner does bid three NT, I would pass and hope for the best. My partners would be thrilled to know I can support their major however. Guess we would all need to go to that island you mentioned, sit on the beach, and become better bridge students and thinkers!

Thanks for the advice. Greatly appreciated, as always!

bobbywolffApril 21st, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Hi Jane,

OK, desert island or not, 3 spades by the responder is forcing to game, and could either be the hand she held or a much stronger one, interested in bidding either a small or even a grand slam.

The strong hand, holding a minimum strong 2 bid, would either bid 4 spades (normal) or 3NT with one of the example hands given, to try and reach a better game contract. Then responder, with the bare positive response of 2 diamonds would certainly pass 4 spades or either also pass 3NT or convert to 4 spades with for example, Qxxx, Kxxx, Jx, xxx or xxx, x, Kxxxx, J10xx.

However if responder had Qxxx, xx, Axxxx, Kx, she should bid 4 diamonds over 3NT or 5 diamonds over 4 spades to show a diamond control and a slam interest,

keeping in mind:

1. The strong hand has shown a minimum (although very strong) hand by her bid of either 3NT or 4 spades.

2. You, the responder has denied holding a singleton or void together with enough outside values by your 3 spade bid: With xxx, x, Kxxxx, J10xx a 3 spade raise, not a 4 heart shortness jump is called for, since this hand is just too weak to warrant such a jump. However with xxxx, x, Kxxxx, QJx then, at least in my judgment, 4 hearts should be bid in response to 2 spades.

3. And the beat goes on. If I am venturing into areas which some may think are beyond them now and, as far as they are concerned, will always be beyond them, please, forgive me, but first realize that bridge, unlike physical sports like tennis and golf, actually have no unachievable mental barriers, even for geezers (like me).

Consequently, old roosters in the chicken yard can go prancing around, knowing that all bridge learning is possible and perhaps the nearest hen might be interested in what is going on, especially if that hen is also bridge inclined.

The old saying that “no hill is too steep for a climber” was almost specially meant for the high-level game of bridge, since, though it is a very tough game to achieve super status, there are so many rewarding levels to reach, that it offers scintillating opportunities on the way, to many who merely try.

The above should serve as food for thought.