Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 18th, 2011

Vulnerable: Neither

Dealer: East


K Q J 10 7 2


A 8 5

K 3 2



8 5

Q 9 7 3

A 10 9 7 5 4



A K 10 7 6

K 6 4 2

J 8 6


A 6 5 4 3

Q J 9 3 2

J 10



South West North East
1 Dbl. 4 All pass

Opening Lead: Heart eight

“You know my methods. Apply them.”

— Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Gold Coast Congress in Australia has just celebrated its 50th anniversary, so to mark that occasion all the deals this week come from last year’s tournament. Today’s deal is from a pairs event, where undertricks and overtricks play an important role.

Consider today’s deal as a defensive problem, looking just at the North and East cards. At every table but two, East failed to focus properly on the defense against four spades. As Sherlock Holmes said caustically, “You see, Watson, but you do not observe.” If the heart eight is a true card, it must be a doubleton. In theory, West could have three hearts such as J-9-8, but would then have raised hearts rather than have made a negative double with such limited values. Accordingly, you can infer that declarer has at most three minor-suit cards.

A heart continuation is worse than useless, and a spade is clearly passive. So if you want to get active, you need to play a minor suit. You have no hope for an extra trick if declarer has two clubs and one diamond, or three clubs. But if he has two diamonds and one club, you had better shift to a diamond immediately before South disposes of his slow diamond loser by setting up a discard from the clubs. At the table Kieran Dyke duly shifted to a diamond for a near top.


South holds:

J 5
Q 2
9 7 6 4 3
J 6 5 3


South West North East
1 1
Pass 1 NT Pass 2
All pass
ANSWER: There is a temptation to get active by leading the spade jack, but not only is this a dangerous lead in the suit, but also you may have a natural trump trick and thus do not need to get a ruff. I’d settle for the mundane low club lead and let declarer open up spades for himself. With two small hearts, I might be more inclined to lead 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


David WarheitMay 3rd, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Your article implies that at every table South was declarer at 4 spades, which would mean that each South overcalled East’s opening bid of 1 heart with 1 spade. It would never occur to me to bid with the South hand. What do you think?

bobbywolffMay 3rd, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Hi David,

Much earlier in my bridge career I was generally taught by top players that when I held the opponents suit, then try to quietly pass and let them, not us, get in trouble.

However, as time went on, I found out (at least I think) that it is normally better to throw so called caution to the wind, get in the bidding if possible, hope for a fit, where partner can bid them up at his 1st chance, and let the opponents take the hind most,

with less bidding space.

I will go so far as to say that passing is much too dangerous since it will no doubt give the opponents maximum room (which admittedly, they might get anyway) to bid to their best contract.

Perhaps, since bidding has improved so much during all these years, even barely average players, if left to their own devices, will likely bid to their best contract.

The system which best employed conservative overcalls in the past, Roth-Stone, has fallen on hard times and, at least to my knowledge, there are few world class disciples left, suggesting that most of the world’s top players are big bidders and as often as possible.

The above is only one man’s opinion, so check it out with others you respect.