Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Vulnerable: East-West

Dealer: East


J 5 3

A J 8 7

10 9 7

Q 7 5


K 9 3 2

K Q J 6 4 3 2

K 9


Q 10 9 8 7 6 2

5 4


J 10 6


A K 4

Q 10 6

A 5

A 8 4 3 2


South West North East
2 NT Pass 3 NT All pass

Opening Lead: Diamond king

“Be not deceived, for every deed you do

I could match — outmatch …”

— Claude McKay

Consider this awkward deal from a recent Cavendish Teams. North-South look destined to reach three no-trump, whether or not East pre-empts — unless they can stop off to double an overly aggressive pair who have gone overboard in diamonds. However, when West clears the diamonds at once, nine tricks seem a long way off.

Nonetheless, in the match between Wayne Chu and Gerald Sosler, both tables found a way to nine tricks in three no-trump. When Craig Gower was declarer, Kay Schulle led a top diamond. (Incidentally, do you approve of East’s decision to pre-empt? I do not. At favorable vulnerability, a three-level pre-empt is not absurd, but at unfavorable vulnerability, bidding with this hand looks like a way to go for a large penalty.)

Gower took the second diamond, led the heart queen, covered by the king and ace, and then played off the top spades. When Schulle pitched two diamonds, Gower worked out why and so led the heart 10. He then successfully finessed against the heart nine. Now he cashed out the hearts, reducing to a five-card ending with West holding three diamonds and two clubs. At this point he threw Schulle in with a diamond to cash out her suit, but she then had to lead clubs for his ninth trick. Remarkably, this was for a four-IMP loss, since Schulle’s teammate, David Berkowitz, had made exactly the same play, but in three no-trump doubled, to land nine tricks.


South holds:

J 5 3
A J 8 7
10 9 7
Q 7 5


South West North East
1 NT Pass
ANSWER: Whether it is at rubber, teams, or pairs, it is bad tactics to invite game on a balanced eight-count. The right action is to pass, unless you have both majors, or a five-card suit, or exceptional intermediates. This hand has none of those features, so it is sensible to pass and try to go plus.


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


JaneMay 26th, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Hi Bobby,

I must be missing something here on the hand in question. If west keeps all their diamonds and throws away the hearts, it looks to me like the declarer can only come up to eight tricks. With the king of clubs well placed for west, seems like a natural play to me. Where am I going wrong? East can have very little with the bidding.

Thanks in advance.

bobbywolffMay 26th, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Hi Jane,

It is always nice to hear from you.

On the subject hand, after declarer ducks a diamond at trick one he wins the 2nd diamond and leads the queen of hearts which is covered and won in dummy. Then 2 rounds of spades are led with West discarding. The after declarer guesses to finesse the heart nine at trick 8 and then next cashes the heart jack at trick 9 West must come down to two good diamonds and the Kx of clubs. Declarer, in dummy, now leads the dummies last diamond, losing to West, who after cashing the defense’s 4th trick, the last diamond she has, has is now forced lead away from the king of clubs allowing the declarer to take tricks number 8 and 9.

Contract made. If West does not discard a diamond, but rather a club earlier, declarer by counting West’s original hand void in spades, 4 hearts, 7 diamonds and therefore starting with exactly 2 clubs and if she discards one of them (probably the best defense) declarer merely plays the ace of clubs (rather than throwing West in with the 10 of diamonds) downing the king and the queen of clubs is now good.

It is all about counting and knowing if the king does not now fall from West the hand cannot have been made.

Thanks for writing and showing the interest of how and why.

JaneMay 27th, 2011 at 12:28 pm

OK, got it now. Once two rounds of spades are lead, west is screwed. Can’t hold on to all those diamonds and protect the club as well. Nice.

Thanks. Takes a great declarer as well and some good luck that the hearts works out. Such is the nature of the game Go for the gold.