Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Vulnerable: Both

Dealer: South


A Q 5 2

Q 10 7 5

A 6 5

Q 6


A 4 3

8 2

K 9 8 7 3 2


10 8 6 3

K J 9 2

J 10 3

J 5


K J 7

8 6

K Q 9 7 4

A 10 4


South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
1 NT Pass 3 NT All pass

Opening Lead: Club seven

“I do not mind lying, but I hate inaccuracy.”

— Samuel Butler

Today’s deal is from the Open Pairs at the third European Open Championships. Against three no-trump, you (West) lead a low club to the six, jack and ace, and declarer returns the club four. Over to you.

You know South has the club 10. If East had it, he would have played it, and without the 10, South would have tried the queen from dummy on your lead. Therefore, declarer is trying to sneak a second club trick, with the rest of his tricks coming from the pointed suits. All of this means that any further tricks for your side must come from hearts.

Partner is marked with the heart king. Otherwise, declarer would surely have broached hearts, where there is a chance of developing more than one trick, rather than clubs.

At the table, West took the club king, then switched to ace and another heart. Holding South to nine tricks was worth a reasonable score, but it was not the best shot. By releasing the heart ace, West lost his re-entry. An immediate low heart would have allowed East to cover dummy’s card, then return the two to the ace. Then another heart through would pick up four tricks.

You might argue that declarer should not have risked his contract in search of overtricks, but at matchpoint pairs, one has to speculate to accumulate. Also, the opponents do not always draw the right inferences, nor do the cards always lie in such hostile fashion.


South holds:

9 4
A 4 3
8 2
K 9 8 7 3 2


South West North East
1 Dbl. ?
9 4
ANSWER: This is an easy problem. Yes, partner will not always have as much club support as you would like, but you cannot afford to bid less than three clubs now. On this hand it is easy to envision game making your way, whether in clubs or no-trump, and even if your partner is unsuitable, your trump length should ensure that three clubs has decent play.


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 WarheitJune 2nd, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Sure, South should try for overtricks, but not the way he did. How about playing the club queen at trick one? The odds are very strong that West has the club king (why lead a minor unless you are long and strong in the suit), but possession of the club jack is only slightly in favor of west.

Albert OhanaJune 3rd, 2011 at 7:37 am

Hi M. Wolff

Why not play a Heart for the 10 at trick two ? Opponent will take the trick but will probably play a second Club, and West may continue Clubs hoping to cash them when in with the H Ace …?

I do not agree with David suggestion to play the Club Queen at trick one, a play which can transfrom two tricks in one, and then your are destined to get a zero..

David WarheitJune 3rd, 2011 at 9:37 am

Anybody can make 4NT assuming diamonds run. The only question is can you make more? My line of play guarantees success if west holds the club king The original declarer’s line of play succeeds if east has the club king and not the jack, a much smaller possibility, or the opponents make a mistake. Albert’s line of play succeeds if east has the club king and not the jack or the opponents make a different mistake. Bottom line, I always make at least 10 tricks for an average board, not a zero, plus a much better than average chance that I make 11 tricks for a top. The original declarer and Albert might succeed by playing low on the opening lead, but otherwise risk taking only 8 tricks (and a zero). Of course the textbook play is to play low on the opening lead. The beauty of this hand is that that is the wrong play here

Another way to look at the problem: anybody can make two slow tricks in clubs. The trick is, with the threat of the heart suit, to make two fast ones..

bobbywolffJune 3rd, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Hi David & Albert,

Thanks to a combination of your discussions, other readers should benefit, bridge learning moves forward, and for those who prefer to learn who is to blame, I will offer my opinion (for what it is worth).

After due consideration (a pet phrase, overused, and often coming from committees, usually protecting one’s flank and, at least, pretending that valid thought has gone into the decision), I, from a bridge standpoint, ever so slightly side with David.

Let me explain (as if you two could keep me from it). Representing the defense, they are possessed with 8 clubs and only 6 spades (the 2 unbid suits), making it significantly odds on that a club will be chosen as an opening lead, particularly when hearts, possibly another choice, has already been bid by the dummy. Therefore, at least in my opinion, is that the King and the Jack are equals in which one or the other may be held by the opening leader and with between the two choices it might be slightly better, at least cosmetically, for the declarer if the opening leader has both (50%, since the presumably 4th best lead of the 7 might indicate that East has only 1 card higher). The main reason is that, at trick 1, declarer cannot be certain that diamonds will break 3-2 and if not, complications will be very much with us and the guarantee of a 2nd club stop (by playing low from the dummy at trick 1) may turn into a necessity for just making the contract rather than just a slight advantage, particularly since the heart layout around the table is, of course, not yet known by declarer.

However, David’s play of the queen tends to resolve the advantage of 2 immediate club tricks and with the diamonds presumably 3-2 makes for, what we all wish, a simple squeaky clean, straightforward maximum result.

The culprit was I, the author, (certainly not either of you) for not explaining briefly (if possible) what was involved which would only begin to delve into the complications to be considered with even what, on the surface, appears to be a very simple bridge declarer’s play.

The real original reason for writing about this hand was not the above, but rather to suggest what the defense needed to do in order to maximize the defensive ability to take all 4 possible heart tricks (e.g. with West on lead to start off with a low heart away from the ace).

Thanks to both of you for allowing thousands of bridge lovers all around the world to at least have a chance to use their bridge brains to inch forward in their pursuit of positive thinking about the subtleties of card combinations and even more so, to do it in the context of other considerations.