Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Vulnerable: North-South

Dealer: East


5 3

9 7 5 3 2

K 6 5

Q 10 9



J 10 6

A 9 7 3 2

A 8 5 4


A 10 9 7 6 4

Q 4

J 4

7 3 2


K Q J 8

A K 8

Q 10 8

K J 6


South West North East
2 3 NT
All pass

Opening Lead: Diamond three

“The desire for glory clings even to the best men longer than any other passion.”

— Cornelius Tacitus

In this deal from a decade ago, Lorenzo Lauria opened a weak two, and I leapt to my favorite contract — three no-trump.

When Alfredo Versace led a diamond, it was clear that East would have the spade ace, and therefore West would be likely to hold the club ace. It was essential to play a club before the diamonds were established, but I would need to go after spades next, so after winning the lead in hand, I followed with the club jack, overtaking in dummy when West sensibly withheld his ace.

Now came a spade off dummy. Lauria accurately rose with the spade ace and continued diamonds, Versace winning and clearing the suit. I had only eight tricks, but cashing the long suit (spades) put West through the wringer.

West could pitch two small clubs, but if next he threw a winning diamond, I could safely set up a club as my ninth trick. Accordingly, he threw a heart, relying on East to stop the suit. And so I was able to cash the hearts and make an overtrick.

Just for the record, if East had put in the spade nine on the first round. I would have won and followed with the club king. If West ducked this, I could have cleared the hearts and used the diamond king as my entry to dummy. If West had won and cleared the diamonds, I would have won in dummy and played a spade to my eight to set up my ninth trick.


South holds:

A 10 9 7 6 4
Q 4
J 4
7 3 2


South West North East
1 Pass
1 Pass 2 NT Pass
ANSWER: On this auction it is just possible that your partner has a singleton club in a 4-4-4-1 shape. But even then, the hand may play better in spades than in no-trump. The odds heavily favor playing the spade game, and in my view a jump to four spades is terminal, not a slam-try, so I would simply bid game now.


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 WarheitJuly 2nd, 2011 at 1:36 pm

How about leading the club king at trick 2? West ducks (best defense), so you lead a club to dummy at trick 3. Again West ducks (best), so you lead a spade. If East pops the ace, you have 3 spades and 2 tricks in each of the other 3 suits. If he ducks, win the king and clear hearts. West can win a heart, the ace of diamonds & 2 club tricks, but you have the rest, since west has no spade to get to his partner. It seems to me this is better than the suggested line, since that would lose if west’s singleton spade was the 8 or 9.

JeffJuly 2nd, 2011 at 2:26 pm

I’ll take a swing at this one. I think the problem is that East doesn’t play the AS, but inserts the nine instead. So you take the trick in hand and now what? If you play a third club, West takes that and cashes his fourth club before clearing diamonds. West is now free to discard diamonds as the AS completes the defense book and the JH becomes the setting trick.

JeffJuly 2nd, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Hmmm, looking again, I don’t think my way works. Take the spade, clear hearts and the defense doesn’t have a way to cash the AS. Whoops. Back to the drawing board.

JeffJuly 2nd, 2011 at 3:18 pm

OK, apologies to David, I should not write things when I am sick. 🙂 I just re-read your original post and you already addressed all this.

Bobby WolffJuly 2nd, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Hi David and also Jeff,

Yes David, your line is likely the best line, but what about if hearts do not break 3-2 or clubs also turn out to be 5-2 making West: 1-2-5-5.

Did East, Lauria, make the wrong play when he hopped with the Ace of spades, no doubt trying to guess the distribution, but at the same time making a time honored defensive play of protecting his partner’s entry for eventually providing the setting trick? Did I need to have KQJx of spades rather than only the KQx especially if I held 4 hearts (he might have felt vulnerable holding only 2)?

As Jim2 might have said (or is saying now) “my head hurts from all the possibilities”.

These types of discussions are important, if only to emphasize how difficult defense sometimes becomes in high-level confrontations, when there is little time to think and declarer, not the defense, is blessed with viewing all of his 26 assets before he embarks on his plan.

jim2July 3rd, 2011 at 1:28 am


Actually, it should probably be noted, David, that – per my reading – Mr. Wolff’s line would have been playing the 8S on the SECOND round of spades, not the first.

Thus, West would already have played his singleton on the first round.

David WarheitJuly 3rd, 2011 at 6:39 am

Yes, Jim, but only because East played the spade nine on the first round; if he plays low on the first round, South must play the eight, losing to the (hypothetical) singleton 8 or 9 in West’s hand.

jim2July 3rd, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Ah, your point then was that – should East play low on the first round and South put in an honor – East could prevent South from scoring the 8S by splitting from the 109 on the second round.

I see that now. Good catch.

Jeff HJuly 5th, 2011 at 5:06 pm

This has not been mentioned – it appears that the bidding is 90 degrees out of sync. Nothing makes sense otherwise.

Jeff HJuly 5th, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Is there a typo in the answer to the bidding quiz? Partner may have a singleton club and 4-4-4-1 shape? I haven’t read this blig that long, but I doubt that Mr Wolff advocates opening one club with a singleton club. I assume he meant singleton spade.

Bobby WolffJuly 6th, 2011 at 11:12 am

Hi Jeff H,

Yes, there is a glaring mistake in the BWTA and it is as you guessed, the 4-4-4-1 shape should have been 1-4-4-4.

Sorry for this and no excuses, just poor organization. Also with 1-4-4-4 shape it is usual practice to open 1 diamond, not one club, unless the clubs are far superior to the diamonds.