Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Vulnerable: East-West

Dealer: South


Q 9 4

Q 6 5 3

Q 10 5

8 7 6


K J 8 7

J 9

A K 9 4

K Q 5


10 6 3 2

4 2

8 3

J 10 9 3 2


A 5

A K 10 8 7

J 7 6 2

A 4


South West North East
1 Dbl. 2 Pass
Pass Dbl. Pass 2
3 All pass

Opening Lead: Diamond king

“Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever;

Do noble things, not dream them, all day long.”

— Charles Kingsley

Bridge has an internal logic that not everyone embraces and that is not purely a matter of intelligence. After a certain length of time, either you get it or you don’t. On the upcoming deal, West was one of those player who got it.

West’s second double was for takeout, showing extras — usually at least a king more than an opening bid. East properly responded in his four-card major at the two-level rather than the five-card minor at the three-level. West is supposed to have spades when he makes a takeout double of hearts.

Against three hearts, West started smartly with three rounds of diamonds, East ruffing. East exited with the club jack, which went to declarer’s ace. Now comes the crux of the deal: West knows that South is about to draw trump and discard a club on the diamond 10. West also knows that South has the spade ace from the bidding. If East had four spades to the ace along with five clubs, he would have bid two spades over two hearts. So what does it all mean?

It means that if West plays a low club under the ace, declarer will draw trump, discard a club from dummy on the diamond 10, and exit with a club, which West must win. Now West has to lead away from the spade king. Result: misery! However, if West has unblocked his club king under the ace, he can allow East to win the club exit and return a spade. Result: happiness!


South holds:

A 5
A K 10 8 7
J 7 6 2
A 4


South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 3 Pass
ANSWER: Despite your weak diamonds, you have real slam interest, so should not sign off in three no-trump. Make a call of three spades — initially, a probe for no-trump. If your partner bids three no-trump, you probably have to pass, but facing any other action, you can cue-bid and hope partner can take control.


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


John Howard GibsonJuly 26th, 2011 at 4:40 pm

HBJ : Now that defensive unblocking really deserves a special name or label, such as ” the pending end play avoidance unblocking manoeuvre “.

Now that is spotting danger immediately and doing something SMART to avoid it.

Yet again another great instructive hand for those guilty of impetuous knee jerk reaction play.

jim2July 26th, 2011 at 6:52 pm

I would note that our esteemed Host made West’s working out East’s and South’s exact shapes appear light work. Doing that was the key to recognizing the late hand endplay.

The process, I believe, was that East had ruffed the third diamond, and so started with two (leaving four for South, including a remaining winner). South opened hearts but did not rebid them early, and so should have precisely five, leaving just two for East. With three spades and six clubs, East would not have bid three clubs, instead of the actual two spades, thus East has four spades, and South a doubleton.

That leaves East to have five clubs, and South three and no endplay exists at Trick 4 because North must follow to a third club.

However, this in turn means that South’s good fourth diamond will be available later to pitch a club (instead of a spade), which will shorten the North holding and make an endplay possible, after all.

The above appears to be the mental process that West needed to complete before playing to the fourth trick!

Alternatively, since the club jack should be the top of a sequence, there is no harm in following high as a matter of sound technique. Thus, even if West had not worked it all out, sound technique (unlike virtue) would not have been its own reward on this hand.

jim2July 26th, 2011 at 10:33 pm

“WOULD have bid three clubs, instead of the actual two spades” — ( instead of “would not”) hate it when I have edit failures like that!

Bobby WolffJuly 27th, 2011 at 11:34 am


Yes, your subsidiary names are much like government branches who specialize in featherbedding by pretending importance and worthy of being.

However, in the playing of high-level bridge those offices are indeed worth protecting and often the difference in separating the sheep from the goats.

Bobby WolffJuly 27th, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your description of the mental process in West’s mind as the defense of the hand in question materialized is as good as it gets in the application which I have come to name numeracy.

For the first 70+ years of my life I had always thought numeracy to only mean the ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide in an above average manner, but after my friend, Blair Fedder, gifted me with a book by John Allen Paulos entitled “Innumeracy” and subtitled “Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences” I learned differently. Numeracy is actually the constant science of using numbers in one’s daily life, sometimes several times a day, to explain and answer various types of perplexing puzzles which sometimes arise.

In bridge, of course, the application of what you suggest is usually ever present, mostly in the play and defense of a hand, but even sometimes in the bidding when visualization of the final contract becomes paramount.

Thanks for your continued contribution to the teaching of what is important in high-level bridge.

BTW you are not only forgiven for your edit failure in your recent blog, but by doing so you prove yourself to have an important human quality of being like the rest of us, not perfect.