Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, July 15th, 2011

Vulnerable: North-South

Dealer: East


K 6

J 9 5 4

A 4 3

A J 8 3


Q 10 8 5 4

8 3

Q J 10 6 5



A J 9 2



K 10 9 7 6 4 2


7 3

A K Q 10 6 2

9 8 7 2



South West North East
3 Pass 4 All pass

Opening Lead: Club queen

“Still here I carry my old delicious burdens;

I carry them, men and women — I carry them with me wherever I go;

I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them.”

— Walt Whitman

Today’s deal is from the 2007 Round Robin encounter between regular Bermuda Bowl finals protagonists, Italy and USA2. The American South had achieved a coup in the auction, keeping his opponents out of their makable four-spade game. Could he do even better by bringing home 10 tricks himself in the heart game?

When West led the club queen, South won in dummy, and with endplay possibilities in mind, cashed the diamond ace, collecting the king from East. Declarer drew trump with the ace and king, then exited with a diamond. West won, cashed two diamonds, then played a spade. That was a tame one-off.

By contrast, Steen Moller, playing for Denmark in the Seniors Bowl, showed how to make the game. He too received the lead of the club queen. Moller won with the ace, cashed the heart ace, then also continued with the diamond ace. Now Moller drew the last trump with dummy’s jack, then, reading both the club queen and diamond king as singletons, followed with a low club, discarding a spade from hand and leaving East endplayed.

East could think of nothing better to do than take his spade ace and return a spade. Moller won in dummy, discarding a diamond from hand, then ruffed a club.

Re-entering dummy with a heart, Moller now played dummy’s last club, the jack. East covered, and South threw his penultimate diamond. Endplayed yet again, East was forced to give Moller a ruff and discard — and away went declarer’s final diamond. Contract made!


South holds:

K 6
J 9 5 4
A 4 3
A J 8 3


South West North East
1 1 Pass
2 NT Pass 3 Pass
ANSWER: Your partner should be checking back for a second suit or to find three-card spade support. With a good club stopper and only two spades, you might want to play in no-trump. But just in case partner has four hearts, you can bid three hearts now. If your partner rebids three spades, you can go past three no-trump, confident that you will be facing a six-card spade suit.


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


jim2July 29th, 2011 at 12:28 pm

I strongly doubt I would have made Moller’s brilliant deduction.

Once that deduction had been made, however, I think it would have been slightly better to lead the 8C on the second round and not the trey. (Perhaps Moller did that, but the column said only “a low club.”)

Leading the 8C guards against West having led from one of the four possible Qx doubletons.

Bobby WolffJuly 29th, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Hi Jim2,

While I appreciate your intended play (once you had decided on basically following the declarer’s proposed line) of the eight of clubs rather than the three, stating the possible holding of Qx by the opening leader and, if so, trying to prevent East from brilliantly ducking the club to his partner’s possible singleton six on up, instead of forcing West to having been dealt with the now singleton nine (if he had the ten, little could be done once East decided not to rise with the king). All well intended and perhaps necessary, but the play of the eight might create suspicion by East that West not East might have the odd club left.

During the heat of the battle, usually joined between declarer and the two defenders, sometimes psychology, not always just strict card combinations, enters the battle in helping determine the victor.

The message intended is sometimes just playing with cool demeanor works better than scientific reasoning.

To each his own.

jim2July 29th, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Another factor could be the spot card played by East on Trick One. For example, perhaps East signaled with the 10 (or 9).

Bobby WolffJuly 29th, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, of course that would play at least some part in the psychology.

From just general experience and over a long period of time, it is indeed a very rare occasion when the defense can be ready to contribute a well reasoned difficult defensive play when all they have heard is the bidding and seen only 1/2 of declarer’s assets plus their partner’s choice of leads which is often mandated by the specific circumstances.

Differently described, at trick one declarer is at his absolute largest advantage in the overall battle, and in almost all cases the best positioned to gain at least a small edge in having his way in the early going, at least in his ability to begin to guess more correctly the location of the opponent’s high cards.

That is why Eric Rodwell has pioneered the slow play by the 3rd seat player even though the play at trick one by him is 100%, nevertheless he prefers (demands) to take as long as he can to play and is supported by the bridge laws.

The possible rub is that 3rd chair is not technically bound to have to account for “why did it take you so long to make the obvious play you did make?”, although the debate rages on whether 3rd chair should make some remark describing taking automatic time at trick one instead of just assuming declarer knows his right to do it.

Although the above is probably already known by you, it is possibly not known by other bright players, who have not yet had the experience of facing it.

jim2July 29th, 2011 at 5:28 pm

On taking one’s time, I have been at the table when the declarer stated – before playing from dummy – that s/he had no problem but was thinking about the rest of the hand. I have not been there when East said the same during Trick One. It makes sense, though.

David WarheitJuly 30th, 2011 at 7:53 am

I always put in on my convention card under “other”–“Third hand always hesitates at trick one”.Even if he doesn’t, no harm is done.

Bobby WolffJuly 30th, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Hi David,

Your to the point comment and, of course, convention card action, suggests to me that I need to bring up the well-known coined phrase, “Little by little we do great things”, but in doing so and at the same time, question (your last line), “Even if he doesn’t, no harm is done”, (and only then add) except by not doing, isn’t his partner, the opening leader, likely in better position to judge what third hand might rather be holding, when he doesn’t?

Now the duck from the ceiling comes down with the magic words, (ala Groucho Marx’s unforgetable MCing “You Bet Your Life”) with “Unless the third hand ALWAYS uses ACTIVE ETHICS on EVERY HAND he ever defends.

I have yet to see anyone from A to IZZARD adequately fill that role!!!!