Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday July 22nd, 2011

Vulnerable: Both

Dealer: North



A Q 10 8

Q 8 6 4 3

A 4 3


10 7 6 5

J 7 3 2

K 10 9 5



9 3 2

K 5


Q J 10 8 7 6


A Q J 8 4

9 6 4

7 2

K 5 2


South West North East
1 2
2 Pass 3 Pass
3 NT All pass

Opening Lead: Club nine

“Hopes, what are they? — Beads of morning

Strung on slender blades of grass;

Or a spider’s web adorning

In a strait and treacherous pass.”

— William Wordsworth

Appreciating that he could not afford a wrong guess in hearts, the successful declarer in today’s deal remembered the bidding and came to the right conclusion.

Defending against three no-trump, West obediently led his singleton club in response to his partner’s bid. Declarer won with dummy’s ace to preserve the club king as an entry to the blocked spades, then cashed the spade king and considered his next move carefully. Declarer expected that the missing heart honors would be split and, in light of the vulnerable overcall, East was more likely to hold the king than the jack.

If this was indeed the case, declarer could not afford to use his last club stopper to run the spades before broaching hearts. Although East might come under pressure on the run of the spades, the position would be hard to read.

So South made the key play of exiting from dummy with the heart queen at trick three. East took his king and returned a top club. South won, ran the spades, then successfully finessed against West’s heart jack for his contact. In the end declarer emerged with seven black-suit winners and three heart tricks for a somewhat improbable overtrick.

(Incidentally, had the spades broken poorly, with West being 5-4 in the majors, declarer would have been able to run the heart nine and remain in hand to repeat the heart finesse to generate three tricks from the suit.)


South holds:

A Q 10 8
Q 8 6 4 3
A 4 3


South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
ANSWER: If you are allowed opener to rebid one no-trump with a singleton in your partner’s suit (and if you are not, why aren’t you?), you have no problem here. Yes, this call technically shows 12-14 points, not 15 — but this hand equates to a minimum, with the singleton king not pulling its weight. Consolation award goes to a two-club call, NOT to a reverse to two hearts or a rebid of two diamonds!


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


Bruce KarlsonAugust 5th, 2011 at 11:34 am

More from the cheap seats: I would, as a matter of course, duck the first club to get a count on clubs. It appears to cost nothing and, unless I have already discovered the best line (unlikely in the extreme): leading the heart Q, I am thinking squeeze and/or throw in, so East’s distribution becomes important. Further, does your observation that the heart honors are split have any statistical basis? It seems to usually be true.

Bobby WolffAugust 5th, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Hi Bruce,

In a vacuum the heart honors (2) will be split about 50% with the other 50% equally applied to one opponent or the other holding both 25% each.

However, bridge hands usually do not lend themselves to vacuums. On the column hand East, because of his overcall with a Queen high suit is more likely to have the King of hearts for his bid, but because of the likely 6-1 club division West has more room in his hand for the Jack of hearts (approximately at a 12 to7 ratio). Your experience has caused you to correctly feel for the location of cards, which while not close to 100%, is far higher than the 50% (guess 70%) which vacuums suggest.

As some wise gambler must have once said, “You pays your money you takes your choice”, but the column’s line is the way to bet (especially if the column has a bridge lover writing it).

Ted BAugust 5th, 2011 at 10:06 pm

The bid hand brings to mind one that has long bothered me. The distribution is identical A, AKJx, Txxxx, Qxx. Oponents passed throughout. Playing IMPs and 5-card majors the auction was 1H – 1S, 2D – 4H.

Partner, who was quite good, later said he felt I should have opened a Diamond. (His hand incidentaly was Qxxx, 9xx, AJ9xx, A.) Thoughts?

Bobby WolffAugust 6th, 2011 at 12:01 am

Hi Ted B,

Your question is both sophisticated and interesting.

Even playing 5 card majors I would open 1 heart with your hand since over 1 spade by partner I am able (just like what happened) to make a non-reverse of 2 diamonds. If, instead, one diamond is the opening bid, any rebid is distortive, 1NT with a singleton, 2 diamonds with that puny suit or 2 hearts which is not to be considered. Al Roth would have rebid 2 clubs, after opening 1 diamond which also distorts in a major way. I would guess (he is not alive to contradict me) he would also prefer to open 1 heart, but since he was regarded the high priest of 5 card majors, at least for public consumption, he would open 1 diamond.

Your partner had a choice of actions after responding 1 spade, which, although slightly distortive, should get a green light. He could either venture 4 hearts as he did, or decide to agree on diamonds by splintering to 4 clubs. 4 Hearts is the practical bid while 4 clubs should be reserved for IMPs and especially when behind in a match. (a diamond slam depends on the heart finesse and nothing disastrous in diamonds about 40+ percent).

4 hearts is a big favorite to make and playing matchpoints would be my contract of choice.

A good hand for a partnership to ponder, if for no other reason than to find out partner’s preferences for difficult choices.

The Aces wish you good luck with your partnership.