Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Vulnerable: Both

Dealer: North


A 4

A 9 7

J 5 2

A Q J 8 2


J 10 8 3

J 10 6 4 3

A 8 3



Q 9 5

K 5 2

7 6 4

K 9 7 5


K 7 6 2

Q 8

K Q 10 9

10 6 4


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

*16 or more HCP, any shape

Opening Lead: Heart four

“The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger.”

— Oliver Wendell Holmes

One of the most challenging yet apparently simple themes for declarer in no-trump play is to identify the danger hand and to try to plan things so as to isolate that player. The following deal shows a relatively simple example of the technique. It is nonetheless worth a little careful analysis.

The normal contract of three no-trump was reached in very short order after North’s artificial opening bid. On a heart lead, declarer naturally plays low from dummy and takes his heart queen at trick two. How to proceed? To make nine tricks, declarer must generate five tricks from the minors. Consider the consequence of taking the club finesse at once. If the finesse is wrong, the defense might be able to take the club king and clear the hearts. If that suit splits 5-3, with West retaining the diamond ace as his entry to the long suit, the defense must prevail. So the right play is to attack the diamonds first. If West takes his ace, declarer can later finesse clubs into the safe hand. If the club finesse is right, declarer has plenty of tricks, and if it is wrong, East has the lead and cannot hurt you.

By contrast, if it was East who had shown long hearts, you would win the heart queen and take the club finesse first to try to knock the entry out of the East hand.


South holds:

Q 9 5
K 5 2
7 6 4
K 9 7 5


South West North East
1 1
1 NT 2 Dbl. Pass
ANSWER: Your partner’s double shows extras and tends to be relatively balanced, since with real shape he would have bid a second suit. Despite that, your club length and relatively weak hearts should persuade you to bid three clubs. You have already shown 7-10 points, so partner can bid on if interested in game.


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


HBJAugust 23rd, 2011 at 1:26 pm

HBJ : Problems like can produce winning solutions if a modicum of logic and reasoning are applied.

If either West or East hold both honours the contract is safe no matter which minor is tackled first.

If the honours are split with West holding the club King, East the diamond Ace, then again the contract is safe irrespective of which minor is broached first.

But as you rightly pointed out, if the honours are split the other way round ( as in the diagram ) the contract is safe PROVIDING the diamonds are tackled first.

Therefore, without knowing what the position is, the 100% safety play is diamonds ahead of clubs…… ignoring the TEMPTATION of seeing the contract home by way of 5C,2H,2S.

Bobby WolffAugust 23rd, 2011 at 2:19 pm


“Methinks there is much reason in what he says”, so said the 2nd Citizen in Shakespeares Julius Caesar in response to Mark Antony’s stirring speech in eulogizing the great Caesar’s death.

So then say I, in response to your ultimate teaching methods featuring the avoidance of having the wrong hand in the lead at the wrong time to sink your bridge contract into the deep blue sea.

But what if, dear JHG, the opening leader led from only 3 hearts (instead of 5) and then after you, the declarer had knocked out his Ace of diamonds, continued hearts, only to now allow his partner to get in with the king of clubs to take the good two hearts which turned out to be in his hand all the time.

“Forsooth varlet, I’ve been tricked with cunning never before experienced”. Such would be the results between adversaries if, and only if, they were allowed access to the computer hands before they were distributed into the boards.

“Hark, I have just risen from a deep sleep which created a bridge nightmare. Tonight I will take hay to bed with me so that I can feed them”.

HBJAugust 23rd, 2011 at 2:46 pm

HBJ: if any defender lead the 4 of hearts against me from a 3 card suit ( say mud from a rubbish 543 or an attitude lead showing 3 to an honour ) he gets my applause from the trap he has set.

This is why I am who I am…..a Joe Doe in the world of bridge.

Gut instinct would persuade the lead is fourth highest because at trick one I have nothing much else to go on.

West doesn’t look to have 4 diamonds (?), even less likely to hold 4 clubs……and with neither major suit bid or explored by N/S it seems natural for West to plumb for a lead from his longest major. If this happens to be 4 card heart suit then your problems are still over with nothing to fear.

So if the canny West did find East with 5 hearts then I applaud his lead, feeling unaggrieved that I lost out to a super defender.

JaneAugust 23rd, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Hi Bobby,

A bidding question- don’t people who play the strong club open normally use some type of step response to show points? I remember responders using one diamond to show less then seven, I think, so would the next step be one heart to show seven to ? If no step response is used, why did south not bid his spade suit instead of one NT? In this case, seems like north should be playing the hand if possible. East could find a heart lead, and maybe they should, but not as easy as for west.

Thanks in advance.

Bobby WolffAugust 23rd, 2011 at 5:25 pm


Yes, you also have a good attitude toward your winning opponents, belying your self-confessed club reputation.

No Joe Doe you, but rather a Howard Bridgeseed Johnson, communicating the world over about the marvelous wonders of our ultimate game.

Thanks for all you do!

Bobby WolffAugust 23rd, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Hi Jane,

The club system you refer to and illustrated on today’s AOB hand is probably either Precision or a minor variation of it.

After 1 club, artificial and forcing showing 16 HCP’s and up, the response of 1NT is usually 10+ HCPS and up, GF and balanced with a major suit response showing at least a 5 card suit and positive 9+.

Precision is probably one of the lesser artificial type systems with the Aces Club, a derivative of the Neapolitan Italian Club, immediate showed controls, A=2, K=1 if going positive with 1D (AC) showing positive without 3 controls and 1H showing negative.

Summing up, there are many artificial forcing 1 club systems, but many of them become natural immediately after the opening bid, while a few concern themselves with artificiality and relays throughout.