Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, August 13th, 2011

Vulnerable: East-West

Dealer: East


Q 10 8 4 3 2

9 2

K J 4 3



A 9 7 6

10 6

10 9 8 5

9 7 2



Q 7 4


K J 10 8 6 4 3


J 5

A K J 8 5 3

7 6 2

A 5


South West North East
1 Pass 1 3
3 4 4 All pass

Opening Lead: Club two

“Beware, I say, the failure and the shame

Of losing that for which you now aspire

So blindly, and of hazarding entire

The gift that I was bringing when I came.”

— Edwin Arlington Robinson

Today’s deal saw a missed opportunity of sorts. Do you think that South might have found the winning line in his delicate contract?

Having climbed to the precarious heights of four hearts, declarer won the club lead in his hand with the ace, ruffed a club, then took a trump finesse. He drew all the trumps, then ducked a spade to East, ruffed the club return, and played a second spade. West won the trick and shifted to a diamond, and declarer could not avoid losing at least two further diamond tricks when the diamond queen was offside.

This was a perfectly reasonable line of play — in a sense. But as the cards lie, the contract could have been made. The auction strongly suggests that East has seven clubs, since he had jumped to the three-level when vulnerable, facing a passing partner. Once East turns up with three trumps, it must surely be right to go after diamonds before spades. And best is to duck a diamond completely, then repeat the process if the first diamond play loses to anything but the ace, playing East for a bare spade honor plus the doubleton diamond ace, or the bare diamond ace.

Note that even if East has (say) the doubleton diamond A-9, losing the first diamond cheaply will not be fatal. East can unblock his spade honor and play a club, but you ruff and duck a second diamond, later finessing in diamonds to pitch your spade loser.


South holds:

A 9 7 6
10 6
10 9 8 5
9 7 2


South West North East
1 Dbl. 1
Pass Pass Dbl. Pass
1 Pass 2 Pass
ANSWER: Although you appear to be very weak, bear in mind that after your first two calls, your partner already knew that and still invited game. Without wanting to appear to be too much of a mastermind, I think this hand is very close to a try for game. If so, a bid of three diamonds would be natural and suggest this sort of hand. However, a lot depends on how much you trust your partner.


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


jim2August 27th, 2011 at 11:29 am

The bidding quiz answer surprised me. (I would have expected a 5th diamond or a facecard.) I guess I need to discuss this sequence with my partner. That alone makes this a good quiz. Thanks!

In the meanwhile, though, could you suggest a small change (or two) in the quiz hand that would have had you bid 1S directly over 1H?

For example, make the club deuce a spade one? Or, make the spade nine the jack?

Bobby WolffAugust 27th, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your specific questions and references belie what you consider to be your lack of bridge expertise.

Yes, with 5 spades to the ace but with nothing else, I would be inclined to bid 1 spade the first time around. However with only 4 spades to the AJ I would not. Call it experience or if that doesn’t suit, name it something else, but nevertheless a wannabe good partnership in the making needs to develop consistent habits in order to steadily rise.

Many years ago bridge reached a stage wherein it was generally accepted that the very good hand bid a little too much, compensated by the poor hand not bidding enough.

This fact has since changed with many very good players, possibly starting with S.J. Simon, the noted English bridge writer, giving example hands which had the very poor hand actually voluntarily bidding a slam with a terrible hand, but one which possessed a single honor card he did not have to have.

On the example hand and after the bidding up until the question, there is no correct answer, only one which would pertain to your best partnership as to the specific bidding habits of the individual partners.

If there was one word which would ALWAYS apply that word would be consistency.

HBJAugust 27th, 2011 at 2:06 pm

HBJ : I suppose on the bidding play of the trump suit East has shown up with a likely 7C and 3 hearts, which account for 6 of his HCP’s. This leaves 3 cards left in diamonds and spades with no doubt a couple of honour cards somewhere.

Again it is tempting to set up spades for diamond discards but this relies on West holding the diamond queen. So eventually I see the logic of attacking diamonds first on the assumption that if East holds a stiff top honour in either suit, then declarer is home and dry.

But what if East holds a stiff queen of diamonds ( allowed to make ) cashes his Ace of spades, exits with a spade to West’s King, who promptly plays the Ace of diamonds ?

So add the probability of this scenario to West holding the diamond queen, do the odds still favour going for a duck on diamonds rather than going for spades.

Bobby WolffAugust 27th, 2011 at 4:43 pm


Since, because of East’s 3 club jump, he would be heavily favored to hold the ace of diamonds (scarcity of high honors in the rounded suits), his probable pointed suit high cards with the 3 he possesses should include either the ace or king of spades, hopefully singleton, and then, of course, the ace of diamonds.

Since that very possible layout fits well with the evidence the recommended declarer’s play so provides. Yes, your played for locations (queen of diamonds singleton + ace king of spades) also hits the mark, but that specific holding is considerably less likely than a singleton spade honor and Ace and another diamond with East.

Agreed that the winning distribution depicted in the column is still a fairly low percentage, but it still weighs in as more likely than your suggestion.

Besides, what chance does a mere reader have (although a particularly admired one) against one who has pen at hand?