Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 5th, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: North-South


K 4 2

Q 10 7 3

9 8 2

J 7 3


Q 9

A J 8 4

K 6 4 3

6 4 2


10 8 6 3

K 9 2

J 10 7 5

8 5


A J 7 5

6 5


A K Q 10 9


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

Opening Lead: Club 6

“The thirteenth generation —

Unlucky number this! —

My grandma loved a pirate,

And all my faults are his!”

— Abbie Farwell Brown

Would you open that South hand one club or two no-trump? With such an easy rebid, I think one club is impeccable, but at one table in an international multi-teams event held in The Hague, South opened two no-trump. Now a revealing auction in which South showed spades and North implied hearts saw South arrive in three no-trump on the lead of the club six — which could have been from just about anything.


Declarer’s approach was to win in dummy and lead a low spade to the jack and queen. Back came a second club, and South ran the clubs, played the spade ace and a spade to the king, and when that suit did not behave, he took a diamond finesse. When this lost, he considered himself unlucky. Do you agree with his assessment?


South was not unlucky; he had simply overlooked the textbook solution to maximize his chances for nine tricks. Win the first club in hand and play the spade ace, followed by a spade to the king; then play a third spade toward the jack. As the cards lie, this makes nine tricks easily.


You might object that this line gives up a trick unnecessarily if the spade queen were onside, with the suit 3-3, but the point is that you only need three spade tricks for the contract. You can afford to let the opponents get away with an overtrick from time to time — as long as you make all the contracts that you can.


South Holds:

Q 10 5 2
8 6 2
K 4 3
A 10 7


South West North East
1 1 1 NT
2 2 NT All Pass  
ANSWER: It seems logical to attack hearts, but given that you have already shown three or more hearts, the lead of the eight should warn partner that you have no honor in the suit. In turn, this may enable him to shift to a spade, if the sight of dummy makes that look like an attractive defense.


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


Jeff SSeptember 19th, 2011 at 10:20 pm

I like this hand quite a bit. Very instructive and easy to understand. If I have it right, by playing spades from the top, we get what we need against all 3-3 splits and against everything else short of West have Qxxx(x) – in which case we can show some sympathy for South when he claims he was unlucky!

Bobby WolffSeptember 20th, 2011 at 5:53 am

Hi Jeff,

If a relatively new player only learns this one combination and how to safety play it while requiring only 3 tricks, it will be very worthwhile to have presented it.

And if we then give ourselves the 9 in either hand we then, of course will take 3 tricks if East is originally dealt 10x. Going still further and giving ourselves the combination of 8 (instead of 7) cards with H9x opposite HJxxx we will learn an oft used safety play of guaranteeing 4 tricks by leading the H from the 5 card holding followed by low toward the H9 and plan on finessing the 9 unless LHO shows out, then up and back. Foolproof against any 4-1 or lesser distributions held by the opponents.

It will indeed be surprising to learn that when these combinations (of which there are quite a few, but all relatively easy to learn) are recognized, how much luckier we will get when playing them correctly.

As usual, thanks for writing.