Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 26th, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: North-South


9 7 5 3

8 5

8 6 4 2

K 9 6


A K Q J 4

10 7 4 2


8 7 3


8 6

Q J 9 6 3

10 9 7 3

5 2


10 2


A K Q 5

A Q J 10 4


South West North East
2 2 Pass Pass
3 Pass 4 Pass
5 All Pass    

Opening Lead: Spade King

“That life is worth living is the most necessary of assumptions, and were it not assumed, the most impossible of conclusions.”

— George Santayana

Knowing which cards to keep as a defender may sometimes depend on what declarer doesn’t do.


Today’s hand comes from “Planning in Defence” — part of the excellent Bridge Technique Series (Master Point Press), written by David Bird and Marc Smith. Put yourself in the East seat and walk through the play until you come to the critical moment.


West leads three rounds of spades against five clubs. Declarer ruffs the third round, then continues with four rounds of clubs. You are in the East seat and have discarded one heart on the third spade and another on the third club. This means that you are down to heart Q-J-9, and diamond 10-9-7-3 and must make yet another discard. So what do you choose?


(Incidentally, in the real world, you might be able to rely on some suit-preference clues from your partner. But let’s assume you are playing with a player whom you do not trust.)


In these situations it is usually right to retain the same suit length as dummy, or as declarer, if his length in the side-suits is known. Therefore it looks best to retain four diamonds. However, there is a more accurate pointer.


Declarer made no attempt to ruff a heart in dummy. Therefore you can conclude that he had no need to do so. Accordingly, he holds no more than a doubleton in the suit. Hence, he has four diamonds, so you must retain that suit.


South Holds:

Q 9 8
J 6
J 10 4
J 8 6 4 2


South West North East
    Pass 1 NT
Pass 3 NT All Pass  
ANSWER: At teams you would probably look to a fourth-highest club or an attacking lead like a small spade as your best shot to beat the hand. At pairs I prefer the diamond jack as least likely to cost a trick. At matchpoints your main objective is to do one trick better than others with your cards. Occasionally, an attacking lead from a bad suit in a bad hand will set the game; more often, it will cost a trick to no good purpose.


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


King DavidDecember 13th, 2012 at 2:55 am

Hello Mr. Wolff. thank U 4 sharing with us. Had an awkward situation. 4Th seat held, SP-AKQJ9, H-Q10987, D-5, C-754. LHO-vul, opened with 2C (we know where all the minor face cards are!), pass, RHO bids 3C (showing minor suits). With favor vulnerability I am tempted to bid 5C to have Partner bid his best major to squeeze out opp’ts of bidding room. Opposite a demand opening and facing 4 losers at least & probably 5, what do you suggest? If the opener has a SP void (very possible), they may have a minor suit slam easily? Thank you Mr. Wolff. David King.

King DavidDecember 13th, 2012 at 2:56 am

Sorry. Held SP-AKQJ9, H-Q10987, D-5, C-75.