Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, October 28th, 2011

Dealer: East

Vul: Neither


A K J 8 6 4 3

A J 9

A 10 6


K 10 7 4

9 7

K 8 6

K 9 8 3


A Q J 9 8 5 2

7 5 4 2

J 7


6 3

Q 10 5 2

Q 10 3

Q 5 4 2


South West North East
Pass 4 Dbl. Pass
5 Pass 6 All Pass

Opening Lead: Spade Four

“Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

When a new planet swims into his ken…”

— John Keats

The “over-my-shoulder” style was mastered by Terence Reese in “Play These Hands With Me,” in which Reese explains his thought processes as each deal unfolds.


Today Reese has South playing six hearts — a delicate contract, one needing a little luck in both red suits.


The spade lead is ruffed high, a trump is led to the 10 (East discarding a spade), South’s second spade is ruffed high, and West’s last trump is drawn with the queen. Now comes the diamond queen, and when West covers without pain, three rounds of diamonds can be cashed, ending in hand.


The crux of the hand is the handling of the heart suit. East has seven spades and at least three diamonds — but who has the 13th diamond? Reese favors East, explaining that if West had begun with four diamonds to the king, he might not have released the diamond king so freely. If South had started with four diamonds to the Q-10, West’s covering would have set up an extra diamond winner for declarer.


Therefore, Reese infers East’s shape to be 7-0-4-2, and suggests running the club queen. If East has the king, he is endplayed, forced to return a club into dummy’s tenace or to give a ruff and discard. In fact, West covers, dummy wins, and the trump three to declarer’s five allows a second club to be played toward the 10. If West has the jack, that is the defense’s only trick, and if East wins his bare jack, he is now endplayed.


South Holds:

K 10 7 4
9 7
K 8 6
K 9 8 3


South West North East
  1 Dbl. Pass
ANSWER: This hand falls precisely on the cusp of the simple response of one spade and a jump to two spades. If your club king were the ace, I think it would be a clear-cut two-spade bid. As it is, imagine partner with 4-4-4-1 shape and the aces in his long suits; game is nearly hopeless facing that hand. This suggests taking the low road and bidding one spade, hoping for more action.


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


jim2November 11th, 2011 at 12:59 pm

In one of the quiz hands below, the gremlins switched the intended “diamonds” for unintended “spades” in the answer.

Did the gremlins get at the play analysis here?

I ask because I cannot see how the heart suit is the crux of the hand, nor how declarer needs luck in both red suits. For “red suits” did you mean “minor suits”? Similarly, isn’t the crux of the hand the handling of the club suit, and not the heart suit?

When I played the column hand (E-W concealed), I assumed on the opening lead that East had a strong spade suit that included the ace. This meant that West surely had both minor suit kings. I missed the cover nuance in the diamond suit, but approached the club suit on the assumption that West had to have the KC.

I could not see a way to succeed if the clubs were 3 – 3 with East holding Jxx except leading the 2C and having West have and lazily play the 3C, allowing me to duck the trick to East. This seemed so unlikely compared with the chances that West held both club honors, or East had Jx, or that West might fail to cover the Chinese finesse.

Thus, I also advanced the QC with the intent to lead small towards the 10C if covered.

John Howard GibsonNovember 11th, 2011 at 4:38 pm

HBJ : East’s bid ( once the diamond K turns up with West ) would be seen by most top players as premptive suggesting the absence of even the club King. (Maybe with the club king East might well have opened 1S ? )

If declarer rightly assumes West has the club king, with East holding a 7-0-4-2 shape, there is the chance the doubleton club is Jx. If so then after Q-K-A of clubs, ducking a club on the second round sets up dummy’s 10 for the contract.

If the club jack is with West then leading up to the 10 will surely see the appearance of it with the contract again in the bag.

Not for minute would I have the gumption to figure all this out at the table, for I would have pinned my faith on West holding the Kx and with supreme confidence and led a low club from dummy towards my queen !! Oh woe is me.

jim2November 11th, 2011 at 5:28 pm


You might still have succeeded!

If you played West for the Kx, you might have led xC to AC, then led the xC from the Board intending to duck it to the now-bare KC. Only, East would have played the JC on the Board’s 6C, letting you cover it with the QC and establishing the 10C on the Board for your game-going trick.