Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: East-West


Q J 10 5

K 9 3

A 10

8 7 5 2



Q 6

K Q J 5 4 3

K J 10 3


8 3 2

J 10 8 5 2

8 7 6 2



A K 9 6 4

A 7 4


A 9 6 4



South West North East
1 2 3 Pass
4 Pass 4 All Pass


Opening Lead: Diamond King

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”


— Daniel Hudson Burnham

Whenever you reach a game with trump to spare, one of your first thoughts should be whether to strip off the side-suits before tackling those side-suits where you would rather have your opponents making the initial lead than play them for yourself.


In today’s four-spade contract, things seem to be very straightforward. When dummy comes down on the lead of a top diamond, you appear to have one heart and two clubs to lose. Whenever things look straightforward, consider what might go wrong. It should not take you too long to realize that a 4-1 club break might sabotage your plan.


But once you spot the problem, you might find the solution is not too hard — as usual, thinking in advance will help save the day. Win the diamond lead and draw trump ending in dummy. Ruff the diamond loser, then play ace, king and a third heart. The best the defenders can do is to win and lead the club queen, and again you must resist the temptation to grab the ace. If you do, you will be left with three club losers. Instead, duck the club, and leave the opponents with a dilemma. If West leaves his partner on play, he must give you a ruff-sluff and one club loser has vanished. If he overtakes the club, you will lose only two club tricks, not three, since the opponents’ firepower has been fatally reduced.


South Holds:

8 3 2
J 10 8 5 2
8 7 6 2


South West North East
    2 Pass
2 Pass 3 Pass
ANSWER: Don’t even think of passing! You could be cold for slam in any of three strains, so you must respond. Best is to bid three diamonds, which should be an artificial second negative. You would expect your partner to introduce a four-card major now if he has one, or to bid three no-trump if he is semibalanced. If you do not play this way, just bid three hearts and cross your fingers.


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 SNovember 17th, 2011 at 3:35 pm

In the bidding problem, if my partner replies to 3D with 3S, what should my next bid be? 3NT looks risky to me as I might not be able to run the hearts in my hand. So should I bid 4H at this point figuring my partner has at least two high hearts?

Bobby WolffNovember 19th, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Hi Jeff,

I’ve been away for a week, but since arriving home I am eagerly looking forward to answer your excellent question.

Because of the problem you see, I (with much support from the bridge high-level community), prefer an original response of 2 artificial hearts to show a double negative which has a maximum of 2 HCP’s and no short suits. On the responder in question his hand although very poor still has its singleton and 5 card major so after bidding 2 hearts, then over 3 clubs I would be able to bid my 5 card heart suit then and pray that partner may understand how light I could be. Once one has to go through two bids to show his terrible hand (and this one borders on that) too much bidding room is lost and with that, quite frequently the best contract.

If, on the methods the BWTA suggests, if partner ventured 3 spades after bidding 3 clubs I would risk 3NT as a lesser of evils with a false preference to 4 clubs 2nd choice (at least the queen might solidify partner’s long suit), perhaps a bit of unwarranted optimism, but what is a fella to do?

Sometimes bridge does not lend itself to a method to teach and this hand, at least to the masses, may represent such an experience.

Thanks for writing and please accept that I am apologizing for not giving good answers to take to the bank, but in these awful financial days, banks are also having their problems.

RobNovember 24th, 2011 at 2:22 pm

I wonder if it might be better to grab the club ace first before losing the last heart. That way if the club 3 and Q are switched the play still works.