Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Dealer: East

Vul: North-South


Q J 7 3

6 4 3

9 6 5

A Q 10


6 4


Q 8 7 4

J 9 8 6 5 3


K 8

A K Q 10 9 8 7

3 2

7 2


A 10 9 5 2

5 2

A K J 10

K 4


South West North East
      4 *
Pass 4 Pass Pass
4 All Pass    
*Better than a four-heart opener

Opening Lead: Heart Jack

“Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion.”

— Charlotte Bronte

Before you read the analysis of today’s deal, you might want to put yourself in the South seat in four spades. If the defenders lead three rounds of hearts, you will ruff with the spade 10. Assuming no overruff, you plan to cross to dummy with a club finesse and take the spade finesse, then rely on the minor suits behaving thereafter.


Let’s go back to the beginning. How would you play four spades on a heart lead followed by a second top heart and a club shift at trick three? If you win the club in dummy and take the spade finesse, West may give his partner a club ruff. Maybe it is better to play ace and another spade to avoid the club ruff. You will still survive if the diamond finesse works.


Was that what you decided to do? Well, time to look at the full hand. When the deal originally occurred in New Zealand, that was what Patrick Carter as East hoped declarer would think when he overtook the heart jack lead and cashed a second heart.


At trick three, he led the club two into dummy’s tenace. South had never seen a more obvious singleton and so elected to play the spade ace and a second spade, using the reasoning described above. Needless to say, Patrick had just turned 10 tricks into nine for the declarer. Most declarers found no difficulty on this hand once they had taken the trump finesse … but Patrick had not been at their table!


South Holds:

A 10 9 5 2
5 2
A K J 10
K 4


South West North East
    1 Pass
1 Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 2 Pass
ANSWER: The preference to two spades is consistent with a doubleton honor in spades and a hand with no heart stop. Even though four spades rates to be the best game, you would like to explore further with a call of three clubs — but only if you are playing with a partner whom you could trust to know that this call was forcing. Are you?


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


Howard Bigot-JohnsonNovember 29th, 2011 at 4:06 pm

HBJ : According to the bidding the 4H opener was ” better” than your typical 4 level pre-empt, which puts a stronger inference on East holding the other outstanding top honour, namely the King of spades.
IF he had loads of hearts along side an unsupported Q and J in the minors. then the 4H bid would be an anti-system one. Therefore being someone who goes with the odds and inferences I’m finessing.

jim2November 29th, 2011 at 4:57 pm


I thought about the same when I read this in the paper.

That is, are either of the following worth a 4C opening?



I ask because those seem to be the hands declarer was playing for.

Bobby WolffNovember 30th, 2011 at 3:04 am

Hi HBJ and Jim2,

Obviously you both have your antenna’s at the up and ready, but as strange as it might seem, even with the King of spades and the Queen of diamonds, East still does not have the hand (because of his bland distribution) a Namyats 4 of a major should show. Thus, with a solid major and less than 7-4-1-1 it should lend itself to only a one level opening, allowing for partner to eventually declare 3NT from his side in case there are only 9 taking tricks and 4 eventual losers in the major suit contract, assuming all other suits are at least stopped.

The only negative in all of our reasoning is that we are not the ones making the Namyats or not decision, relying and depending on other people’s evaluation, a very dangerous and tentative proposition. If you play long enough you’ll hear noises after the hand from one of the opponents such as, “Gertrude, I thought a 4 of a minor Namyats opening was weaker than a normal 4 of a major opening, or do you play it the other way?”

All the above does not detract from both of your wise opinions and at least in academia, you will get an excellent grade.

David WarheitNovember 30th, 2011 at 7:51 am

I can’t believe that S bid 4S, especially at unfavorable vulnerability. If the W & N hands are reversed, the carnage would be something awful. I think a double would be reasonable and would produce down 3, although if the W & N hands were reversed, 4H makes.