Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Dealer: West

Vul: Both


K 9 5

8 7 5 3

K 6 5



Q J 4

A J 6

Q J 10 7

7 6 5


10 8 7 6 3

Q 9 4


9 8 3 2


A 2

K 10 2

A 9 8 4 2

K 10 4


South West North East
  Pass 1 * Pass
2 ** Pass 2 Pass
3 NT All Pass    

Opening Lead: Spade Queen

“Nothing, I am sure, calls forth the faculties so much as the being obliged to struggle with the world.”

— Mary Wollstonecraft

In their Senior Teams semifinal match in Orlando last fall, Kyle Larsen of the Rose Meltzer team made a fine play in a losing cause.


Larsen, West, started with the spade queen, hitting his partner’s suit. Declarer took the spade ace in hand and played a low diamond to dummy’s king, followed by a low diamond from the board. He ducked the trick to West when Meltzer pitched a low club.


Larsen continued with the spade jack, ducked by declarer, and then made the killing play — the heart jack! Now the defenders had to score five tricks. Larsen could continue diamonds if the heart jack held the trick, or take two hearts if declarer won and continued diamonds himself.


The heart switch is necessary, but on a low heart play, declarer covers with the 10 and can then set up a heart with impunity because East can’t successfully attack spades and has no diamond.


Dan Gerstman as West at another table found himself in the same position. He too shifted to the heart jack after declarer had ducked the spade jack, and his declarer put up the king and played back a heart. Gerstman overtook his partner’s nine to play a third spade, each of these plays being the only card in his hand to set the contract.


Just for the record, declarer should have ducked the first diamond. That puts him a tempo ahead, since the defenders cannot get the diamonds going, and if they switch to hearts, declarer can build a second heart trick.


South Holds:

10 8 7 6 3
Q 9 4
9 8 3 2


South West North East
  1 1 1
Pass 2 Dbl. Pass
ANSWER: Does this sound like a penalty double? It isn’t, despite your short diamonds. When your partner overcalls and doubles, he is simply showing extras ([perhaps a minimum of a 15-count and 5-4 in hearts and clubs). You should simply bid three hearts; the only issue is whether to compete to three hearts over three diamonds.


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


jim2December 6th, 2011 at 1:39 pm

You startled me for a moment with the “should simply bid three hearts” answer, until I decoded the part after the semi-colon to mean that you had meant “two hearts.”

Bobby WolffDecember 6th, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, of course you are right as you, no doubt, well know.

Thanks for calling attention to my errant proofreading, which if not corrected, can cause cruel and unusual damage (confusion) to less than experienced players and discourage them from devoting their mind to learning the game.

As Tarzan might say, “Me sorry”.

David WarheitDecember 7th, 2011 at 5:48 am

You say that “declarer should have ducked the first diamond”. But if west plays a diamond honor, there is no way that he would or could duck, since now declarer can clearly see his way to 4 diamond tricks if west’s diamond honor is a true card, which, of course, it isn’t.

Bobby WolffDecember 7th, 2011 at 6:34 am

Hi David,

Yes, all you say is true, but since these talked about plays occur very early in the defense, before the distribution and high cards are known, the reality of the play is that most defenders, even top level ones, do not like to waste honors for fear of a later end play gambit.

However, that doesn’t mean for you to not mention them, if for no other reason than for many others to become aware of different card combinations, their order of play, and the deception which sometimes becomes critical.