Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, December 30th, 2011

The first and great commandment is, don't let them scare you.

Elmer Davis

West North
Neither ♠ K 9 7
 Q 10 9
 Q 5 4 3
♣ J 8 7
West East
♠ Q 8 3 2
 8 7
 J 10 7
♣ Q 10 9 4
♠ J 10 6 5
 K J 6
 A K 6
♣ 5 3 2
♠ A 4
 A 5 4 3 2
 9 8 2
♣ A K 6
South West North East
Pass Pass 1♣
1 NT Pass 2 NT All pass


One of the pairs in contention for top honors at the Cap Gemini event from which all this week's deals come were Krzysztof Martens and Marek Szymanowski of Poland. Szymanowski, well-known to be both a fine card player and a very tricky opponent, produced an excellent false-card against Jason and Justin Hackett.

After Szymanowski had opened a Polish club with the East cards, an action that showed either a balanced weak no-trump or a variety of strong hands, Jason found himself in two no-trump as South, having shown strong no-trump values and a heart suit.

Without looking at the East-West cards, you should decide how to exploit the heart suit to best effect. It looks natural to play East for the heart king, but running the queen from dummy appears to lose out to his holding a singleton king. Try it and you will see that if that is the lie of the cards, West scores two heart tricks.

Jason Hackett tried something different. He won the spade lead and played a heart to the nine — and Szymanowski took this with the king! Then the defenders cleared the spades, and Jason, not unnaturally, repeated the finesse in hearts, allowing the defense a second heart trick.

Together with two spade winners and three diamond tricks, that meant two off. But note that if Marek takes the heart jack at trick two, declarer uses dummy’s spade entry to finesse East out of the heart king, and makes eight tricks in comfort.

This is the same problem that declarer faced in today's deal. I prefer a one-heart overcall, though I admit I would open one no-trump if my RHO had passed. The danger of the no-trump overcall is far higher once my RHO has opened the bidding, and I do have a five-card suit (and a convenient way to come back into the auction if the opponents find a spade fit).


♠ A 4
 A 5 4 3 2
 9 8 2
♣ A K 6
South West North East

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


Alex AlonJanuary 13th, 2012 at 10:12 am

Given the bidding and explanation that east has “weak” Nt range opening it is unlikely that the K Heart is singelton with East ….
So take K s in dummy and play the QH ( probably covered) and then another. Comes to 4 hearts + 2 clubs + 2 spades.

But if it was that easy, all would have done it, so what am i missing here ?

Alex Alon

I can’t express the pleasure i get from your blog dear Mr. Wolf.

Bobby WolffJanuary 13th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Hi Alex,

You are right in what to expect, no singleton from the Polish clubber, but sometimes the Polish club treats a 4-4-4-1 hand as balanced (and do not overlook a possible KJ of hearts doubleton with lefty) and the very good declarer, Jason Hackett from the UK, fell from grace by falling for Marek Szymanowski’s clever ruse.

Bridge, particularly of the high-level variety, lends itself to creating legal illusion for all of us to fall victim to, and, at least to me, this feature has much excitement and thus becomes a big plus for the game itself.

Your very kind words gives me the incentive and desire to keep trying to define and explore the continued challenges which bridge is capable of doing. To say I appreciate you saying them, is definitely an underbid.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonJanuary 13th, 2012 at 5:10 pm

HBJ : Brilliant defence but would my line have worked better for declarer.
Win the spade in dummy ( rejecting a hold up if spades were splitting 5-3). Run the 10 of hearts from dummy, only covering if East covers.
Say this loses to a jack ( not a king ). You still have a chance of pulling in 4 heart winners if East was dealt a king doubleton. The only combination you lose out to is Jx opposite Kxx. What are the odds of that ?
Hopefully, if the heart layout is a favourable one, sure as eggs are eggs a spade will be returned to declarer to happily claim 7 top tricks to bring the contract home.
Was Jason’s line a better one ( odds wise ) given the fact he was exposed to a clever bit of deception?

Bobby WolffJanuary 14th, 2012 at 3:36 pm


Your choice is indeed an innovative one, but since that one defensive holding is perhaps the most common one, Kxx with East (the bidder) and Jx with his quiet partner West, we should attempt to include that holding in our quest to secure 4 heart tricks.

As a shortcut explanation, Kings are often detected by the bidding or lack of, but, however the lesser Jack is more elusive and therefore not so.

However, of course, your line would get the job done, so who am I to not embrace it?

Thanks for your thoughts.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonJanuary 14th, 2012 at 5:57 pm

HBJ : If on the bidding East is marked with most of the points ( presume 12/17 ) the chances are he holds something in hearts, or perhaps much greater odds in holding the King. Might it be better than to run the queen from dummy? If it is covered there is no problem in pulling in 4 heart tricks
If by chance West has the king we are still back to pinning our hopes on East holding jack doubleton.
My problem is never knowing STATISTICALLY what line offers the best odds.

Bobby WolffJanuary 14th, 2012 at 7:13 pm


For one who is very modest about his numeracy knowledge, you do very well. We all should lack the talent you continuously say you do not have.