Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 2nd, 2012

One's fantasy goes for a walk and returns with a bride.

Bernard Malamud

East North
Both ♠ A 9 5
 A 7 6 5
 Q J
♣ A 6 5 4
West East
♠ 10 7 3
 9 2
 4 3 2
♣ Q J 10 9 8
♠ J 8 6 4
 K Q 10
 A 10 9 6 5
♣ 3
♠ K Q 2
 J 8 4 3
 K 8 7
♣ K 7 2
South West North East
Pass Pass Dbl. Pass
2 Pass 4 All pass


Today's deal from the World Mixed Pairs in Verona demonstrates how sometimes all that is needed to make a seemingly impossible game is a little clear thinking.

Cover up the East and West hands before reading on. At many tables South reached four hearts after East had stretched to open one diamond. West led the club queen. How would you tackle the play?

If West has club length, then East must have all the outstanding honors outside clubs. Accordingly, you must aim to play off all your cards in spades and diamonds before throwing East in with a trump. So, win the club ace and play the diamond queen. If East ducks this, continue with a second diamond. Say East wins and plays a spade. Win in hand, cash the heart ace then take your spade and diamond winners, ending in the dummy. There is an outside chance that East holds a second club, so lead a club toward your king. East cannot profitably ruff, so your king wins, and only now do you play a second trump. East can make two trump tricks but must then give you a ruff-and-discard for your contract.

At one table, where declarer set about the hand in this way, he made an overtrick! In desperation East unblocked the heart king under the ace, then ducked when declarer led a trump away from dummy, hoping that his partner had started with the doubleton jack. No luck! East still got endplayed, this time for the overtrick.

Opening in third seat requires you to have either a decent hand or a suit you want partner to lead. Here you have neither, so you risk either getting too high or getting partner off to the wrong lead. Therefore pass, rather than misrepresenting your hand.


♠ K Q 2
 J 8 4 3
 K 8 7
♣ K 7 2
South West North East
Pass Pass

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 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


John StoreyMarch 16th, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Dear Mr Wolff

Recently in a club pairs game I picked up this collection:
K 10 9 8
Q x

and I opened a spade after three passes. Partner bid 1NT non forcing and we played it there. When dummy came down partner said I should have opened a club. On our card it says we can open a 4 card major in 3rd or 4th chair. Do you agree with partner’s analysis? Should I have opened 1 club or perhaps 1 heart, the lower of two touching suits? We play strong 1NT and 5 card majors in 1st and second seats.

Please let me know. Thanks,

bobby wolffMarch 16th, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Hi John,

Your partner wins the technical argument, however you win the day from me.

Although, while playing a 5 card major system, especially in 3rd (for lead direction in the event that the opponents enter the auction and win the contract) and even in 4th a player has a good reason to bid where he lives, your legitimate strength and distribution calls for a club opening.

However, I was wiened on a four card major system and can state unequivocally that, after all these years of observing, I still think 4 card majors, if played with discipline, is the way to go.

I also realize that since 5 card majors give normal players a comfort zone which they cherish, I will never convince others to do otherwise. Nevertheless, whether one opens 1 spade or possibly 1 heart he will always have me in his corner for making the bid which will be the most effective opening bid in the long run.

At least a small but sincere vote of confidence from me is all I have to offer, but I do wish you good luck in your future bridge challenges.