Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 9th, 2012

Achievement, noun. The death of endeavor and the birth of disgust.

Ambrose Bierce

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

*Hearts and a minor, 6-10


David Gold, a regular on the England Open team, sat South in this deal at the Young Chelsea Bridge Club. This club has a good claim to be one of the strongest in the world. Duplicates take place every weekday and it would not be unusual to find half a dozen internationals playing on any evening.

After East opened two hearts to show at least five cards in the major together with an unspecified four-card minor, Gold became declarer in four spades.

West led the club king to dummy’s ace, as the club five appeared from East. It seemed likely that East’s second suit was diamonds, and if East also had the heart king, there would be four losers. The only suit likely to provide a discard was diamonds.

Gold cashed dummy’s top diamonds, then took the precaution of ruffing a third diamond high in hand as West discarded. The spade queen lost to East’s ace and back came the club 10, overtaken by West for a heart return, Gold taking his ace.

Now, aware that East held nine red cards and was likely to have three cards in clubs, both from East’s carding up the line and West’s silence in the auction, Gold placed East with the singleton trump ace.

Backing his judgment, he continued by finessing dummy’s spade seven, ruffed another diamond high, and now a trump to the jack allowed him to discard a heart on the established fifth diamond.

In this sort of auction a bid of three hearts — a repeat use of the fourth-suit — is best used not as a red two-suiter, but as a way to ask for a half stop in hearts. If you had both red suits, you would surely simply bid three no-trump now, so your partner should bid no-trump with any three-card heart suit — even three small hearts.


♠ J 7 5
 Q 5 4
 A K J 8 3
♣ A 9
South West North East
1♣ Pass
1 Pass 1♠ Pass
2 Pass 3♣ 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


jim2March 23rd, 2012 at 2:26 pm

In my humble opinion, the column hand is an example of a “friendly” defense.

West knows that partner has hearts and diamonds, but also knows that there are enough clubs “missing” (West can see them, after all) that declarer will be unable to tell which minor East has. West knows that the defenders’ HCP are ~evenly split between the defenders and that declarer cannot tell which point cards each defender holds. Leading the KC lets declarer work all that out and West should know that.

How would you play the hand if West leads instead an uninformative JH?

With 9 clubs and 6 diamonds outstanding, would not declarer likely East with clubs? Put the club marriage in the East hand in addition to the KH and there is no room for the AS.

GregoryMarch 23rd, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Wondering if safer line is available.
Discard club on the third Di instead of ruffing. Ruff club return (anything else will help the declarer) and play K of Sp. E still can not return He or Di, so Cl (or Sp if he is 2-5-4-2) will allow to count the hand exactly

bobby wolffMarch 24th, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Hi Jim2 and Gregory,

Both of you give interesting variations on excellent declarer’s reasoning based on the bidding and previous play. Obviously this hand was real and was played as reported by one of the best players in the UK.

What makes bridge the greatest and most interesting of all mind games (probably
not as pure nor as certain. with no luck involved, as is chess, but that uncertainty in bridge, at least for my taste, renders it even more exciting though perhaps less intellectual), is the detective work, legal partnership communication, and intense psychological battles with the opponents necessary to solve the dilemmas.

Comments like the two of yours are good examples of solving specific problems based on the felt but unseen evidence, rather than only the sacred fact to chess players of only having to deal with what one sees in front of him or her.

Top level chess requires only sheer analytical intelligence with a bit of gamesmanship thrown in, while bridge demands at least some pure analysis, plus many other worthwhile positive human qualities.

Of course, since I was never more than a chess beginner, perhaps my opinion should not even be recognized.