Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

You make your own luck, Gig.
You know what makes a good loser? Practice.

Ernest Hemingway

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

*Positive values, balanced hand


All this week's deals come from last year's spring nationals at Louisville, to mark the fact that this week the 2011 Nationals are being held in Memphis.

In this deal from the second semifinal session of the Norman Kay Platinum Pairs, the field played four spades with the North-South cards — a perfectly reasonable spot, doomed on the lead of the diamond queen by East.

Josh Parker and Bruce Rogoff play a strong club system. Parker’s one-spade showed a balanced positive response, so Rogoff bid what he thought his partner could make. Now the contract was played objectively the “wrong way” up. But while East had an easy diamond lead, West had a very unattractive diamond holding to lead from.

On the lead of the club jack, Parker put up dummy’s queen. East took the club ace and correctly continued with a club to remove the entry to the South hand. Parker won, went to the heart ace to unblock the suit, and now had to try to build an entry to his hand. To put maximum pressure on the defenders, he led the spade nine from dummy. East cracked under the pressure and put up the spade queen. So now Parker was able to get to hand with the spade 10 to pitch two of dummy’s diamonds on the top hearts, then lead up to the diamond king for plus 420.

If East had ducked the first spade lead smoothly, declarer might well have gone wrong.

As a passed hand, you can afford to bid two hearts. It is easy to see that there are deals where you can make four hearts, or that hearts might be the best strain. If your partner is desperately short in hearts, he will know that you, as a passed hand, won't hold a good six-card suit, and so can convert to a better spot.


♠ 10 4
 K Q 10 7 3
 6 4 3
♣ K 9 6
South West North East
Pass Pass 1♠ Pass
1 NT Pass 2♣ 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


David WarheitApril 5th, 2012 at 7:27 am

Barring a very unusual lie of the cards (like someone having the singleton queen of spades), south’s only chance to make his contract is to find east with the spade queen, west with the diamond ace and hearts to break 4-3. When you say declarer “might have gone wrong”, I assume you mean he might have played low, hoping that west would win his presumed queen. But even if west had the queen, he should duck (unless he had singleton queen, of course). South now loses no trump trick, but he goes down. In effect, the defence loses its trump trick but gains 2 diamond tricks as compensation. This suggested play by the hypothetical west is somewhat difficult, but not if he would ask himself why declarer is playing spades in such a weird way, or, if you will: MOTTO: declarer wants me to win the queen, so I won’t..

bobby wolffApril 5th, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Thanks David for a comprehensive and accurate, but yet simple description, of what was necessary to make this difficult overbid 4 spade contract.

Relatively often, the declarer and the defense engage in a cat and mouse process of seemingly being soft by offering tricks to each other, but at a certain high-level, your statement is usually true, “If my opponent wants me to win some trick, in spite of his unwillingness to do what could be the normal thing, there will be a “method to his madness” and I should do what he doesn’t want me to.