Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of the imagination.

John Dewey

South North
East-West ♠ 10 4
 A K 5 4
 A 7 6 4 2
♣ J 9
West East
♠ A Q 7
 Q 9 6
♣ 10 8 7 6 4 3
♠ 8 2
 J 10 7 2
 K 10 9 8
♣ Q 5 2
♠ K J 9 6 5 3
 8 3
 J 5 3
♣ A K
South West North East
1♠ Pass 2 Pass
2♠ Pass 3 NT Pass
4♠ All pass    


Today's hand comes from the Open Teams Semifinal between Italy and Norway at the first World Mind Sports Games from Beijing three years ago.

In the first room South for Italy bid and repeated his spades. When North now introduced his hearts, South bid three no-trump. The operation was successful, in a sense, but after a club lead, declarer had to use heart entries to try to bring the spades in. When it proved impossible to develop the spade suit, the defenders had time to enjoy their clubs and set up hearts, and declarer finished no fewer than four down!

At the second table the bidding was as shown here. The decision by South, Terje Aa, to remove to four spades was right, as it takes perfect defense to defeat the spade game. However, Fulvio Fantoni and Claudio Nunes were up to the task.

Fantoni led his lone diamond, taken by dummy’s ace, Nunes contributing the 10. The spade 10 ran to West’s queen and now, since declarer had not played for discards on the hearts, West inferred that his partner had the queen. So he switched to a heart. Winning in dummy, declarer played a second spade to the king and ace, and the heart return from Fantoni gave South no chance. He had to play a diamond toward his jack at this point, as he was in dummy for the last time. Nunes rose with the king and returned a diamond for Fantoni to ruff with the defenders’ last trump. One down.

Your choice is to pass — which you know will freeze your side out of the auction forever — or to risk a takeout double. The danger is of course that you will finish up in clubs with an unsatisfactory trump holding, the upside is that you may push the opponents higher or find a makable partscore. Put me down as a bidder.


♠ 10 4
 A K 5 4
 A 7 6 4 2
♣ J 9
South West North East
1♠ Pass 2♠

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


jim2April 12th, 2012 at 11:50 am

I confess that I did not understand this sentence:

The spade 10 ran to West’s queen and now, since declarer had not played for discards on the hearts, West inferred that his partner had the queen.

The only queen that West could not physically see in the 13 cards he held was the QC, and I could not work out how that card’s location played any role.

bobbywolffApril 12th, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Hi Jim2,

The reason for your not understanding the suspect sentence was simply because it was ludicrous. Obviously West was looking at the queen of hearts so he knew that South didn’t have immediate diamond discard(s) which would help him.

Perhaps East’s diamond 10 play was somewhat suit preference, although looking at the queen of clubs and having partner have the king should suggest to the defense that a club switch (maybe leading the queen, although if the declarer is shrewd enough to duck that wouldn’t help with this overall layout since west himself is looking at the jack nine in dummy) would be preferable.

Summing up, it seems that West (if the 10 of diamonds had no suit preference implications) could have played his partner for either the king (or the ace of clubs which might be necessary, assuming the declarer had the king of diamonds instead of only the jack. However since West did make the killing shift for perhaps the right reasons he has won the right to be given credit for their great result.

David WarheitApril 12th, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Jim: Mr. Wolff meant to say that “partner had the jack”. Once upon a time I went to a doctor complaining of pain in my belly. After a brief exam, he informed me that I was having an attack of appendicitis. I then asked him, “Doc, what’s that scar down there?” He looked and then explained, “Oh, the light must have been bad.” If a doctor can be excused when the light was bad, I’m sure we can all easily excuse Mr. Wolff.

It’s interesting that east doesn’t even have to play the king of diamonds when diamonds are finally led from dummy. The hand is over once west leads the second heart.

Iain ClimieApril 12th, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff,

As a minor point which could have made a difference, although not this time, is the spade 10 lead from dummy correct? As west is short in diamonds, this might find East with singleton Queen and set up a trick by force for West’s A872. As QXXX with East isn’t catchable anyway, I wonder how often extra chances like this go begging, even at the highest level. With poor pips, but subject to entries, isn’t leading the low card from 10x to KJ9xxx a genuine safety play?


Iain Climie

bobbywolffApril 12th, 2012 at 10:48 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, the low spade lead is a safety play against East having the singleton queen. Since this is a real hand and we were not kibitzing we are just reporting what had happened.

Sometimes there are other reasons for not making the correct play. Since the heart entries in dummy were the lifeline to being eventually able to lead a diamond to the jack for the contract fulfilling trick, it then becomes necessary to fudge on the technically correct suit play in order to increase the chances of overall success. Whether that is true on this hand is up for discussion, but the ability to recognize what is more practical often takes priority over choices.

Your comment is a good one and is well timed, but often, especially in reporting an actual tournament hand, plays vary depending on technique, psychology and the tactics decided on by the players.