Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 30th, 2012

Nobody ever did anything very foolish except from some strong principle.

Lord Melbourne

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


Today's deal features a trump coup, a maneuver by which declarer can find a way to draw trump by the aid of a finesse when one hand has no trumps in it. Does that sound impossible? Look at the deal and see if you can work out how South can avoid a trump loser without seeing through the backs of the cards.

Against four hearts the club jack is led, which holds the trick. After taking his club ace and king, East exits with a diamond. Declarer wins the diamond queen and cashes the heart king and ace, getting the bad news.

Now a trump reduction is required to bring South’s trumps down to the same number as East’s. So next comes a diamond to the king, and the diamond nine ruffed in hand. Declarer continues by leading the spade six to the king, and the diamond ace is ruffed in hand. Finally the spade queen is led to the ace, reducing everyone to two cards. A spade from dummy now traps East’s J-8 of hearts. Whether he ruffs high or low, you can claim the rest.

As the play went, declarer has to play a diamond after the heart king and ace to achieve the ending he wants. For declarer to succeed, he needs East to have begun with at least six cards in spades and diamonds, and at least two cards in each suit. Otherwise, East can pitch his spades on the run of the diamonds and disrupt the timing.

Despite the fact that your partner may be weak, you must start by doubling one heart. If the opponents show signs of having their values, or partner makes a minimum call, you may decide to let well enough alone. But bear in mind that your partner may have shape even if he does not have values.


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

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


Howard Bigot-JohnsonApril 13th, 2012 at 9:26 am

HBJ : Just a thought….is South right to pull the contract to 4H ?
North has shown on hs 2NT rebid values in both spades and clubs. Moreover if hearts have to be developed South may have a potential entry with one ( or both ) of his queens.
Certainly as the cards lie 4 or5 NT can make ( 3S, 4D, 3H and possibly a club ). And surely it is better for East to be on opening lead….. if North has tenaces in these black suits ?
There are so many situations where 3NT is a better call than 4 of a major…… and of course vice versa. So are there any rule-of-thumb rules to assist the final decision ?

jim2April 13th, 2012 at 12:06 pm


I am no expert, but I wondered the same. However, even something like Ax in clubs for North might require bringing in the hearts with no loser if clubs are led at 3N.

Of course, if unlucky moi were declarer, the Theory of Card Migration would mean that the opening leader would lead JC from AJ109x with the other defender having Hx and I would lose the first five tricks.

bobbywolffApril 13th, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Hi HBJ and Jim2,

South is neither right nor wrong in pulling the contract to 4 hearts. Some high-level players or near, tend to look for 8 card major suit fits and somewhat blindly (not considering their lack of a short suit, nor their minor supporting honors, but still willy-nilly just head for what they think is both percentage and bridge logic).

Still another effect has to do with the partnership confidence as to what is forcing and what might not be. Perhaps South was afraid to venture 3 hearts which should always be forcing (unless specifically decided, like in Acol, as not). Not intended as a commercial, but by playing Wolff sign-off, 3 hearts would be forcing, and instead bidding 3 clubs, which forces 3 diamonds, then a return to 3 hearts would be a sign-off. Returniing to the ranch, although South did have 3 cards in his side suit which was missing a supporting honor it was still possible, as Jim pointed out, that the defense could run 5 tricks before declarer even got in.

I often mention, or at least tend to want to, that bridge is not close to being an exact science, but rather a game of judgment and percentages. On this hand, South should merely offer a rebid of 3 hearts and let his partner decide between the choice of games.

What would I then choose, you might ask? Probably 3NT, but by so doing I am fully aware of the pitfalls of my choice. Probably the correct answer is to bid 3 spades, hedging on my choice, and sending it back to partner for the final mistake.

Thanks HBJ for your original question and although no real definitive answer is given, at least we had a chance to discuss the ingredients, fears and uncertainty which will forever be part of our game.

Jeff HApril 13th, 2012 at 2:45 pm

I am curious as to whether the workings of the Wolff sign-off has changed over the years or whether the late Max Hardy modified it in his book on 2 over 1 Game Force.

In his description of the Wolff Sign-off, the 3D response to 3C is not mandatory – if I recall correctly, he says opener can support responder’s major with 3 of the suit instead of bidding 3D.

So either the convention changed over the years, or Hardy modified it for his book.

bobbywolffApril 13th, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Hi Jeff H,

Although I am unfamiliar of the change to Wolff sign-off according to Max, that difference is one of the most common amendments made.

I still espouse the way it was originally written up to provide for responding to 1 heart by partner with 1 spade holding s. Kxxx, h. x, d. Jxxxxx, c. Jx or somesuch. It also keeps the bidding at a somewhat lower level which is enabling in other complete auctions.

However, either way a partnership plays it is satisfactory and those two players should determine, but at the same time both partners should know enough about the choices to make the proper (for them) decision.

Thanks for writing.