Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Conscience is the inner voice which warns us somebody may be looking.

H.L. Mencken

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


An avoidance play is declarer's attempt to deny one opponent the lead. This could be because we fear a shift from one opponent but not the other, or equally, as in today's deal, one opponent has winners to cash.

Look at the play today in three no-trump, remembering that your target is to take nine tricks, not 10!

West obediently leads a spade. As declarer, you must duck the first two spades to cut the defenders’ communications. You win the third spade and should work out that you only need four diamond tricks for the contract, but you must keep East off play if he has four diamonds. To do that, you do not mind investing an overtrick.

You cross to dummy by leading a low heart to the 10. Now comes a diamond toward your hand. If East plays low, you insert the eight and have achieved your target of bringing in the diamond suit safely.

If East divines your intention and inserts the 10 on the first diamond, you take the trick in hand and lead a heart to the queen. Then you repeat the process in diamonds, planning again to lead low to your eight, finessing against East’s jack. This insures that you make nine tricks, since if West has a second diamond, the suit must be splitting for you, and you can overtake your remaining diamond honor with the ace and run the suit.

Your choice is an invitational three diamonds – you have too much for a simple two diamond call, or a call in no-trump. You have too much for a one no-trump bid and not quite enough for a call of two no-trump, though it is close. Since three no-trump is more likely to make than five diamonds perhaps the small overbid in no-trump is best.


♠ 6 3
 A Q 10
 A 7 5 4 2
♣ 5 4 2
South West North East
1 Dbl. 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


Howard Bigot-JohnsonMay 2nd, 2012 at 9:16 am

HBJ : A very instructive hand indeed , where the play of the diamonds copes with East having both the J10 in th suit. Poor chap is fixed since by covering dummy’s first diamond , he’s setting himself to be finessed next time round.
I could envisage many weaker players rushing to play diamonds off the top bemoaning their fate when the suit doesn’t break and it’s East who gets in.
Hands like these are what good teachers should use in their lessons on good declarer play and safety .
And oh yes , many thanks for your kind words and continuing support for my blog. It all helps to keep my motivation going.

David WarheitMay 2nd, 2012 at 12:02 pm

I looked at this hand for a long time, thinking there must be some way for the defense to prevail, but I could see that if east shifted to the king of clubs at trick 3, south would win and use the same avoidance play in diamonds to bring home the contract. Finally, I thought of it: east shifts to the 6 of clubs at trick 3. South can still prevail by winning the ace, but this does not seem to be his best choice, so he plays something else, west wins cheaply and returns a club. Now south a) must assume clubs are 4-2, not 3-3, and b) he must make the very reasonable assumption either that diamonds are 3-2 or that one opponent has 4 clubs and the other 4 diamonds, but having to guess : if east has the 4 clubs, take the avoidance play, but if west has the 4 clubs (or if diamonds are 3-2, simply run diamonds. I would be interested in your comments as to a) whether this line of defense could or should happen, & b) if it did, how should south play the diamond-club puzzle, or am I wrong and south should play the ace of clubs at trick 3.

bobbywolffMay 2nd, 2012 at 1:24 pm


The wonderful aspects of the competitive world of bridge need continuously to be advertised to all prospective lovers of the game, and this is your forte with your fictional characters such as Rebecca Rood and Johnny Supremo, who serve similarly to bridge as Batman & Robin long ago did as law enforcement heroes. And even Batman’s arch enemy, the Joker, (appropriately named, especially for this discussion) was created to emphasize the difficulty of the task of overcoming adversity in both real life and in promoting bridge as well as putting paid to those interested in reviling our beautiful game and its organization.

To the above, we all owe you a significant debt of gratitude to your creativy, writing style and undying determination.

Thanks always for your echoes and kind words. Together we are bound with similar motives and let Judy and I say, that we love being in your company.

bobbywolffMay 2nd, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Hi David,

I’ve known for some time now, that you are a superior bridge analyst who needs to:
1. Have his day in court, 2. Literally and figuratively requires me to get up early in the morning (I enjoy doing it) to deal with your different forms of double dummy play which serve to keep all of us on our toes as well, of course, to keep our bridge brains working.

Your third trick shift to a low club by East is indeed diabolical and while I could say, yes, I would rise with the ace and play diamonds to break and if they didn’t, hope East was dealt honor and one in case they didn’t. However, your suggested switch is, no doubt, the only chance the defense has against an astute declarer who happened to have the diamond holding he does have.

Your analysis makes all of us think (me being only one of them), and almost always requires out of the box thinking, but in reality it challenges us to adjust our thinking to fit the specific hand and its particular chief nuance.

As an aside it reminds me of having to play against Benito Garozzo (still alive and active in bridge after moving to the USA many years ago) and deal with his real life imaginative defensive plays which were often similar to the double dummy efforts you suggest.

The only right on answer I can think of to your question is that the declarer, in order to give it his best, must consider who his opponent is, what he should know about your hand, and then after calibrating those facts along with the tempos of the plays made, make a decision on what line of play would offer the best chance of being right under the above circumstances.

Thankfully, all, or even almost all, of the above does not occur very often but if so, that particular declarer would not be as successful as he would want to be, since his opponents are simply too good.

Aaron AaronsOctober 7th, 2013 at 8:10 pm

I’ve had a newspaper clipping of this hand lying around for over a year now, looking at it occasionally to see if I’ve been missing something. But it still appeared to me that you were wrong, and that if east ducks the second diamond lead, there’s no way for declarer to come to four diamond tricks, given the lack of a side entry to dummy. (If the king is overtaken with the ace, east’s jack wins the fourth round!)

But then I noticed that you have modified the hand to have three heart entries to dummy rather than two! However, with this modification, there’s no reason to say that “you can overtake your remaining diamond honor with the ace and run the suit”, since the last heart entry is available.