Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

The imagination may be compared to Adam's dream — he awoke and found it truth.

John Keats

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


In the deal that follows, Joann Sprung found a fine defensive play that so deceived declarer that he wound up going down four tricks instead of scoring up overtricks in his no-trump game. The deal comes from the first qualifying session of the 1993 Life Master Pairs. Sprung's partner was her husband, Dan.

Joann led her top heart, and dummy’s jack held the trick. Declarer now led to his heart ace and led a club, no doubt intending to insert the nine, a play that would have enabled him to make his contract if East took his king. This is declarer’s best play in the suit. West is far more likely to have a holding such as Q-10-x or K-10-x than she is to have K-Q-x.

However, on the first round of clubs, Joann played the queen! Declarer decided to duck, and Joann led another heart, captured by dummy’s king. Declarer now led a spade to his jack and Joann’s king, and she led the diamond king, ducked. She switched to a spade, and Dan won his ace and cashed his good heart.

Next came a diamond to declarer’s ace, and South continued to go after clubs — but this time Joann played the 10! Declarer could have minimized his losses by winning the ace, but he inserted the jack and was chagrined to see the king come up on his right. Dan switched to a diamond, and Joann took two diamond winners before being forced to give declarer the last trick with her last club to his ace.

Nothing is perfect here, especially if you play a new suit as encouraging but not forcing. I'd advocate that you play a new suit in response to an overcall as forcing for one round if third hand has passed. Even if two diamonds is not forcing, it is still probably the best way forward.


♠ Q J 6 4
 A 2
 A J 8 7 4
♣ 4 3
South West North East
1♣ 1 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


Iain ClimieJune 12th, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

A good defence but should South fall for it? His later play of the CJ assumed that West has messed up with an original holding of CKQ10 but Joann would surely have played low on the first round with that.

On the bidding problem, 2C would be a good raise of partner’s suit but is 3C idle? If so, it could show this sort of hand – an opening bid, heart tolerance and at least 4-4 in the unbid suits but probably not 5S i.e. the top end of a competitive double if responder had raised to two or three hearts. What would 3C otherwise mean nowadays? I’m still rusty on bidding after a long break from the game.


Iain Climie

JaneJune 12th, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Hi Bobby,

In the bidding style of today, would you recommend the same bids that N/S used in the Aces hand? Seems to me that winding up in 3NT with 21 points between them and a void in partner’s opening suit is much less than ideal. Looks like a pass of the three club rebid makes the most sense. North was bidding his shape and did not bid three NT himself, so this would have told me as south that 3NT was not the contract of choice. I love to bid, but whoa, Nellie!

Thanks, as always.

bobby wolffJune 13th, 2012 at 6:05 am

Hi Iain,

A jump cue bid, 3 clubs in this case, is the strongest defensive bid available without it being a game force. It guarantees 4+ card support and about the equivalent to an opening bid. A lower cue bid (2 clubs in this case) is, of course a 1 round force with no upper limit, but after partner’s response that will be made clear, with a now change of suit, another 1 round force. All other bids are not forcing, but usually have invitational values, especially if partner has support for the new suit bid.

Joann’s play of the queen (from queen, ten and another) is a sophisticated defensive play designed to keep the declarer from making his normal play and sometimes works, particularly against naive declarers.

Modern bidding has changed greatly and for the better, with heretofore hardly ever used bids now meaning something specific. They are all waiting to greet you.

bobby wolffJune 13th, 2012 at 6:10 am

Hi Jane,

Any way one wants to play it, 2 diamonds seems the best response at this point in the Bid With The Aces problem. Whether a partnership plays it a one round force or only just constructive and NF, is up to them, but in either case that bid stands out.

Thanks for your intelligent and somewhat graphic opinion.

Jeff SJune 13th, 2012 at 4:56 pm

At the risk of sticking my nose in where it doesn’t belong, I think Jane was asking for your opinion of the bidding on the main hand, not the BWTA hand. I only point it out because I am curious also. 3NT doesn’t really look like the right landing spot. Thanks!

bobby wolffJune 13th, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Hi Jeff S,

Yes, after re-reading Jane’s question I agree with you.

North’s response probably should have been the distorted one of 1 heart, not 2 clubs, and then after South rebid 1 spade, to follow up the first distortion with another one of 1NT.

By doing that, and, of course, having South pass out 1NT, making that contract would not require much luck or effort, but stopping at 1NT required the possibility of 2 wrongs (both of North’s responses) making a right.