Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 14th, 2012

I am driven
Into a desperate strait and cannot steer
A middle course.

Philip Massinger

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

*Second negative


In today's auction North's three-club call was a second negative. It makes sense to use three clubs, not two no-trump, as the negative, because you don't want to get no-trump played the wrong way up. When North showed four-card heart support, South proceeded to the heart slam, nevertheless.

Put yourself in declarer’s position. You win the club-king lead with the ace and play a top trump, West following with the heart eight. How would you continue the play?

West’s high spot-card is a warning that the trumps may break 4-1. You should follow with dummy’s heart seven on the first round of trumps, clearing the way for a later finesse of your heart six. When you play a second high trump, West does indeed show out. You follow with dummy’s heart nine, unblocking once more.

It is time to develop the spade suit. You play the spade ace and king, and lead a third spade, West producing the queen of the suit. There is no point in ruffing in dummy, because East would overruff and return a club. Instead, you throw dummy’s remaining club.

You win the diamond switch with your ace and lead the club10, which you ruff with the heart 10. This ruffing unblock is your third such move in the trump suit. Now comes the reward for your foresight. You lead the heart three and finesse the heart six. It remains only to draw East’s last trump and claim the contract.

Without the intervention you would have bid one heart (an action you would still take if you had five hearts, or a slightly better hand, or even a chunky four-card suit). But here you have minimum values with a bad suit. You are better off passing and doubling one spade for takeout when the auction comes back to you. If the opponents bid a red suit, you can balance with one no-trump.


♠ 9 3
 J 5 4 2
 K Q 10
♣ 7 6 4 2
South West North East
1♣ Dbl.

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 28th, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff,

On the BWTA hand, is it best to give opponents such an easy ride? Raising clubs (even if partner was sure to have 4) may just encourage them but is there a case for bidding either 1NT to cut out 1S by opponents or even 1D as an indication of high card location and a few cards?


Iain Climie

bobby wolffJune 28th, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Hi Iain,

Always your point is well taken, but this time even extends to areas not even mentioned by you.

Yes. it is quite often productive to raise the level of the bidding, in this case a boost to 2 clubs or even an aggressive 1NT intervention,
just to harass the opponents into taking a conservative position and allow you and partner to possibly steal the hand. Of course, sometimes, even buying an undoubled contract sometimes courts a poor board in matchpoints, usually depending on both the vulnerability and the location of the cards.

However, let’s raise the stakes and wonder in the actual column hand what would happen if West, being NV and 2nd to speak over an artificial strong 2 club opener, offers an immediate 3 clubs and then gets raised to 4 clubs by partner, what chance will NS have to get to 6 hearts and play the hand as directed and make it?

Even with double dummy defense, spade lead, diamond ace cashed third round of spades overruffed and back a diamond ruff only will produce 7 tricks for the defense, a far cry below what 6 vulnerable hearts making (1430) is worth.

Yes, as you point out without even saying so, “Bridge is a bidder’s game”!

Thanks for your thoughts.