Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, July 6th, 2012

What a woman thinks of women is the test of her nature.

George Meredith

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


Despite their natural disappointment at failing to reach the final, the French women made no mistake in the play-off for the bronze. They were in sparkling form, as this little gem by Veronique Bessis and Catherine D'Ovidio illustrates.

One could discuss at length what South should do when North doubles four hearts for takeout. Admittedly the South hand is very balanced and the spade suit bad, but with four hearts being stone cold, bidding four spades was certainly the right thing to do in this deal.

Against four spades West led her singleton club, and declarer won in hand and played three rounds of diamonds. West ruffed in with the spade five, and declarer discarded dummy’s heart.

Now West played the heart ace, and declarer ruffed in dummy and played a spade, West winning with the king and exiting with a heart. Declarer had to ruff, but now if she played a spade, West would win and cash a heart trick, so she played a club to her ace. West ruffed in yet again, this time with the spade ace, and played a third heart. As declarer ruffed in dummy, East discarded her remaining club. Since dummy was down to nothing but clubs, when declarer led one from the board, East was able to ruff in and defeat the contract.

Incidentally, declarer can get home by playing on clubs after ruffing the first heart. West ruffs and plays a heart, but declarer ruffs in dummy and plays another club.

Today's deal is tailor-made for a double of two diamonds. This is not penalty — virtually no low-level doubles when the opponents have agreed on a suit should be used for penalties. This one simply shows the two unbid suits and values. The real decision will come on the next round if partner rebids hearts.


♠ Q J 9 6
 K Q
♣ K 10 9 8 7 4
South West North East
1 1 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


Iain ClimieJuly 20th, 2012 at 9:48 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

I feel declarer was a little unlucky here but suppose she forsaw West holding both top spades and a heart suit headed by the Ace or King but not both. Win the CA at trick 1 and then play a spade, looking like you have the missing heart honour but not the DA.

West will win and try a diamond but only now play the diamonds to shed a heart. If west ruffs high, the heart goes and you are home, if west ruffs low, then over-ruff and a trump means you lose 2S and 1H. If west discards, lose dummy’s heart and play a club moving towards the successful line you mention at the end.

It is all easy in hindsight, of course, and West need not be that strong although Vulnerable. Still west will surely have 7H and 1C but won’t be looking for a ruff with just SAK. If west has SAKx then the danger of only 2 diamonds is clear. The failure to lead the “wrong” top heart at trick 1 then a club (often used to show a singleton) also suggests she hasn’t got HAK.

Double-dummy west just underleads her hearts at T3 of course but I suspect most players would try the diamond first. Any thoughts on this?


Iain Climie

bobby wolffJuly 20th, 2012 at 10:38 am

Hi Iain,

Your line definitely has chances of success, specifically for the reasons you mention. However, and from West’s viewpoint, for South to be without the Ace of diamonds she would have to be opening an 11 HCP balanced hand (substitute the ace of diamonds for the king of hearts) and then removing her partner’s double at the same time, in spite of holding the king of hearts in defense (and terrible offense, balanced and poor trumps).

Of course, declarer can still make the hand by leading a 2nd club himself, but he then would be faced with guessing West’s specific hand (which is not at all improbable).

When possible, and at the critical time, this time at trick 2, when the declarer leads her first spade West needs to visualize declarer’s complete hand to see if any likely holding left possible will allow the hand to be defeated and, if done so, probably declarer’s actual hand will be about the only remotely likely chance.

Every now and then a “fortunate” declarer will fool us, but that should not dissuade us from continuing to be realistic and thinking it through, before we act.

Thanks for giving other readers the experience of doing the above, without which it becomes almost impossible to advance to the next level in partnership defense, nor for that matter in high-level declarer play.

Iain ClimieJuly 20th, 2012 at 11:20 am

Hi again,

Points well made and taken – a bit too much to hope west dozes off. A very exact (so very unlikely) exception to your analysis might be S10xxx HKx DJx CAQJxx but this raises a question. Would you advise running to 4S with such a hand or gritting your teeth and
hoping 4H fails? Is it a blind guess or are there sensible guidelines?

Many thanks,

Iain Climie

bobby wolffJuly 20th, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Hi Iain,

Your question is very much a guess, but with it I would opt for 4 spades, since, at least my distribution, instead of the dreaded 4-3-3-3, tends tpward more offensive optimism. Also, of course the 3rd heart in the other combination allows for more chance of a defensive trump trick, which well could make the critical difference.

In any one setting , much luck is involved, and both talent and intelligence take a back seat to experience when trying to guess to make the winning bid. For whatever reasons we are discussing the axis of the difference between what it takes to win (and lose) much more often than other equally talented players.