Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 14th, 2012

I would that we were, my beloved, white birds on the foam of the sea:
We tire of the flame of the meteor, before it can pass by and flee….

W.B. Yeats

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


Today's deal comes from a collection of bridge tips by David Bird, who is best known for his humorous collections of stories about the Abbot and many others.

Against your contract of four spades West leads the diamond ace and switches to the spade five. Plan the play, and if you want to cover up the East and West cards to make your task harder, feel free to do so!

The obvious source of extra tricks is the clubs, but to establish additional winners in that suit, you have to surrender a trick. If you simply draw trump and duck a club, East will win and play a diamond through. You might try to lead a club to the king and duck the return, but if East flies up with the queen on the second round (or West unblocks his jack on the first round), the defenders will have the upper hand.

Is there any way that you can establish clubs without letting East on lead? Yes and no. What you have to do is find a way to get rid of that club loser, while losing the lead to West, not East. Instead of playing three rounds of clubs, win the spade shift from West in dummy (while taking care to preserve your spade two in hand), and play the heart king, pitching a club. Later you will be able to ruff the clubs good without surrendering the lead, and you can then cross to dummy with the spade four to cash them.

With your extra side-suit shape and your values concentrated in your long suits, you should compete to three hearts. You should not bid three diamonds, though — that should be a game-try with approximately this pattern. Change the heart jack to the heart king or even perhaps the queen, and you would have a sound minimum for that action.


♠ 9 5
 A J 8 7 3
 A K J 5
♣ J 7
South West North East
1 1♠ 2 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


David WarheitJuly 28th, 2012 at 10:17 am

Suppose west’s hand is ♠Aj10xx ♥kxx ♦xxx ♣Ax, leaving partner with ♠Qx ♥Q109x ♦xxx ♣Kxxx. West bids 3♠ over your 3♥. All pass. North, having no idea about your diamonds, leads a heart, thus allowing west to make his contract. Only a diamond lead would have defeated 3♠, while 9 tricks is the limit in a heart contract. Shouldn’t south have some means to tell his partner to lead a diamond without risking overbidding to 4♥?

Iain ClimieJuly 28th, 2012 at 11:49 am

Hi Gents,

Double is also available here and possibly also 2NT – if you have a 17 count with 5 hearts and (say) AQx of spades, partner is still very likely to go back to hearts. Hence it would be possible with agreement to treat 3C and 3D as specific competitive bids leaving Dbl as a general game try over which partner could trial bid in reply if interested in game or bid 3H or 4H (or even 2NT) as appropriate.

It is probably a bit too complex for my regular club sessions (I have 3 regular partners so go for the KISS ap¶roach), but has it any merit?


Iain Climie

bobby wolffJuly 28th, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Hi David and Iain,

Both of you are now delving into where high-level bridge (and I mean at the top) stands among our most hard working and conscientious bridge analysts.

Of course, with the complete hand which David suggests, it is necessary for North to lead a diamond to enable the defeat of 3 spades, which would be the likely final contract when 2 good partnerships square off against each other.

The answer must resonate throughout the world as being similar to significantly greater and therefore more important problems with medical discoveries and various commercial and business conundrums which exist in all walks of life.

One has to give to get since putting one’s finger in a dike to keep the water in, sometimes allows it to recede in other places.

In bridge when one always bids what he wants led (and usually it turns out to be his longest and strongest suit which he has already offered) the clever opponents are also listening, which figures to improve their defense against your side if you, instead of them, become declarer. It also may improve their judgment in the bidding since, in this case, if West held the Qxx in diamonds he might evaluate it to his advantage. Of course, much of this is speculation, but, after all, your concerns are merely talking theory, which involves overall and not specific objectives.

Cutting to the chase, there are specific bridge conventions such as McCabe wherein the partner of a weak two bidder upon hearing his RHO making a takeout double then bids something at the 3 level that bid is lead directing and asks his partner to lead that suit, such as an isolated AQJ, but return to the weak two bid suit if pass is chosen by the partner of the doubler.

In conclusion, it has been decided that the advantage you two seek is counterbalanced by the information it also gives to the opponents. reducing that possible advantage to not being worth it. Yes, it is necessary to treat a change of suit as a game try (in the discussed situation) but not as a lead director allowing a continuation by the opener of three in his suit as merely a competitive gesture, not a game try.

It might be also mentioned here that in a high level competitive bridge bidding battle if after 1 heart, 1 spade, 4 hearts, 4 spades (around the table) if the opener now bids 5 of a minor he now has length in that suit which should tell partner, if and when, the next hand now bids 5 spades, the side length (often another 5 card+ suit) with the idea of allowing partner to revalue his hand to determine whether he should Pass, bid one more or double.

It is not that both of your cogent questions have not been widely discussed, it is rather that, at least at this moment in time, have been decided to not be lead directing.

BTW, Iain, the convention of Maximum Double which applies over the following two sequences: 1 spade, 2 hearts, 2 spades, 3 hearts, double now means a game try while 3 spades is merely competitive and 1 heart, 2 diamonds, 2 hearts, 3 diamonds leave the two bids, double and 3 hearts as also the same as above with, of course, pass meaning below either of those other two actions.

Just like what was said above, we now lose the penalty double (which occurs rarely) in order to facilitate more accurate bidding. Give to get is usually the theme in trying to make bidding more effective.

Finally, Iain your method is well thought out and playable, but is not the expert choice at this time.

Iain ClimieJuly 28th, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Hi Mr Wolff,

Many thanks for this – very illuminating and useful. Sorry for the delay in replying though – Olympic fever has struck, albeit after several hours of mortal combat with the garden.

bobby wolffJuly 29th, 2012 at 4:08 am

Hi Iain,

You are forgiven for your delay in replying and, as always, thanked for your tried and true interest in and contributions to, our beloved game.

Long live the Queen, but if she could also win the women’s high hurdles event it would be even better.