Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

You're either part of the solution or part of the problem.

Eldridge Cleaver

South North
Neither ♠ A K J 7
 J 9 2
 Q 10
♣ A 6 4 2
West East
♠ Q 10 9 3
 A Q 6
 K 5 4
♣ K 9 3
♠ 6 5 2
 8 7 4 3
 J 9 8 6
♣ 10 8
♠ 8 4
 K 10 5
 A 7 3 2
♣ Q J 7 5
South West North East
Pass 1♣ Pass Pass
1 NT Pass 2♣ Pass
2 Pass 3 NT All pass


Andrew Robson, bridge correspondent for The London Times and one of England's finest players, owns a hugely successful bridge club. In today's deal Robson was West. You may care to cover up the South and East hands and plan your defense against three no-trump. You lead the spade three and dummy's jack holds the trick. Declarer plays a low club to the queen and king. What now?

Suppose you play back a spade. Declarer wins and cashes his clubs, forcing you to pitch a diamond. He leads a diamond up, letting you win your king and exit in spades. But declarer cashes the diamond queen and throws you in with a spade to give the lead back in hearts, letting him cash the diamond ace for his ninth trick. If you discarded a heart on the club, declarer can play a heart instead. After taking two hearts and a spade, you will have to lead a diamond, and South is not going to guess wrong.

Robson found a more dynamic defense: when he was in with the club king: He switched to the diamond king. Declarer won and cashed his black-suit winners, but Robson discarded a heart. He could now establish a diamond to go with two hearts and two black-suit tricks.

Declarer missed a resource: He should have ducked the diamond king. He wins the diamond continuation, then cashes his diamond ace, his high clubs and spades before exiting with a spade, forcing West to give him a heart trick at the end.

Here a double is not penalties — It suggests values and an unbiddable hand. Your partner will pass with a relatively balanced takeout hand and will bid on with real spade shortage or extra values. If you were to act, a call of four no-trump here would show the minors and be a reasonable alternative.


♠ 8 4
 K 10 5
 A 7 3 2
♣ Q J 7 5
South West North East
3♠ Dbl. 4♠

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


John Howard GibsonAugust 16th, 2012 at 6:33 pm

HBJ : What I like about this hand is that first declarer is in the driving seat. Then comes a counter from the defence only for an astute declarer to counter the counter so to speak. This battle of wits and minds and wits of the experts is what makes bridge so fascinating.
But something convinces me that experts must be born with a 3rd eye to see what the rest of us don’t.

bobby wolffAugust 16th, 2012 at 7:35 pm


Thanks for the discussion about the counter attacks (sounds like a war movie).

Seriously though and about your last inquiring paragraph, the so called expert realizes that tricks are tricks, whether they are immediate or perhaps later down the line. First he has to be sure that the opponents do not get enough to register a set and only then, sit back and plan what tempo is best for him to arrive at the most profitable and hence successful ending for his side.

Instead of born to it or a 3rd eye, it probably is just a realization of the gracefulness of bridge logic and its unusual method.

Without your constant vigil regarding the beauty of our game, many logical bridge corollaries would go unnoticed.

David WarheitAugust 16th, 2012 at 10:16 pm

South should never go wrong on this hand, because he knows west’s exact distribution and virtually exact high cards as soon as west makes the opening lead! Proof: west must have a balanced hand. If he doesn’t, if he has 4 clubs, you can’t make your contract, so don’t worry about that. Since he led what is certainly his 4th-best spade, he must be 4-3-3-3. Second, he opened the bidding. If he had all 15 missing points, he would have opened 1NT, so east must have either the queen of hearts (the only missing queen) or the jack of diamonds (the only missing jack); any more and west wouldn’t have opened. It would be nice if east had the queen of hearts, but it is unnecessary. This, of course, makes the correct line of play (as nicely stated in the article including the variations of west leading the king of diamonds or not) a piece of cake.

bobby wolffAugust 17th, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Hi David,

Your analysis is up to your usual standards of excellence.

However, your confidence can sometimes lead to being surprised, especially today when some very good players sometimes open an 11 HCP balanced hand (and therefore certainly 12) and later you learn that they often do it.

Some might say that it up to the opponents to ask and, while that may be the written or unwritten laws it is easy, while at the table, particularly in a World Championship where many matches are played against very strong opponents, but the individual tendencies are not always known by only casual experience of playing a smallish number of hands against one another.

The only salient point I am trying to get across is that, in order to be well enough prepared the players themselves must, before critical matches, learn as much about their opponents as is practical. This is often done by a team’s coach whose duty it usually is, to scout upcoming opponents, although in KO type events, it is far from certain that one team will be playing a specific other and even, if so, the particular partnership matchups scouted, may never be forthcoming.

Big time bridge requires much preparation, where even a partnership’s system might need to be modified, or, at the very least, discussed, in order to be ready for worthy opponents and their tendencies. As we all know, sometimes very long matches, especially when two top teams collide, are too often decided on one particular hand, so the responsibilities become enormous if winning is to be cherished.

I realize that when you presented your above analysis, what I am now writing is not a major issue to you, but I only wanted to caution you about assuming HCP’s and distributions are exactly the way you expect them to be, since in the current high-level world game it is not always what it may seem to be.

In any event, none of the above should stop you from continuing to add your important observations and cogent analysis for all of the readers, including myself, to benefit.