Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, August 11th, 2012

In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud….

W.E. Henley

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


The auction in today's deal is worth a second glance. Playing standard methods, and whether or not two diamonds is a game force, it would be a mistake to assume that the rebid of two hearts promises six hearts. It suggests either six hearts or a rebidabble five-card suit with no better alternative. With a minimum hand opener strives to make a descriptive call at his second turn, which could be to raise partner, bid no-trump, or introduce a second suit economically. Bidding three clubs should show extras or a good second suit.

Hence North cannot raise hearts immediately, but his indirect route suggests a doubleton honor — perfect from South’s perspective.

Against four hearts West leads the spade queen and continues with a low spade. After declarer ruffs the third round of spades, he could simply draw trump now, planning to duck a diamond if trumps were 3-3. But if he does so, the 4-2 trump break will leave him reliant on diamonds splitting, and today is not his lucky day.

So the question is whether declarer can do any better by tackling the side suits before drawing trump. The answer is yes: Declarer can improve his chances by leading a club toward the queen at trick four. This is almost without risk, as neither defender has shifted to a club. What it does is to give him a third chance for his contract. Now if West wins the club king to play another spade, declarer can take the ruff in dummy and retain trump control.

A cuebid of two diamonds might sound like a strong hand, but if you had opening values, you'd start by doubling here. So the cuebid should be a limited but shapely hand with both majors — exactly like this hand. Note that this principle only applies over a response in no-trump (and not to a suit bid) by your RHO.


♠ Q J 10 3
 10 8 3 2
 7 2
♣ K 10 8
South West North East
1 Dbl. 1 NT

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 WarheitAugust 25th, 2012 at 1:47 pm

You state that leading a club toward the queen at trick 4 is “almost without risk”. Actually, by doing so, you give up on the chance that hearts are 3-3 (with diamonds no worse than 4-2). Mind you, it is the right play, since the club finesse is 50% and a 3-3 break is 38%, it’s just that the play isn’t quite as good as it first appears.

bobby wolffAugust 25th, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Hi David,

Yes, you continue to be right, and for the appropriate reasons.

True the earlier club play does increase chances for overall success, (approximately 50% to 36%), but by doing so, it is apparent that when that was written, it was overlooked that away then went the chances for success, if the hearts were 3-3 and, of course, combined with the king of clubs lurking behind the queen.

The lesson to be learned is that the same type of mistake is, too often made at the table, during the thought process of what to do. The best declarers need to have the flexibility to constantly think back and forth without losing the perspective of all the factors present, before choosing the final plan.

Unfortunately for us (as you accurately pointed out), the same must be done in order to have pride in performance, by the bridge writers, in this case the statement of “almost without risk”.

le_valet_de_piqueAugust 27th, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Why not simply duck a diamond at trick four? Wouldn’t that move protect against the double 4-2 split all the time?

bobby wolffAugust 27th, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Hi Monsieur le valet de pique,

Not with another diamond being returned immediately.

Nevertheless, thank you for your interest and for taking the time to write.