Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Lo! I uncover the land
Which I hid of old time in the West,
As the sculptor uncovers the statue
When he has wrought his best….

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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


"Cover an honor with an honor" is a well-known bridge adage, but as with most such rules, there are plenty of exceptions. Today's declarer exploited East's knee-jerk reaction to cover. But perhaps it would be best to start by concealing the East-West cards, and only then to make your plan on the lead of the diamond ace followed by a shift to the club five. (Yes, a spade switch would have been the killer.)

In four hearts, declarer won with dummy’s ace, drew the outstanding trumps with the ace and king, and astutely played the spade jack from the dummy. East played the king… and the rest is history.

East could not attack clubs to advantage, so he continued with another diamond. Declarer ruffed in the dummy and played a spade to the queen and West’s ace. West played another club, but declarer won the king, played a spade to his 10, crossed back to dummy with a trump, and cashed the spade nine, discarding his club loser.

When you think about it, it is hard to see how covering the spade jack could gain. Unfortunately for him, East did not think about it!

The “power of the closed hand” is worth remembering. All things being equal, it often works well to play toward the closed hand rather than toward the dummy. It generally makes it much harder for the defenders to decide whether to win or duck when they cannot see what third hand will play.

When your partner overcalls one no-trump, play similar methods to what you would do if he opens the bidding with that call. So is it best to play penalties here, or to make a takeoutbid? I feel that when the opponents bid and raise a suit, double should be takeout. It still lets you catch the opponents speeding when partner has a penalty double of diamonds. Double of a new suit bid by your RHO can sensibly be played as penalty.


♠ J 9 7 6
 K 9 7 6
♣ A K 10 9
South West North East
1 1 NT 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


jim2August 29th, 2012 at 2:13 pm

The BWTA raised a few questions for me.

I think I would bid 3D (Stayman) even though partner’s decision to bid 1N suggests a hand pattern that did not fit the shape of a Double. While Double by me now would seem to suggest clubs — which while good looks like a dead-end as the 9-trick game should have better chances than the 11-trick one.

Perhaps partner has one major but not the other. If so, 4 of the major would seem to be the right place. If pard has no major, then I would expect 3N to have good chances.

A Double my me would also seem to diss East who I presume heard/saw North’s bid. That is, per the Theory, I “know” that if I doubled it would get passed out and the hands would be:

——– North
——-S A10x
——-H Axx
——-D AQx
——-C Jxxx

-West —— East
S KQxx —- S xx
H QJ10x —H xx
D Jxx ——-D K109xxx
C Qx ——-C xxx

——- South
——S J9xx
——H K9xx
——D x
——C AK109

3N by North looks good. So does 5C, if Declarer takes the right view in trump.

And … so does 2D Doubled, though the Defenders can make Declarer work for it.

bobby wolffAugust 29th, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Hi Jim2,

For what it is worth, I agree 100% with your choice of a 3 diamond cue bid (GF) instead of double, which could be misinterpreted by some.

Our purpose in choosing double is to discuss the TO nature of the bid and I guess, since South’s hand has ample defense, if North passes 2DX after his NT overcall, the penalty should justify that action.

Three BTW’s remain to be discussed:

1. Your construction of West’s opening bid leaves, at least to me, too little, but perhaps sinking to the depths which the current expert community has sunk in opening anything which walks, (not enough meat and likely suggesting the wrong opening lead) and in spite of their fearlessness in doing so, is it good bridge? I do not think it is!

2. Perhaps, if playing 5 clubs by North and receiving a diamond lead into the queen, declarer will be able to guess the queen of clubs, offside, as long as he thinks West was not finessing his partner by playing the jack of diamonds instead of the king, if he held both.
If South somehow became the 5 club declarer, perhaps also that after a diamond lead and a rise with the ace, a discovery play of the queen (with East perhaps covering, instead of deceptively not) would also give the location of the club lady away.

3. What would a preemptive jump to 3 diamonds do to the NS bidding by East? Would it tempt South to cue bid 4 diamonds or merely make a hoped for TO double for North to work out?

jim2August 29th, 2012 at 3:08 pm



I had a tough time constructing a layout that could possibly fit the stipulated bidding and the given South hand:

1) North had to have 15+ with a solid diamond stopper,
2) North could not have both major suits,
2) East had to have 5+ diamonds (probably 6) and at least one card,
3) East had NOT 7+ diamonds, or would have pre-emptively raised, and
4) West had to have at least 3 diamonds and at least 11 points.

With South’s 11 HCPs, it was not easy! In fact, it threatened to turn into a variation of the “Zebra Puzzle” or also known as “Einstein’s Puzzle.”

bobby wolffAugust 29th, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Hi Jim2,

“Been there, you know,” an expression I first heard many years ago and exclaimed by an Englishman, who else?

Yes, I identify with you, trying to construct layouts which fit (or barely) the possible distributions and high cards necessary for the bidding, making our final decision at least, plausible.

When playing against a spectacularly imaginative player like Zia, sometimes there is no rational answer, but when playing against a down the middle super player, there at least seems like an appropriate layout available waiting to be uncovered, even though it may take time to think of it.

BTW, the above may indicate, advantage Zia, but in reality he always has his partner to deal with instead of just his two opponents, therefore, in the long run, equalizing the advantage mentioned.

Thanks for the new names, Zebra and Einstein, which is special learning to these old eyes and ears of mine

jim2August 29th, 2012 at 5:41 pm

With Zia, the hands would probably be:

——– North
——-S KQ10x
——-H AQx
——-D AQ
——-C xxxx

-West —— East
S Axxx —- S x
H – ———H J10xxxx
D KJxxx — D 109xxx
C QJxx — C –

——- South
——S J9xx
——H K9xx
——D x
——C AK109

Opening lead AC, and Zia would soon be scoring up X OTs!

jim2August 29th, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Another x accident on Aisle East!

David WarheitAugust 29th, 2012 at 9:09 pm

I’m a simple folk. After drawing trump, ending in my hand, I would have led a small spade. It seems to me that if it was hard for east not to play the king when the queen was led, it would be even harder for west to play the ace in my line. I am certain from the bidding and play so far that a) west does not have the spade ace-king (he didn’t lead one at trick one), and b) he almost certainly has 4, but at least 3 (the takeout double) and c) he certainly has either the ace or king

Iain ClimieAugust 29th, 2012 at 11:44 pm

Hi folks,

I think David’s claim of being simple needs a caveat – simple but probably effective. After all, if South had Kxx, (possible from west’s position) he might be intending to play a spade to the 9 hoping for SQx with East. Put up the ace when east has SQ10 only and partner will have plenty to say, especially at pairs. I admit that South can always get home with this holding but it does seem a good practical shot. Even if West has SKxxx, how often will he jump in there?

Iain Climie

bobby wolffAugust 30th, 2012 at 3:47 am

Hi David,

Well said and carefully explained with all 3 assumptions totally true.

However, if after trick 2’s club switch and, no doubt, East’s positive signal, it is not all that difficult to play 2nd hand high, even with the ace, especially with the poor spade spots held by West. If declarer was also missing the queen instead of the king he would almost surely arrange to lead a spade from dummy by managing the trumps differently than he did.

Old adages, like 2nd hand low and 3rd hand high have their place in learning, but in the cauldron of being at the table, the way declarer (always your bitter enemy, at least as a competitor) goes about the hand, should be more valuable than all the “old saws together” gathered in a bundle.

In this case:

1. IMO it is easier for West to rise with the ace, than it would be the king since it is possible for declarer to be leading away from the ace but not the king.

2. The most likely defeat of the hand is, of course, the actual layout and if so, West needs to rise to the occasion and hop with the ace to lead his 2nd club.