Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

It had been easy fighting in some plain,
Where Victory might hang in equal choice.
But all resistance against her is vain,
Who has th’ advantage both of Eyes and Voice.

Andrew Marvell

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


Today's deal comes from an internet game where South did not take full advantage of his extra chance.

After South’s one-no-trump rebid, a jump to three diamonds by North would have been merely invitational, so North jumped in the fourth suit to hear more about South’s hand. When all he could do was reiterate his heart strength, North was happy to settle for three no-trump.

The defense was accurate. West started with three rounds of clubs, East pitching a small heart, then switched to a spade. Declarer won and cleared diamonds, giving West a chance to discard a small heart to deny interest there too. On winning his diamond jack, East astutely played back a spade rather than a heart, hoping his partner would have a spade stopper. And so it proved: Locked in dummy, declarer had to concede the fifth trick to West.

It looks as if declarer needed either spades or diamonds to break, and with neither suit cooperating, he is destined to fail. However, there was an extra chance. When declarer finds that diamonds don’t break, he should cash a second top spade before giving East his diamond trick. Now, when East wins this trick, he has no more spades to play. He must therefore lead a heart, allowing declarer access to the winners in his own hand as well as to those in dummy, since South still has a spade left to reach all of dummy’s winners.

With no fit and no great spade stopper, there is a case for going low and bidding just one no-trump, which normally has an upper limit of 10HCP. The alternative is to bid two clubs and hope you can get to game if partner produces a spade honor. The first route looks simpler and more realistic to me.


♠ 10 9 8 2
 Q 5 2
 10 8
♣ A K Q 3
South West North East
1 1♠

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 ClimieSeptember 4th, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

I might risk 1NT on the BWTA hand at pairs but at teams, rubber or Chicago surely 2C is safer. Partner is all too likely to bash out 3NT on (say) SA HAJx DKQJ10xx C10xx or Sxx HAKx DAKQxxx CJx and 3 teammates will take considerable convincing that it was bad luck. Worse, on some hands, suppose partner discounted a making 6D due to your known values in spades (although he should perhaps go through 2S then but would he always bother?).

Except at pairs, I’d want a very tolerant partner here (or one who turns up with SQx regularly). You are a braver person than I am here although a much better player as well of course.



bobby wolffSeptember 4th, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Hi Iain,

Nothing succeeds like success and your examples tell the story.

Yes for matchpoints and for winding up in a partscore, the lure of playing a higher scoring one where 1NT making two is more than three of a minor just making, to respond 1NT is probably the most practical choice. However, when (as you say) IMPs or rubber bridge (Chicago) is at stake and possible game contracts lurk, the subject South hand is sometimes worth more than a 1NT response and the spade holding, while not at all perfect for NT (no real stop) sometimes opposite shortness (likely on the bidding), can produce (as you have aptly described) a game.

The key with doing well in any bridge partnership is respect between the partners. In turn, being able to handle the difficult fits rather than the easy ones should enable that partnership to grow, but while doing, both partners need to see the problems, not play results and while doing, get on the same wave length, which should achieve the aforementioned goal.

Thanks, as always for your cogent thoughts.

John Howard GibsonSeptember 4th, 2012 at 3:52 pm

HBJ : What on earth is going on here ? Declarer it seems has 9 tricks on top : 3S, 3D, 2H and 1C established by trick 3.
Once in with a spade all declare has to do is exhaust East of spades ( either he has 2 or 3) and West of diamonds ( having 2 or 3) and then throw West in with a spade. Now only a heart or club can be led putting declarer in to enjoy his 3 winners.
This line will work if East/West spade/diamond suits are the other way round.

Jeff SSeptember 4th, 2012 at 6:19 pm

I like HBJ’s suggestion of going ahead and playing the third spade. You give up your way back to the board from hand, but if spades lie as they do, you don’t need it, you can still throw in either West or East while discarding the JH. Meanwhile, you pick up the 3-3 split.

If East has four spades to go with his four diamonds, there is nothing you can do anyway, so nothing lost (possible, as I don’t think West in fourth chair could have said anything even with five hearts and he heard South bid hearts, so he may have led the KC in any case to get a look at the board).

bobby wolffSeptember 5th, 2012 at 12:15 am

Hi HBJ and Jeff S,

Happy to report that everyone is right, exactly opposite of the “Orient Express” where everyone was guilty.

This is one of those bridge hands which can make a reader dizzy trying to figure out entries, who is on lead, how many tricks to need to take, and etc.

I am thankful I do not have to go further, but to thank you all.