Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, September 14th, 2012

This were the cost to me,
This were my winning —
That he were lost to me.

Richard Gilder

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


I would expect East to pass as dealer here, then double at his second turn to speak. If South could redouble to show a strong hand, there is something to be said for that action, after which East would retreat to two diamonds. Now 300 is available by doubling this, but at most forms of scoring, there is a lot to be said for aiming higher, since if you bid three no-trump and make it, the rewards are far higher.

At many tables East would unthinkingly win the first diamond and try to cash the suit from the top. That would make sense if South had a doubleton diamond, but how likely is that? Not very likely, I’d say.

East does best to duck the first or second diamond, stopping the easy route home via the club finesse. Declarer has a counter: He must run the hearts, forcing East to make two discards. The first one, a small spade, is easy; the second appears relatively innocuous as well, in that he must throw an apparently irrelevant small club. But then declarer has to reconstruct the hand. Since East appears to have started with four spades, two hearts and five diamonds, he either has the bare club king or he doesn’t. South must cash the club ace and exit with his remaining diamond. East is now endplayed; he can cash his diamonds but in the three-card ending he must lead into dummy’s spade tenace and concede the rest.

Reluctant as I am to lead my readers into bad habits, in third seat at any form of scoring or vulnerability I'd be most unwilling to pass here. With a good suit I know what I want partner to lead, so I feel obligated to open one diamond. It may not work out, but the negative inferences from my failing to act are almost as important as the positive ones. Partner will never play me for a good suit if I pass here.


♠ Q 10 8 4
 7 3
 A K 9 6 2
♣ 8 2
South West North East
Pass Pass

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 GibsonSeptember 28th, 2012 at 1:45 pm

HBJ : This is the type of hand where many declarers ( myself included ) take a jaundiced view of the situation and succumb to a defeatist attitude.
The idea of taking 1D 4H and 1C to then give up 4 diamonds….. so as to end play East is visionary. Success being purely down to enjoying the last 3 tricks in spades : that plan has to be both envisaged early doors and engineered a few tricks later.
Such an instructive and inspiring example for those who tend to throw in the towel too soon.

bobby wolffSeptember 28th, 2012 at 3:28 pm


Your comment is inspired and transmits reality in bridge, the making of a difficult contract by making use of the bidding and the early play.

As was described by Jane in an earlier comment on another hand, “All the dogs were in their pens”. Here, on this hand that was true, but East, by deftly getting partner off to the right lead, had to accept defeat by allowing the adept declarer to also listen.

By counting and then executing this hand is only one of many which require that talent, and the thing to watch for as declarer is making sure East does not throw 2 spades away. If he does, it would be percentage to play the ace king of spades, for to do otherwise meets with failure.

Counting, counting and more counting is what separates good players from superior players. My guess is that the top echelon of world bridge players would take less than 30 seconds to play this entire hand correctly, for the very reason that they are trained (usually by experience and not by oral teaching) to visualize East’s original distribution so all that is really important is to follow his spade discards and act accordingly.

Thanks for your lead-in enabling this discussion. As always, being the great friend of bridge that you are, makes the subject easily described.

Jim2 and David, if you two are also interested, please refrain from thinking that the diamonds are 4-4 instead of 3-5. While that, of course, is a possibility, the tempo of the discarding will give it away.

jim2September 28th, 2012 at 4:01 pm

There is a bit more to this hand, but Our Host has space limitations.

First, if East ducked the opening lead, South must be careful to exit with the QD (and not the 7D). Otherwise, West wins with 10D, cashes KC, and leads the 5D to let East cash out the diamond suit.

Second, if South does lead the QD, East can put West in with the third diamond to cash the last heart. This becomes a bit uncomfortable since West still has the KC but, with careful discarding, I think declarer prevails.

Third, should East have started with four diamonds (say, 4-2-4-3), then the only way to go down is to set up the defense’s 5th heart as the column line does. I do not fault the column line on this point so much as this highlights the need to read the cards right, or have table presence, or whatever.

(On my third point, I just saw that Our Host types faster than moi!)

bobby wolffSeptember 28th, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Hi Jim2,

Perhaps I do type faster, but, indeed, I am not as thorough.

Whether you believe it or not, I, most times, depend on you to improve my future performances by reminding me what I left out.

On behalf of all the other followers, you and others are sincerely appreciated. Thank you!

JaneSeptember 28th, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Hi Bobby,

I am impressed that you used one of my statements for whatever that is worth. Anyway, how about opening the BWTA hand two diamonds (if not vul, only in third seat) and let the “dogs run free”. My mentor said third seat is wide open for weak twos, especially not vul, so a decent five card suit works out a lot of the time. It could also be fun if the opps wind up in four spades, not expecting the south hand to hold four spades, especially four to the QT8x. Yes, partner would not know that as well, but he is a passed hand. If he can’t open, let the games begin.

“Counting, counting and more counting”. Yes, Count Dracula. Sometimes makes my head hurt, but so important according to my bridge mentor. Count, along with fit and shape. His favorite three words, in that order.

bobby wolffSeptember 29th, 2012 at 4:15 am

Hi Jane,

Your statements are worth plenty and according to Count Dracula valued up there with blood.

By all means let “the dogs run free” and howl your 2 diamond WTB opening, especially, as you said, in 3rd chair.

When my luck is not in, I sometimes have a fit, and please don’t mention my shape, but those disadvantages pale to a bridge player, compared to not counting every hand.

Everyone likes your style, free & easy.

angelo romanoSeptember 29th, 2012 at 3:01 pm

If I open 1D vuln. – and more if vuln. vs not vuln. – won’t my partner take me too seriously ?