Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 17th, 2012

Sometimes these cogitations still amaze
The troubled midnight and the noon’s repose.

T. S. Eliot

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

* Heart raise, 6-9 points

In today's hand from the Women's teams at the 2002 European Championship, declarer was able to restrict her losers in the fourth suit to just one, regardless of the location of the missing honors, by eliminating the other three suits.

Against four spades West led the heart nine. Declarer rose with the ace and immediately ruffed the heart jack. The spade queen came next, then another spade to the king and ace. At this point in the deal declarer has two sure diamond losers and thus to insure her contract needs to hold her club losers to one. It would be easy to guess the suit – but why guess when you have a sure thing?

With trump and hearts eliminated, declarer set about diamonds by leading the jack.

This ran to West’s king, and rather than give a ruff and discard or open up the clubs, West returned a diamond to East’s ace. East did her best by playing another diamond. Nicola ruffed her winning diamond queen in dummy to lead the club queen, (a low club would have had the same effect in this position). Irrespective of the location of the missing club honors, this was guaranteed to be the winning play. In practice East covered with the king, and on taking the ace, declarer conceded just one club trick to the jack.

Had West held the king she would now have been endplayed into either giving declarer a ruff and discard, or returning a club into declarer’s tenace.

The opponents have surely reached a 4-3 or 5-3 fit, with dummy likely to offer a ruffing value. One line of defense might be to lead trump, but then declarer's diamonds will surely set up. Another approach is to keep leading hearts to try to build trump tricks for your partner. The most passive option is to lead clubs, and I think I'd do that.


♠ 6 2
 K 9 7 5 3
 J 4
♣ 9 7 6 2
South West North East
1 Pass 1♠
Pass 1 NT Pass Pass
2 2♠ All 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


jim2October 1st, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Oddly enough, perhaps, but the minor diamond honors made the winning line hard for me to spot.

On the BWTA, could you weigh in a bit more on West’s likely pattern?

The answer includes, “dummy [is] likely to offer a ruffing value” and hold three spades. I presume this refers to a doubleton in either hearts or clubs with West, perhaps,being either 3-4-4-2, 3-2-5-3, or 3-3-5-2? A pattern of 3-2-4-4 seems less likely to me, as East could have opened 1C or rebid 2C.

Would you feel West is more likely to have a heart doubleton, or a club doubleton?

bobby wolffOctober 1st, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Hi Jim2,

Perhaps, it wasn’t so much the minor diamond honors which caused the winning line harder for you to spot, but maybe because the club suit is frozen for the opponents to lead. Sometimes, when stripping a hand, the end result forces the opponents to lead 1st and 3rd causing you to gain advantage by either guaranteeing a trick, e.g. Kxx opposite Jxx or by forcing the opponents to break a suit, your holding sometimes being A10x opposite K9x, guaranteeing nothing, but greatly improving your chances of losing no tricks instead of one.

For most of the sequences questioned is always, of course, 3 in the major and either a maximum (14 hcps) or a side doubleton. Not for me since I advocate raising that major to two the first time (instead of rebidding 1NT) with the latter since it is often helpful for partner to know that you most times (except for holding any 4-3-3-3, except 4 with your partner, since that knowledge is helpful in assessing the defense when (and if) the opponents later enter the bidding.

The downside of course is that 4-3 fits are often played, but if so, not higher than the 2 level. Try it, you’ll like it and also improve your play in 4-3 fits which according to Donald is not as difficult as its quacked up to be and more importantly if the opponents balance over your 1NT contract the responder will know that holding 4 of his suit (AKxx or even AQxx) that a defensive ruff is probably available.

Also with 4 diamonds and clubs I prefer consistently opening 1 diamond, even though my clubs are stronger. Not an inviolate rule, but one which has seemed to work for me, possibly when necessary to respond to partner’s negative double over intervention by the opponents.

jim2October 1st, 2012 at 4:12 pm

I think my blindspot was due to the fact that the minor diamond honors “froze” that suit, as well. That is, I initially tried early club plays, because I “knew” the opponents could not break diamonds.

However, establishing a third round diamond winner was of no value in this hand. It is that element (non-utility of a side winner because there is no useful pitch and it can be ruffed in the short trump hand) that confused me.