Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

You gotta have a swine to show you where the truffles are.

Edward Albee

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


Regular partnerships have firm agreements about leading honors against no-trump. One of the more sensible agreements is that from ace-king combinations, you lead the king if you want your partner to unblock the queen or jack, while the ace asks for attitude. Under the king, third hand drops an honor if he has one, or signals count.

Today, against three no-trump West leads the heart king and East follows with the 10, suggesting a four-card suit. Now West knows a heart continuation would set up South’s queen, so he shifts to a club. Declarer wins the king and has to find a way to a ninth trick.

While declarer could hope to develop a trick from the spades, diamonds offer far more hope. At trick three, declarer must lead the diamond eight from the board, as a sort of avoidance play. He is trying to set up a diamond trick while keeping East off lead. This approach will produce two tricks when East has only one of the diamond 10, queen or king.

Here West wins the diamond and plays a spade. South wins in hand, leads a club to the board, then plays the diamond jack, intending to let that card run if East plays low. When East covers, declarer wins the ace and plays a third diamond, thus setting up the long diamond for his ninth winner.

On this auction your partner's two-spade call suggests a weak hand with no game interest and approximately a five-card suit. In just the same way that you complete the transfer when partner asks you to, so here you must pass two spades. If your partner were interested in another strain or a higher level, he would not have signed off, as he did here.


♠ A 6
 Q 5 4
 A 4 2
♣ A J 9 8 5
South West North East
1 NT 2 2♠ 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


jim2November 13th, 2012 at 1:36 pm

I understand bidding close vulnerable games, especially at IMPs and rubber, but the one in this column is a bit thinner than I might prefer.

East – who raised hearts – must have neither top heart honor, and also no more than one of KQ10D. Meanwhile, 8 of pard’s 9 HCP fit declarer’s like a glove, including solidifying a club suit that never got bid.

I wonder if South chided North for making him work hard by having the wrong minor suit 10-spot?

Bobby WolffNovember 13th, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Hi Jim2,

You both brought up a worthwhile caveat, (why bid this, at best, a mediocre game?), but then answered it at the same time. If the minor suit tens had been reversed in dummy, the game then virtually would have been decided by West having to have both the AK of hearts for success, on the bidding a decent chance.

Fortunately or unfortunately this hand is what bridge is all about. I happen to think that South would have been better placed to jump to 4 spades instead of 3NT, with only Qxx of hearts. The swing of that choice is enormous, especially since East would (should) double 4 spades and defeat the hand either 500 or, more likely 800. South’s brilliant choice of 3NT was probably worth about 1400 positive points and at IMPs a double digit pickup instead of a double digit loss.

Whether you know it or not, your last line comment, which by some would be considered mundane, captures the very essence of the game as we know it, and I am willing to admit to my judgment which, no doubt, would have been a disaster.

Competitive high-level bridge is not for wimps, and, at least to me, among its peers, values resiliency from bad luck or just poor judgment, perhaps the difference between a winning and a not so expert for long run results.

Remember also the partnership gets severely tested during difficult times and that, too, needs to continue to feel secure and optimistic for the following hands. Not unlike many other well watched, moneyed major viewed sports where we see some teams bounce back immediately and others simply crater under the gloom and pressure.

Please keep writing and giving your opinions, since more often than we realize, do we touch on worthwhile keys to the kingdom of what it takes to win.

Patrick CheuNovember 13th, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Hi Bobby, in notrumps, ace or queen can asks partner for reverse attitude,low card from par,likes n high card dislikes. king lead will ask partner for normal count. Could south have bid 2nt(13/14),downgrade hand cos of Qxx hearts, rather than doubling? Its a challenge to play 3nt on botherline values, making it would be a tremendous uplift for the partnership, failing would test the resolve of the players, to come back and still win.Best Regards-Patrick.

Bobby WolffNovember 13th, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Hi Patrick,

I agree with most of what you say and your reasons, but bidding less than game with that full strong NT opening opposite a vulnerable overcaller is just not enough.

As you are aware, bridge is not an exact science and to pussyfoot by bidding only 2NT (the 1st go around instead of a TO dbl) is just too wimpy. I would have bid 4 spades instead with Ax opposite partner’s 3 diamond bid, gotten doubled and after -800 (probably) will just try and play the next board in a circumspect manner.

There is a sign in the All_England tennis courts locker room at Wimbledon which says, “One must learn to deal with victory and defeat and treat those two imposters just the same”. I am of like mind and try to practice that good advice.

Patrick CheuNovember 13th, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Hi Bobby, I used to play tennis in the seventies, bridge a bit more seriously in the eighties and nineties, I love to play against the strongest players and big penalties is not uncommon, but being youthful,nothing fazes me. I just bid what I think can be made on the hand. Alas something has to give, and now I am too cautious, but thanks to that W word, and all your recent help, you might have woken a sleepy giant!? lol-Patrick