Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, November 2nd, 2012

I'll be with you in the squeezing of a lemon.

Oliver Goldsmith

South North
Neither ♠ K Q 7
 A Q 8 7 3
 J 10 9 2
♣ 5
West East
♠ A J 8 3
 J 9 6 2
 K 4 3
♣ Q 6
♠ 6 5 4 2
 10 4
 Q 8 6
♣ J 10 4 2
♠ 10 9
 K 5
 A 7 5
♣ A K 9 8 7 3
South West North East
1♣ Pass 1 Pass
2♣ Pass 2♠ Pass
3 NT All pass    


Today's three-no-trump deal was too difficult for all the players at the table. But will you, as West, be able to solve the puzzle?

Declarer won the spade lead in dummy, East following with the six to suggest an even number of spades. Now, instead of going after clubs, declarer (who had begun with the doubleton heart king) played four rounds of hearts, pitching clubs from hand as East discarded the two then four of spades.

Can you work out what is going on — and what the killing defense is now?

You should have built up a picture of East’s hand as four small spades and two hearts, together with three diamonds and four clubs. His failure to discard a discouraging diamond marks him with an honor. Logic suggests that he has queen-third of diamonds or else he would surely have kept two spades, rather than break the partnership communication in that suit.

The winning defense is to take the spade ace now, then exit with the club queen, hoping partner has as little as 10-fourth of that suit. Declarer can do no better than win the club and hope to split the suit. When East takes his two club winners, you will discard a spade, then a diamond, and — to add insult to injury — the last club squeezes dummy! Declarer will end up with just seven tricks.

Yes, declarer should have played on clubs not hearts, but that is no reason to give him back his contract.

Your hand may be at or below the minimum end of the range, but you have just enough to show a splinter raise of diamonds by jumping to four clubs. This shows four-card diamond support and a singleton or void in clubs. Since you have no interest in playing no-trump, you might as well describe your hand at one go, then let partner take control.


♠ K Q 7
 A Q 8 7 3
 J 10 9 2
♣ 5
South West North East
1 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


David WarheitNovember 16th, 2012 at 12:18 pm

As declarer, I would have played on diamonds, not hearts or clubs, at trick 2, This seems to work so long as spades are 4-4 with west having the ace, as seems obvious, and east has at least one diamond honor. It even seems to work if west has both diamond honors.

jim2November 16th, 2012 at 12:53 pm

I confess that I also would have led the JD at the second trick, if I were absolutely sure West had the AS. Maybe declarer was not so confident?

Bobby WolffNovember 16th, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Hi David and Jim2,

Yes, I also agree that leading diamonds, while planning to finesse twice looks to be the more likely winning declarer’s play, especially so since we will be expecting the ace of spades to be with the opening leader.

Perhaps East gave it the old professional brief huddle before playing low at trick one, echoing what Jim2 feared.

In any event, going the diamond route sure looks superior to me even with both diamond honors offside, as long as spades are 4-4.

Sorry for the lack of mention, but it appears since declarer picked out hearts to attack, that this declarer horse wanted his nine tricks so he could immediately head for the barn.

Instead, patience, not immediate gratification, seems to be called for.

Jane ANovember 16th, 2012 at 4:15 pm

How about playing four hearts on the hand to begin with? Looks like one loser in each suit except clubs as the cards are placed Yes, three NT can be made, but four hearts is better, or at least easier for my old brain. I also want to get to the barn asap when ever possible. Lemon versus lemonaid?

Bobby WolffNovember 16th, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Hi Jane (no A necessary),

Methinks your choice of final contract is superior since, after guessing to play the queen of spades on opening lead while, of course, declaring 3NT, if it is sawed off with the ace, my horse will too often be left with money for dinner instead, neighing all the way back to the barn (his preferred restaurant), “and that ain’t hay”

Shantanu RastogiNovember 17th, 2012 at 6:45 am

As long as Spades are 4-4 and Diamond honours are split it doesnt matter who has the Spade Ace. But if both Diamond honours are with west a good Spade guess would ensure the contract. In 4 hearts if both Diamond honours are with West it would become difficult to make the contract if hearts are 4-1.

Shantanu RastogiNovember 17th, 2012 at 7:04 am

OOps- if hearts are 4-2. And the comment is based on immediate Diamond play after winning first Spade in dummy or in closed hand. If Spade ace is offside then a guess at trick one is needed.

Bobby WolffNovember 17th, 2012 at 11:24 am

Hi Shantanu,

You size up this hand and its chances quite well.

Somehow it seems right to play a spade honor at trick one rather than rest it all on the jack of spades being right by playing low, especially if the spades are originally 5-3 either way, unless West started with Axx and even then, entries to bring in the diamonds might make it difficult to succeed unless hearts lie magically.

What you say about chances for making 4 hearts is true, but overalll they seem to be slightly better than making 3NT, but I haven’t done the complete math, since there are too many intangibles for my little mind to comprehend.