Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Custom, then, is the great guide of human life.

David Hume

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


North's first-round call was a negative (takeout) double, suggesting the unbid suits. South responded with a cue-bid in the enemy suit to show a strong hand and eventually came to rest in the 5-2 heart fit.

How would you play four hearts when West starts with three rounds of spades? Let’s say you ruff the third spade, reducing yourself to four trumps, the same number as West. How should you play the trump suit now? Remember not to make the rote play!

West is the danger hand, the defender who can force you again in spades and thereby promote the setting trick in trump if either defender started with four trumps. You should therefore play the heart suit so that West cannot gain the lead. You lead the trump jack from your hand and run it into the safe (East) hand.

When the cards lie as in the diagram, the finesse will win. You play a second trump to dummy’s king, return to your hand with a diamond, and draw a third round of trump.

West is left with a trump winner, and you hold one low trump, but that is no problem. You simply play your minor-suit winners and West can take his master trump when he wishes.

You can see what will happen if you miss this avoidance play. West will gain the lead with the trump queen and play yet another spade, setting up a second trump trick for the defense.

If facing a third-in-hand opener, you should take care when raising with three small trump and minimum values. Here your cards appear to be working, so I would bid two spades, but with my heart king in the diamond suit, I might judge to pass. If you have a defensive hand, your partner is entitled to assume you have either at least moderate trumps, or a nonminimum, when you raise.


♠ 7 4 2
 K 4
 8 5 4 2
♣ K J 9 5
South West North East
Pass Pass 1♠ 2

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 20th, 2012 at 2:42 pm

How should South play if West shifts to the 7C at Trick #2?

bobby wolffNovember 20th, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Hi Jim2,

As usual, a very good question, and I’ll bite with a losing answer. Three rounds of hearts which will lose when West wins, puts his partner in with his spade entry and ruffs a club for the setting trick.

Could this entire procedure be read in advance? Perhaps, but to then finesse West for the queen of trumps the first round (the required play with an original three rounds of spades led originally) just is giving West too much credit here, since that trump play is too unusual to seriously consider with a club switch instead of spade continuations.

What is to be learned from this hand, especially with your time bomb question factored in? To me, there is so much more of a poker element while playing and defending in bridge, involving psychology, than most realize, particularly so in very high-level competition, but the right answer is none the less difficult (impossible) to be right every time, and my suggestion is not to deviate from normal tendencies to cater to lesser percentages, just to insure not to be suckered into a losing tactic.

Thanks again for a great hypothet. You do not deserve the condition of the card migration disease you suffer from.