Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, November 23rd, 2012

No kings are coming on their hands and knees,
Nor yet on horses or in chariots,
To carry me away from you again….

Edwin Arlington Robinson

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


Today's deal comes from an international report. Against three spades Geir Brekka began with his singleton club jack, ducked all around.

Now West was uncomfortably positioned. A spade continuation would allow declarer to fulfill his contract, since inevitably a few tricks later West would find himself endplayed, obliged to play a heart or diamond, allowing declarer access to dummy to pitch his club losers.

A diamond continuation was also unattractive. So West decided to switch to a small heart. Dummy played low, East played his heart two, showing an odd number of cards, and declarer won the trick with his king and led his singleton diamond.

By now Brekka already knew declarer’s shape: six spades, two hearts, one diamond and four clubs. So he took his diamond ace, played his heart ace, and carefully continued with his spade 10 (NOT the five). Declarer won the trick with his jack and cashed the spade ace.

Brekka had realized that if he now followed with his small spade, at the next trick he was going to be endplayed by declarer with his spade king. He would then have to play a heart or a diamond, providing a much needed entry to dummy, letting declarer pitch all his club losers. Brekka therefore dropped his trump king under the ace, trading one trick for three and defeating the contract.

Is this auction forcing? I don't see why, since both opponents are bidding and partner could have jumped or cuebid with a really good hand. If I had to guess, I'd say game couldn't be better than a one-in-three shot. Since hearts feels like our side's best fit, I would pass, and apologize if I misjudged the position.


♠ 4 2
 Q J 6
 K Q J 6 4
♣ Q 7 3
South West North East
1♣ 1♠ 2♣
2 Pass 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


Alex AlonDecember 7th, 2012 at 9:35 am

i think that in this deal the East player had a big role also. When the hearts were played it was 3 from W 6 from N and many would have played the 7 in autopilot mode, but East read the position correctly and gave count and this enabled the very good defensive play from West. Nice partnership work.

David WarheitDecember 7th, 2012 at 10:46 am

East plays the king of clubs at trick one, cashes the ace and gives west a club ruff. Down two. Should east do this? Absolutely. He knows that his partner has either one or two clubs, probably two, but if only one, he’s never going to win another trick.

Second point: south should open 2S. The bidding on this hand is all too typical: south opens the bidding not holding an opening bid hand, and his partner assumes he does have an opening bid, forgetting all the other times his partner has opened super light.

bobby wolffDecember 7th, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Hi Alex,

Yes, after failing the difficult play of the king of clubs at trick one, East rose to the occasion and gave important count to partner, enabling him to shine.

Good defense is special, particularly so since it is a partnership, not an individual, which usually cooperates their skill (by giving necessary information) to achieve a creative and happy ending.

Although it is probably not widely known, the best partnerships, work on their legal communication (bidding and defense) more than they do with their individual declarer skills, sometimes making two lesser talented players, playing as a superior partnership, more effective than two brilliant, sometimes not as hard working, players.

bobby wolffDecember 7th, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Hi David,

I do agree to your suggestion of overtaking the king of clubs at trick one, but what if East held:
s. Q105 leaving declarer with: s. AKJ986
h. K10983 h. A4
d. A73 d. 92
c. J4 c. 982
your overtake, though well conceived, would not play well at the table.

With the above layout, should West lead the jack of clubs, or should South rebid 3NT or 4 spades, maybe, maybe not, but who knows for sure?

Your second point is also well taken, but sometimes (I, for one) do not like to have this strong a hand for a not vulnerable weak two bid, otherwise I would be using weak two bids for constructive bidding, not for what I think they are the most useful, to disrupt the opponents first and for us to get to the right contract second.

Am I sure that I am right? Of course not, but my experience, whether illusory or not, tells me that I prefer partner to not think in terms of bidding close games (although with a trump fit I certainly immediately raise), since I like to promise him or her, that I will never have any type NV WTB which could alternatively be opened with a normal (at least a possibility) opening one bid.

A compromise opinion probably should be, do it one way or the other, but be consistent so that partner will be in the know and therefore better placed to make good decisions.

bobby wolffDecember 7th, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Hi David,

Please forgive my gaffe of: in the first paragraph East should be West.

jim2December 7th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

A curious parallel happens should South raise to 3NT:

– small club to Jack and Queen
– spade finesse holds
– diamond to king holds
– spade finesse loses

West cannot lead hearts (nor last spade) and has no clubs, so must lead a diamond. Unless West is careful, s/he will be thrown back in with the fourth diamond!

– xD won by declarer HD
– HD won by West’s AD (second defensive trick)
– xD by West (if this is the 7D, declarer lets it hold!)

(The defense takes KS, AH, AD, 7D. Declarer gets 5S + 1H + 2D + 1C.)

– if West has pitched 7D and saved the deuce/trey, declarer wins
– 5th diamond wins

Declarer wins 1S + 2H + 4D + 1C coming up one trick short when forced to play clubs at the end.

So, just as in the column hand, West must throw away a trick (this time in diamonds instead of spades) to deny declarer the chance to run a long suit (this time spades instead of diamonds) so that declarer has to play clubs at the end.

bobby wolffDecember 7th, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Hi CAICOTBOB, (Chief analyzer in charge of the beauty of bridge),

The more ways available to increasing trick take, the more similarities detected. Since West needed to hold on to a very low diamond, is it any wonder how the Hungarian, Darvas, was able to create, “Right Through the Pack” and so many years ago.

I bet he could have written at least another 52 upbeat adventures starring every member of the pack and likely 104.

Thanks for all you add and no more scolding.

jim2December 7th, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Aw! I enjoyed it!