Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

I believe in recovery, and as a role model I have the responsibility to let young people know that you can make a mistake and come back from it.

Anne Richards

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


West leads a fourth-highest heart seven against three no-trump, and East plays the queen. What is your plan to make nine tricks? After taking the heart queen with the king, you note that six diamond tricks will be enough for the game. Is that too much to ask? Maybe! Suppose the full deal is similar to the layout shown here.

If your next move is to play the diamond ace and king, then when West shows out on the second round, you will have nowhere to turn. Even if the club queen were doubleton, you would not be able to play the suit to score five club tricks. Even if the ace and king drop the club queen, you will find that dummy’s club jack blocks the suit.

The solution is to test diamonds in a way that allows you to recover from a bad break there, so long as the club suit lies favorably for you. You should cash the diamond king at trick two and return to hand with a diamond to your ace. Whenever the diamond suit breaks 3-2 you will take your nine top tricks as before. However, when the cards lie as shown here, you will tackle clubs by leading a low one to the jack next. When that holds, you cash the diamond queen, throwing a heart, followed by the ace and king of clubs.

That allows you to make a heart, three diamonds and five clubs, because your communications have been left sufficiently fluid.

Since the two-spade response should be played as natural and forcing, if not to game, you have way too much to sign off with in three diamonds but no convenient call. The best way to suggest your extras is to bid three clubs, describing your values accurately and helping partner to work out what you have. You can support spades at your next turn if convenient.


♠ 7 2
 6 2
 K Q 7 6 4 2
♣ A J 5
South West North East
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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


ClarksburgJanuary 15th, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Good morning Mr. Wolff
In BWTA, what more would it take to get the South hand up to a 1 opener in the first place?
If it were 6-4 Diamonds and Clubs, with KQ10 xxx and AJxx, (and xx-x majors), would that be enough? A bit more than enough?

Patrick CheuJanuary 15th, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Hi Bobby,perhaps another way of looking at this hand is to ask the question, if diamonds does not break, do we want to be in dummy or our hand,as regards playing the clubs next. Hence, the reason for playing the diamonds in an ‘unnatural’ way,or so it seems.Contrast this with ruffing losers with the long trumps and drawing trumps with the short hand,to generate more tricks,in a trump contract,can be difficult to spot sometimes.Best regards-Patrick.

bobbywolffJanuary 15th, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

And the top of the morning to you,

Yes, your example hand will qualify to me, although it is practically and socially necessary to usually discuss it with partner. The original hand (in the BWTA) is close to being OK with me although I would also rather have a major suit queen or possibly settle for a jack or a 3-1 division in the major suit holding.

The all important difference (if some players actually feel one) between the past (or original learning experience, especially an old time player or teacher) is that the partner of the opening bidder has to be more careful than before to not make a penalty double of his opponents, relying on the defensive potential of a mere opening bid by partner.

That practice was already severely flawed, because of the opponents possible great distributional assets, so that the above admonition is not as great a change as first thought by many.

It is now thought (and I heartily agree) that an original opening bid has great advantage in letting partner know that he has values, usually getting better opening leads, if necessary, and above all, with finding good fits making it more difficult for the opponents to preempt your partnership out of the auction and at the same time sometimes accomplishing the same goal against your worthy opponents, taking away bidding room and making them need to be bolder than is their wont, to merely keep up.

Less original bidding often doesn’t usually win fair uncontested contract.

Just be more careful about doubling opponents, especially usually conservative ones and above all, being the dealer (and first bidder) should give your side an edge, if you so take proper advantage with borderline hands.

As an addendum, playing difficult final contracts tends to improve a young, best and brightest young player’s declarer play.

bobbywolffJanuary 15th, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Hi Patrick,

Yes, you are right on target, especially in recognizing rare dummy reversal hands (and they do not come up often) wherein the declarer has to ruff himself down to fewer than there are high enough trumps left in dummy to extract the opponent’s fangs.

The dummy reversal is a beautiful part of advanced declarer play and needs to be in the weaponry of any good declarer, but before executing it, needs to spot it first and, yes, today’s column hand is similar in thinking, requiring imagination which NEVER comes natural to any would be aspiring player, but once learned will easily be apparent to anyone who exercises enough thought about our beautiful and challenging competition.

Thanks for your worthwhile comments requiring global thinking rather than just same ole, ho hum, lack of imagination.