Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

A moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

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


Against your contract of three no-trump, West leads the spade seven. You duck East's queen and win the second spade (since if spades are 4-3, they pose no imminent danger to you).

You have five top tricks and must aim to score four tricks from the diamond suit. Additionally, though, when West holds five spades, you must set up the diamonds without allowing West on lead. This can be done if East holds three diamonds to the queen — but only if you take care to lead diamonds twice toward your hand.

Therefore, after taking the spade ace, cross to the heart king and lead a low diamond. East plays low and you win with the diamond ace. You return to dummy with a club and lead another diamond. If East rises with the queen, you will let it hold. He will probably play low instead, and you win with the king. When you surrender a third round of the suit, it is East (the safe hand) who has to win the trick. As a result of good fortune combined with sound technique, you make your game.

Do you see why it was right to win the second round of spades? Suppose you had held up the spade ace a second time. West might then have played a middle (suit-preference) spade for want of anything better to do, and a bright East could then ditch the diamond queen! This would promote West’s diamond jack to an entry.

You have a three-way choice. You could overcall one no-trump without a club stopper (on the basis that East hasn't really bid clubs yet); you could double for takeout without four cards in either major; or you could overcall one diamond and hope partner will introduce a major suit if that is your best strain for game or partscore. My vote goes to the double, with the overcall close behind.


♠ A 8 6
 A 4 2
 A K 9 4 3
♣ 10 7
South West North East

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


Iain ClimieJanuary 22nd, 2013 at 10:10 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

I can see the point of the play but is it really odds on here? You are hoping for a 3-3 diamond break (36 percent) and the queen onside to guard against a 5-2 spade break but suppose East had 4 diamonds with spades 4-3. He plays the DQ on the 2nd diamond which you duck, but a spade is now played. West cashes 2 spades and then plays a club.

This is now going off when taking T1 and bashing out diamo
nds would see you safely home with spades 4-3 and diamonds no worse than 4-2. Against that woiuld West have led a spade from only 4 on this sequence?

Any thoughts here?


Iain Climie

Iain ClimieJanuary 22nd, 2013 at 11:15 am

I can’t count can I? D4-2 is only 8 tricks. It is one of those weeks!

bobbywolffJanuary 22nd, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Hi Iain,

All bridge players, right up through the greatest, have those kinds of weeks and sometimes even months. It is true that when an important tournament or major set high-stakes rubber match looms, the best competitors rise with the occasion and almost always perform up to their capabilities.

Never neglect to inquire, let alone stop writing, since you are usually on target and contribute mightily. To be vulnerable, whether it is in bridge or life itself, is never a reason to back off, not when your intentions are always pure.

Kind regards!

Iain ClimieJanuary 22nd, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Many thanks for this – concentration is all over the place as I’ve just been offered a new and much better paid job but I’m trying to finish things at the old one before leaving. A nice problem but brain not totally focussed earlier.