Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, February 4th, 2013

We may live without friends; we may live without books;
But civilized man cannot live without cooks.

Lord Lytton

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


Sam Fry Jr. was one of the original 10 life masters appointed by the ACBL and the hero of today's deal. When it came up, somewhat different conventions were the norm, and Fry could make a penalty double of three spades.

South took the lead of the heart king and played the spade king. It looks natural for West to win this — but he would then have had to guess what to do next.

But Fry ducked the spade king — which could hardly cost, since he was not going to score all of his small trumps whatever he did. He hoped to get a meaningful signal from his partner on the next trump, and that was what transpired. West took the spade-queen lead with the ace and, noting his partner’s diamond eight, switched to the diamond three. East won the diamond ace and found the obvious club shift. Since Fry knew from his partner’s play of the two that he had at most four cards in the suit, he could put in the nine. The defense took two trumps, two diamonds and two clubs for plus 500.

West can also succeed by shifting to the club queen when in with the trump ace. But if South had begun with both the club jack and 10, West needs to play a diamond to collect his 500.

Just for the record, nowadays West would surely bid three no-trump over three spades and would have failed by at least two tricks. Sometimes the old ways are the best.

There are people brought up on Culbertson's theories who would lead the diamond queen, assuming that partner won't believe they have an honor in his suit unless they lead it. But the low card actually suggests an honor rather than denying one. (A high spot-card lead might deny an honor.) Also, it avoids surrendering a trick unnecessarily if declarer has three diamonds to a top honor, plus the jack.


♠ Q 7 5 2
 K J 7 3
 Q 7 4
♣ 8 5
South West North East
1♣ 1 1
2 3♣ Pass 3 NT
All 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


GalFebruary 18th, 2013 at 9:59 am

“But if South had begun with both the club jack and 10, West needs to play a diamond to collect his 500.”

Maybe it’s not correct. South puts up the club jack and after queen and king plays a diamond. West can exit in hearts but will be endplayed once again.

bobby wolffFebruary 18th, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Hi Gal,

Yes, like often in bridge, it depends on the exact cards held by who. In this hand, either the diamond to partner and a club back or the queen of clubs switch by West, before the diamond back with a club return through the jack gets the job done for +500.

However, if South would have held 3 hearts (consistent with partner playing the deuce of hearts at trick 1) and only 1 club, the club queen play would have lost an obvious trick, but when partner, after winning his signalled diamond ace, returns the 2 of clubs (showing, if playing 4th highest, no more than 4 original clubs), West can then confidently play the 9 instead of the ace.

You are, of course right (and the column wrong) when the clubs jack and ten are both mentioned.

Thanks for being attentive enough to sound off.