Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

The proper study of mankind is man.

Alexander Pope

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


How should you play six clubs on a heart lead? Does this deal require card-play technique or elements of psychology?

The best mathematical chance of success is to win the heart ace. Next play the diamond ace and ruff a diamond high. You can cash the club ace, lead the club 10 to the jack, then ruff another diamond. If the diamond king has fallen, you will have created a home for your heart loser. If not, you can always fall back on the spade finesse. This line allows you to take your chances in echelon; but the extra chance that you have built for yourself is less than 10 percent.

Contrast this approach with winning the heart ace at trick one and looking for a more psychological line. Simply call for the spade queen, then use your bridge judgment to gauge East’s reaction to this play.

Even if East is a real expert, he would have to be truly inspired not to cover this card, or at least to consider doing so. If East ducks the spade queen without thought, then you should assume that West has the spade king. If so, you should rise with the spade ace, draw trump, and try to take the diamond finesse to discard your heart loser. Against any but the very best defenders (and there are precious few of them!), this line has a 75 percent chance of success.

It would be extremely dangerous to pass for penalties here. And to jump to three no-trump could prove extremely embarrassing if your partner has a singleton or void in clubs. Start by cuebidding two clubs and you will always be able to follow up with a three-no-trump call at your next turn, suggesting a little more doubt about the final contract.


♠ Q 7
 A J 5
 A Q 5 4
♣ J 8 7 4
South West North East
1♣ Dbl. 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


Iain ClimieFebruary 20th, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

This line is particularly likely to work if East has both the SK and DK. From his point of view South’s red suits could easily be reversed and South could be pulling a fast one with (say) SA109x. Partner’s comments could be imagined. As Zia Mahmood once wrote, however, “if they don’t cover, they haven’t got it” (BOLS again). If E ducks the SK when alo holding DKxx then the echelon player makes an overtrick – maddening, but these things happen!


Iain Climie

GregFebruary 20th, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Mister Wolf
I have a question on BWA hand. My partner and I playing cue bid in that position showing both majors and at least invitational values and I thought it is pretty standard treatment.
Something like S KQxx, H AJxx, D xxx, C xx or more. Therefore I wouldn’t make this bid being afraid that part may jump to 4S having some extras.
So my question is how would you bid hand above in that situation?
Also since final contract is rate to be 3NT anyway wouldn’t expressing the doubt help defense to start with Cl lead while bidding confidently my talk them out of it

Iain ClimieFebruary 20th, 2013 at 5:41 pm

A stray thought on Greg’s comment and BWTA – what would 3C mean here and how far is 2C forcing?


bobby wolffFebruary 20th, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Hi Iain,

You are right in eveything you say, even in reference to Zia’s Bols tip, but sometimes when only 8 tricks are in sight with almost certain down one on the horizon, the leading of the Queen from dummy (w’o holding the jack) sometimes, but not often, wins the day, especially when that defender is against the stereotyping of what Zia expects.

In response to your recent 2nd response, yes 3C would then continue to request 3NT, but how would partner know to bid 3NT with 10x in clubs?

bobby wolffFebruary 20th, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Hi Greg,

It is dangerous to set up rigid rules in any bridge partnership, since dame fortune loves to create havoc with those who do.

When the partner of a doubler chooses a cue bid, it is the TO doubler’s duty to show his major suits, however when now the TO doubler bids another suit or NT he is suggesting looking for game elsewhere and thus flexibility becomes the order for this hand.

Taking a step further, and with the hand you suggest, the partner of the TO doubler should bid 2 clubs, but over 2NT by partner he should pass, knowing quite well that the cue bidder did not own a 4 card major, but instead is bidding what his hand represents. With only 9 points and not special distribution, it seems an abrupt pass by the cue bidder is best, since partner should be bidding 3NT, instead of 2NT, if he had a bit more.

Bridge should always be thought of as a thinking man’s game with every hand bid, neither good, bad, nor indifferent, but only valued at what previous bidding should suggest, with the current bid chosen the result of the whole auction, not just the last bid.

Don’t worry if the above sounds a little bit gobblygooky, since bridge reasoning, in both the play and bidding, is peculiar only to the whole concept of overall bridge logic which, in its way, is very similar to overall logic in life.

If one is looking for a better description please accept that when a one time fireball pitcher in baseball reaches his late 30’s in age he better concentrate on developing other successful pitches if he expects to overcome the ravages of age and continuing to perform at a high enough level, which in bridge could be likened to once a cue bidder does not get a major suit response from his cue bid he needs to look elsewhere both in strain and level to what should be the final contract.