Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Deign on the passing world to turn thine eyes,
And pause awhile from learning to be wise.

Samuel Johnson

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


On this deal from the 2007 NEC event both tables in a match between Japanese and Polish squads reached three no-trump. For Japan Akihiko Yamada led a diamond and declarer took the first trick and cleared the clubs. The defense set up the diamonds, but declarer could run his clubs and knock out the spade ace. When diamonds proved to be 4-4, South had nine tricks.

In the other room Cezary Balicki led a fourth-highest heart four. (Where the opponents do not use Stayman, then when in doubt a major is generally best.) Declarer won the first heart to take the club finesse. Adam Zmudzinski won his king as Balicki dropped the club 10. In this position the partnership conventionally play a variety of signal known as the Smith Echo to suggest that West would be happy with a switch. Naturally, Zmudzinski shifted to diamonds, and Balicki won his king and returned a low card. When Zmudzinski ducked the second diamond, declarer’s diamond ace fell on air. Now when the defenders got in with the spade ace they could cash out for down one.

Nicely done by the defenders; but declarer had opened the door to them by playing on clubs before spades. South wants to keep East off lead for just this reason, and the losing club finesse will surely give the defense the chance to find the killing shift. However, if the cards lie as they do, no shift can hurt declarer when West takes the spade ace.

This sequence is not a reverse. If opener has real extras and both minors, he jumps to three diamonds here, so this sequence suggests 4-4 or 4-5 in the minors and 12-15 points. Since you have no extras, you have no reason to invite game. You would raise to three diamonds if one of your small diamonds were the queen.


♠ A 5 2
 Q 6 5 4
 K 9 8 7
♣ 10 4
South West North East
1♣ 1♠
Dbl. 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


Iain ClimieFebruary 26th, 2013 at 10:15 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

Doesn’t South have a chance to change his mind when the C10 appears? East surely has the CK now so overtake the CQ with the Ace and play spades, later unblocking the clubs.


Iain Climie

Judy Kay-WolffFebruary 26th, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, of course, but why would a declarer who doesn’t see the somewhat subtle reason for leading a spade before a club, suddenly stop in mid stream, with the right percentage play for success?

Dreaming and hoping sometimes works in lotteries, but sound fundamental bridge logic trumps everything less than that at the table.

However, you do bring up a very interesting mind change, but one to which I have probably never seen before, at least to which I can remember.

Learning good bridge is often more difficult for some, rather than others, with problem solving with what is involved, high on the list for the most important single attribute necessary to approach a very high standard.

Thanks for your always clever nudge.

bobbywolffFebruary 28th, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Hi Iain,

The above comment was by me, not Judy, but since we are away from home, we often encounter some computer obstacles which are difficult to fix.