Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Credulity is the man's weakness, but the child's strength.

Charles Lamb

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


Sometimes the most difficult hands are ones where you appear to have an embarrassment of riches, with numerous ways to take or develop tricks.

Looking for the safest way to achieve your goal is complicated by the fact that when you believe your chances appear very good, it is easy to relax and take your eye off the ball.

Consider today’s deal, where at one table in a team game the defenders led and continued spades against three no-trump. South made the apparently natural move of ducking the spade ace until the third round. Then he tested the red suits and had no joy there, falling back on the club finesse. West (who had pitched clubs on the third round of the red suits) had two spades ready to cash when he won his club king, and that meant down one.

In the other room when West led the spade six, declarer ducked East’s king. East could see no reason to do anything but continue with the spade two. (Yes, a club shift would have worked better, but that is far from obvious.)

South rose with the spade ace and tested the red suits. When East proved to guard both of these suits, declarer put West on play with a spade. That player could cash two spade winners but then had to lead from his club king into South’s ace-queen. This line is guaranteed to succeed if East has length in both red suits.

Your approach here may depend on the form of scoring and the vulnerability. I tend rarely to save at rubber bridge. At pairs or teams I think you should pass if vulnerable: a sacrifice rates to cost at least 500 (even if facing a decent hand such as six good diamonds and four clubs to the queen). Nonvulnerable I bid five diamonds first and count the cost later; let the opponents make the last mistake.


♠ 9 8 5
 A 9 7 5
 Q 10 6 2
♣ 8 3
South West North East
1♠ 3 3♠

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


jim2March 5th, 2013 at 12:53 pm

“(Yes, a club shift would have worked better, but that is far from obvious.)”

I am not so sure about that.

Declarer would presumably hope for a later squeeze (if both red suits break poorly) or end play. Once there is a club shift, as long as declarer does not squander the either black ace early, it looks to me like declarer must prevail.

That is, declarer can now always arrange to have five black suit rounds get played (losing three and winning two) and be on lead. Declarer cashes AK D, the top hearts and has a good enough count to throw East in with the last heart for a forced diamond return.

Iain ClimieMarch 5th, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Hi Folks,

Isn’t this a bit double dummy? What if South has SQ10x and CAKQ, for example? East is going to be very brave or reckless to switch here as the absence of the S3 and the fact that West won’t have SQJ10 all point to West having 5 spades. If South had SA1043 he is grabbing T1 and possibly paying a spade back.



bobby wolffMarch 5th, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, you could be right when you say declarer can still get home, but he needs deft guessing in deciding how the minor suits are splitting and since one of declarer’s usual advantages of putting oneself into East’s mind and basing his distributional guessing at least in part on why East switched to a club rather than continuing spades at trick 2, he, at least in my mind, may decide long, but wind up guessing wrong.

BTW, the above is why we decided to suggest a club switch may be better, but in actuality, while it may be, is somewhat far out when considering the possible exact makeup of declarer’s original hand (one not so unlikely holding is for West to have started with AJ763 of spades instead of the queen, with declarer having the queen of clubs to go with his KJ to compensate for his lesser spade holding or even OMG a solid club holding with less in one red suit or another).

For what it is worth and especially at the high level and in important events (usually, but not always) a very good pair whose East switches to a club at trick 2 with his actual hand becomes somewhat solid evidence that the EW pair may be doing something nefarious. BCSI anyone, with B referring to bridge.

In any event, thanks for your comment, but you may be suffering from IRW (imagination running wild).

Iain ClimieMarch 5th, 2013 at 2:08 pm

OK. West could have SAJ76 or AQ76 but these are precise holdings and the latter especially is an unappealing lead.

jim2March 5th, 2013 at 2:19 pm

You are the expert, not moi, but East’s club shift would almost certainly be the 9C to prevent a duck to the Board, revealing the location of the KJ10X when declarer plays low and West also ducks to allow a continuation.

bobby wolffMarch 5th, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes with East’s actual club holding the nine would be the correct card to switch to, (assuming East was honest and somehow decided to switch, like Hamlet’s soliloquy, to others which we know not of) it would be incumbent on declarer to win the ace, run off his 6 red suit winners and then depending on West’s discards, either drop the now singleton king of clubs (after 2 discards from West) or ignominiously end play him by leading ace and a spade forcing him to give you the last club trick for number nine.

Again, for what it is worth, East’s choice of the nine of clubs switch might suggest to me that West started with 6 spades to the QJ and West with only a singleton king, possibly leaving West with only KJ10 tripleton, therein causing me to consider ducking the club return, hoping to eventually endplay West when neither red suit cooperated for 4 tricks.

Jane AMarch 6th, 2013 at 1:18 am

Hi Bobby,

Would you pass with the south BWTA hand originally to see if the opps go to four spades, then decide whether to sacrifice? They might not have a game, and five diamonds will get doubled, I imagine. If only down one, terrific, but not so good down two if the opps don’t have anything more than plus 140 or 170 if they don’t advance to four spades. Just curious.

Thanks. You and Judy had a nice sectional. Well done!

bobby wolffMarch 6th, 2013 at 3:17 am

Hi Jane,

I’m not a fan on sneak up on them and if they bid game then consider a sacrifice. I’m an immediate 5 diamond bidder here, if for no other reason than to put some fear in the opponents that I may have the distribution to make 11 tricks.

There is no possible way to determine who can make what, but my cards, one defensive trick and my length in diamonds not helping our defensive potential makes me believe that the opponents are at least 80+% to make their game, but, if we get lucky, not be able to take 11 tricks, so force them to make a decision now when everyone has to be just guessing who can make what.

Thanks for the kind words and although we did OK, we always realize, especially last week, that if we had played better, we would have done better.

Always good luck to you with green lights and blue skies to be in your future.