Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

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

I got a girl, a peach; we save up and go on a farm and raise pigs and be the boss ourselves.

Carl Sandburg

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


The three little pigs came back from their bridge class, where they had been tested by a deal from "A Bridge to Inspired Declarer Play" by Julian Laderman (Master Point Press).

The Big Bad Wolf, who just happened to be in the vicinity, asked them if they had done well. The first little pig brought out the diagramed deal and said that it had caused him fits. Declaring four hearts on a spade lead, he had won in hand, drawn three rounds of trump, then played diamonds from the top. When diamonds did not break he was down like a stone (inappropriate, I know, for someone building his house from straw).

The second pig did better. He won the spade lead, took a heart finesse, then played three rounds of diamonds at once. Alas for him, the hand long in diamonds won the third round of the suit and led a fourth, promoting the heart king to the fourth trick for the defense. (There was still an inevitable heart and club to come.)

The Big Bad Wolf may have thought to himself, “I woodn’t have played the hand that way,” but he would never have uttered such a bad pun out loud.

The third little pig had grasped the theme. After winning the heart queen, he ducked a diamond. He could win the return, draw a second trump, then ruff the fourth diamond at his leisure.

On this auction you should always lead a trump, as partner needs very good trumps to pass the double. There will be time to tackle the side suits, but your prime target is to prevent declarer from scoring his small trumps.


♠ 10
 Q J 8 3
 K Q J 10
♣ A 10 7 2
South West North East
Dbl. 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


John Howard GibsonMarch 18th, 2013 at 11:28 am

HBJ : Yes , an interesting hand. Even with the king of hearts onside. There’s still only 3S, 4H and 2D to make. Either the defence gets helpful by helping to set up a club for the 10th trick, or it comes from diamonds ( either from a 3-3 break or courtesy of a ruff).
Conceding an early diamond before taking the second trump is masterly because it keeps open both options, providing East has doubletons in both red suits.
I, like so many others, wear those wretched blinkers which restrict our vision to seeing one possibility or the other….BUT NEVER THE ONE THAT COMBINES BOTH !

bobbywolffMarch 18th, 2013 at 12:37 pm


Your great author and countryman, Arthur Conan Doyle, became famous writing about just such things. Bridge, whether one recognizes as such or not, also, like detective work, represents problem solving, and from it came such phrases as, (or almost) “when one eliminates the impossible Watson, whatever is left, however improbable, is the answer”. Applying that awesome statement to the bridge hand in mind, one soon realizes that to play diamonds from the top doesn’t work when they are 4-2 (and the wrong hand for declarer is able to overtrump with the short trump hand). Although it is not discussed, a better way (with all things equal, to which, on this (and most hands, they are not) it would be a better percentage play to play the ace of trumps first (catering to an offside singleton king) before then leading up to the queen on the second round. It was not mentioned, since there was a necessary reason to just play them mama, papa, with a first round finesse for the king.

The above makes bridge the consummate thinking man’s game (along with chess) creating many satisfying moments for a good bridge problem solver.

You, too, could achieve that status mainly because you, in spite of your modesty, have the innate talent to do so. Perhaps a larger dose of patience could be added to your persona so that you can discipline yourself before committing on the play to be made.

Show me a player who understands what it takes, how to get there, and what is to be gained and I’ll show you a would be expert in the making. You, my dear friend, are a prime candidate to be such a person and go forward and with it, yours is the bridge world and all that’s in it and what is more, you’ll win more often (Rudyard, please excuse me!).

Thanks always for your loyalty, modesty and overall help and from Judy.

jim2March 18th, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Of course, N could have hogged the contract by rebidding 3N instead of 4H. The play would not have been boaring, either.

– Club lead
– North wins second or third round
– H finesse
– Back to closed hand with KS
– H lead

If West is danger hand, N lets KH hold. If East is danger hand, AH wins and xH to West.

Ten tricks in notrump.

bobbywolffMarch 18th, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Hi Jim2,

Right on and we’ll teach avoidance, once East ducks the 2nd club while defending 3NT, rather than timing the diamond ruff, so that the defense cannot foil our winning plan while playing 4 hearts.

While both plays surround themselves with the heart finesse while leading from the right hand, they are separate strategies applicable to the contract NS reaches.

Timely? yes, Positional? yes, Challenging? certainly, Difficult to learn and execute? you tell me. but at any rate, very exciting.

Thanks for the intrigue you have a habit of adding.

Patrick CheuMarch 19th, 2013 at 8:37 am

Hi Bobby, pard and I cannot agree on these hands at pairs,playing 4card majors n weak NT.I held:J62 AQJ63 6 AK108(South).W:p N:p E:p S:1H/W:1S N:2C E:2S S:3S/W:X N:p E:p S:4C/ and North bids 5C-1.Par is clubs 130,hearts(170 not many).Instead of 3S,4C by me?Should pard pass or bid 4H?Do you agree with 5C?Pard d not bid 4H,cos he thks I may hav only 4hearts?!Would I not hav X 2S to show 15-17? Second hand,pard opens 1H,RHO:2N(minors),I held:A108762 J10 A85 103,thks 3s is forc.,so I double to show 9+ n penalty x of one minor,LHO:3C,pard:p RHO:p I bid 3s(intends it to be NF invite),pard bids 4H,RHO:5c, I bid 5H(?),LHO:X(has 6H)-500.Pard’s hand:K95 AKQ83 K107 95,he thinks my 3S shows heart support, a cue feature,I think it shows spades,only ques. forc or not?Your advice would be much appreciated-Regards-Patrick. NB-4S makes by S,5S by N, 4C EW possible according to computer.

Patrick CheuMarch 19th, 2013 at 8:41 am

Hi Bobby, on the first hand pard(North) held:97 42 AQ104 QJ954.Regards-Patrick.

bobbywolffMarch 19th, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Hi Patrick,

In order to answer your question as to whether, after cue bidding 3 spades, you should have raised to 5 clubs instead of passing 4, you need to make an “asking bid”, but instead of your partner answering it, the opponents instead, need to, as to whether the king of hearts is onside or not. In other words, the answer is too close to call (4 hearts is a poor contract, needing for success anti percentage things (heart breaks and such) to happen.

On hand #2, playing “Unusual vs. unusual”, 3 spades would be NF, with 3 diamonds instead a forcing 3 spade bid, and 3 hearts a weak heart raise with 3 clubs a limit raise in hearts and a double of 2NT to show a defensive hand and requesting partner to cooperate by doubling the opponents with only 3 trump and no good reason not to.

I do not understand why your partner played your 3 spade bid to be heart support, with spades often being an alive suit to be bid naturally. Obviously I think your partner should be quick to raise your bid to 4 spades

Patrick CheuMarch 19th, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Hi bobby,thanks for your invaluable help,especially your treatment of hand #2,3D n 3S,it jogs my memory,of having read this in ‘Raising Partner’by Brian Senior,he suggested reversing the meaning of 3D n 3S,after 1H-(2NT)-3D=5+S NF,and 3S=5+S Forc.,cos if opener hates spades he can rebid 3H over 3D.On hand #1,North:97 42 AQ104 QJ954,South:J62 AQJ63 6 AK108,W:pass North:pass East:pass South:1H/West:1S North:2C East:2S South:??? Should I have bid 3C(rather than 3S),or 4C?How would you have bid it?After 3S I only bid 4C n left it to pard(he was a passed hand).He bid 5c-1,as he pointed out 5c would hav made if KH was not in West hand(one spade overcaller).What a fine line between success and failure, on a finesse!Very Best Regards-Patrick :0)

Patrick CheuMarch 19th, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Hi Bobby, sorry about my typing.Regards-patrick.

angelo romanoMarch 19th, 2013 at 10:14 pm

In 3NT there’s also a red squeeze on W, you have “simply” to give the hand to E in clubs, discarding two hearts and two diamonds in hand, one heart in dummy, then you play diamonds AK and spades AQK, ending in dummy with D8 and hearts, in hand with hearts AQx.
If E doesn’t play the last club, in order not to squeeze partner, you go to dummy witk SK to finesse in hearts as you always needed HK doubleton in W

Very nice hand.

bobbywolffMarch 20th, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Hi Angelo,

Yes, if playing 3NT, instead of 4 Hearts, you would produce the necessary 9 tricks by doing as you say, giving East his 4 club tricks thereby letting his partner feel the wrath of being squeezed later in the red suits. Even if East does not cash his last club, declarer can than establish hearts for his 9th trick.

All valid, and proving that on any one random bridge hand, many subjects can be discussed.

Thanks for your addition, with the advantage of our best and brightest one day bridge stars to learn the basics of squeeze play in case their bidding sometimes lands themselves in less than optimum contracts.