Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

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

An American credit card … is just as good in Europe as American gold used to be.

Edward Bellamy

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

*Transfer to hearts


From the 2000 Spingold, Joey Silver of Canada found a nice line in defense.

He led a top club against four hearts, and his partner, Debbie Rosenberg, followed high. With dummy having a singleton, this was an extension of the Obvious Shift principle. Since a diamond would have been West’s logical switch, her encouragement in clubs showed no great interest in his switching to diamonds if he regained the lead.

Declarer won the club ace and deceptively returned the heart queen at trick two. Silver took the ace and accurately shifted to a spade. When declarer finessed, Debbie Rosenberg won her king and shifted to a diamond. Now declarer had no chance, since whatever he did, he would be left with two diamond losers.

At the other table West ducked declarer’s play of the heart queen, for fear of crashing the heart king in his partner’s hand. That allowed South to take the spade finesse next, with his endplay chances intact. East won the spade king and shifted to the diamond 10, but declarer could take this with the ace and eliminate the spades by ruffing out the suit. When West was thrown in with the heart ace, he had to offer a ruff and discard or give South a trick in either minor, while South still had a heart entry back to hand. (It is curious that the winning line for declarer and the winning line for the defense both involve playing spades at trick three.)

It might look sensible to bid hearts, but in fact with spade support this good, you should simply raise to two spades. The problem with bidding hearts is that it will tend to deny spade support. Additionally, if you do bid hearts and hear the opponents raise clubs, you may feel obliged to bid spades later, to prevent partner from leading a heart.


♠ A Q 3
 J 9 8 6 4 2
 9 7 6
♣ 4
South West North East
Pass 1♣ 1♠ 2♣

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


Patrick CheuMarch 20th, 2013 at 9:34 am

Hi Bobby, a good hand illustrating the principle of Mckenney or lavinthal suit preference switch,when there is a singleton or void in dummy,in a suit contract,for the defence on trick one.Equally, 5,6,7 should be to encourage the continuation of the suit led,depending on the pips.As East, shows spade interest on trick one, me thinks it is reasonably safe for West to go up with the ace of trumps (not worry about singleton KH in East),and switch to spades,cos declarer would likely have good trumps to transfer break in auction. Best Regards-Patrick.

Iain ClimieMarch 20th, 2013 at 10:49 am

Hi Bobby,

Firstly many thanks for yesterday’s comments on doubles and the ethical problems they can pose. Also well done Patrick for beating me out of the locks on possible suit preference from the C10.

There is a further pointer not to duck the HA. If partner has the HK, then declarer has the SK and might equally have crossed to the SQ and led the HJ trying to get a cover from HKx. I’m not sure if this counts as an off beat case of the rule of restricted choice.



bobbywolffMarch 20th, 2013 at 11:55 am

Hi Patrick and Iain,

Yes, the club ten could (and should) be thought of as a suit preference signal, not necessarily because of a specific rule, but rather because of the bridge logic of it. Obviously, with clubs being a side suit, (only a singleton in dummy), even if declarer has some length in clubs (he opened 1NT), still East will, at the very least, have considerable length in that suit, with no logical holding held, which should encourage continuing clubs, therefore better used, as a suit preference. Also on some hands (not all) certain middle cards are sometimes difficult to be used as real come ons (encouraging) so Patrick, your thought should also be tempered to conform to playing that type of signal for suit preference rather than attitude. although what you suggest (at least sometimes, perhaps often) still may have the meaning you want it to have. Remember, after South plays to the first trick both defenders (certainly East) will know more about the hand (whether declarer has the ace or not), but, of course, declarer may still be holding up with AJx even with the dummy holding a singleton but, if you will excuse the expression, we need to cross that “bridge” when we come to it.

Either fortunately for many but unfortunately for others, bridge logic cannot be totally ignored, even for those who want to keep it simple, since the language used, here the defending of a hand with the cards played doing the talking, is just too limited in scope, with so few ways to get across ultra important messages or perhaps better described, as the message of the day, for this hand anyway.

I do not necessarily agree that the declarer is very unlikely to have Q10xx in hearts, since with that holding, leading the queen is the best way to cause the defense to have a serious accident, not to get King small to rise with West (just too illogical for declarer to make such a play with AQxx unless West is flashing his cards to declarer (or declarer has very good or roving eyes), but only by catching West with Ax and having him do as Joey did.

The bridge reason for Silvers rise to the occasion, as Iain has suggested, is that if partner (East) does have the king of spades, as is being advertised, than declarer will need to have the king of hearts for his bid.

No intelligent person has ever said that bridge is not a thinking person’s game, and these kinds of plays contribute to make it so.

Iain, some of what you have added is right on, but East should never consider, with 6 hearts to the jack in the dummy and declarer jumping to 3 hearts, covering the jack, if led from dummy. The only relation to restricted choice is that the possible cover, with Kx or Ax, by East is too likely to restrict (lose) the number of defensive tricks taken, not Reese’s famous developed, all so valid, rule.

Iain ClimieMarch 20th, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Hi again,

I take your point on not covering dummy’s jack with HKx but even the best players can err and weaker ones often do. It is more likely to be the rule of restricted windpipe if West had a singleton HA or Q and east covered dummy’s honour.



bobbywolffMarch 20th, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Hi Iain,

You are only not just right, but right in No Trump, even when playing a contract in a suit.

Perhaps an excellent article for you to write is how to make your opponents your new best friends.

No doubt, it is always difficult to finish #1 in any well attended bridge tournament. But to do so, without occasional help from the opponents, is next to impossible.

Thanks for your sound and welcome advice.

Patrick CheuMarch 20th, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Hi Bobby,I think it is clear that once the 10C from East shows spade interest, can only be Ks or KJ or K10, it is right for West to go up with Ace of Hearts, and by inference,declarer is marked with KH,otherwise there is a lot of points in the pack on the given auction and West points holding…Best Regards-Patrick.

Patrick CheuMarch 20th, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Hi Iain, thanks for your comment.Regards-Patrick.

Patrick CheuMarch 20th, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Hi Bobby,thanks again for the interesting hands and your profound thoughts on this game,which still challenges us every time we play it,and gives me sleepless nights but keeps our brains working.Very Best Regards-Patrick.

Iain ClimieMarch 20th, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Hi Patrick,

You’re very welcome but, on the subject of sleepless nights, at what (local) time did you put your reply on the blog? It is very easy to post early from the UK, where the new article appears at 9.00 am local time.



Patrick CheuMarch 20th, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Hi Iain, I put in my reply this morning just before 9.34 am to the above blog.Yesterday I did mine late in the afternoon.Regards-Patrick.

Iain ClimieMarch 20th, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Hi Patrick,
You too are on the East side of the Atlantic pond, then.

ClarksburgMarch 20th, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Iain Climie’s reply included the term:

“…the rule of restricted windpipe…”
That’s definitely a “keeper”, and of course it also applies to golf.

Iain ClimieMarch 21st, 2013 at 11:04 am

Hi Clarksburg, and thanks for the kind comment. In my younger, grumpier days (I had a 25 year break from the game) I had a host of such phrases. Describing one partner as a “Front row lemming” was one of my meaner ones but I’m much better now (I hope).


bobbywolffMarch 21st, 2013 at 11:18 pm

Hi Iain,

Being the eternal optimist, I would assume that anything or anyone in the front row can’t be all bad.

The only trouble with being a lemming is, if one, he or she must learn to swim, especially in the Arctic.

Bob HerremanMarch 24th, 2013 at 8:42 am

“Since a diamond would have been West’s logical switch,…”

I do not understand this.

Can you help me Mr Wolf.
For me, the Obvious Shift is spades: into the streght of dummy… that is waht I was teached.

Could you explain please.