Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 15th, 2013

Do not remove a fly from your friend's forehead with a hatchet.

Chinese proverb

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


West leads the heart 10 against your spade game. When this holds, West plays a second heart and you ruff with the eight. You cash the trump ace and king, assuming that if anyone is long in trumps, it will be West. East discards a heart on the second round, and now your aim is to make the contract when West started with the club king.

The key here is to cross to the diamond ace and ruff dummy’s last heart, removing West’s remaining card in the suit. Next, you run the diamond suit. If West refuses to ruff any of the diamonds, you will discard two clubs from your hand and throw West in with a trump. After scoring two trump tricks, he will have to lead away from the club king. The effect is the same if West ruffs one of your diamond winners. He can cash his other trump winner, but will then have to lead away from the club king.

Note that the defense at trick two was rather soft. East should have won the first trick with the jack and shifted to a club. Then West scores a trick with his club king. Now the contract can be made only with a double-dummy line that relies on your reading West’s original distribution. You would have to play one top trump and guess his precise distribution to reduce him to Q-10-4 of trumps and force him to ruff a diamond winner. He would then have to lead into the king-jack of trumps at trick 12.

Opinions differ widely about whether it is right to raise to two hearts here. I say no; your bad trumps and defensive values suggest not getting involved directly. If the opponents allow you to balance with two hearts, you might make that call, but otherwise, unless partner can bid again voluntarily, you may be better off letting sleeping dogs lie.


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

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 29th, 2013 at 11:41 am

In the BWTA, if South had dealt and passed before West bid 1C, would a second pass by South still be the recommended bid now?

GregoryMarch 29th, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Hello Mr Wolff,
First allow me to thank you for this interesting blog and especially for always taking time to answer comments and question.
As per hand above I would probably duck first He too since I’m expecting partner to bid 3He almost with any hand containing three He

Iain ClimieMarch 29th, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Hi Bobby, Gregory,

An interesting defensive problem for east, although should North have bid 3NT to turn his HK into something which will be useful? West could have 1, 2 or 3 hearts (4 won’t matter) and various black suit holdings e.g. a high club or a promotable trump holding (e.g. SA98x) or some of each Such as CA and S10xxx.

If West has 2 hearts then a club through will work well unless South has (say) CAK and very good trumps, but West must have something in spades for the defence to have some chance here. If West has just 1 heart, however, then the club switch may misfire badly e.g. South has short diamonds CAK but 2 natural spade losers, only now the ruff has been lost. Gregory has a point about West raising with 3H but I think it is harder for east then first glance suggests. EW are Vul vs not as well. Any thoughts here,



bobbywolffMarch 30th, 2013 at 12:55 am

Hi Jim2,

There is no real correct (or, for that matter, incorrect answer to your question). It is a question of style within one’s partnership. Here, even though West has passed originally, (which I do not think is relevant) the fact that holding only one king (with the opening bid suit over that king) and no real compensation outside, there is not a good reason to bid. However, against certain opponents, who tend to get intimidated, bidding two hearts may be the winning action. The fact that South does not want to encourage a heart lead against the opponent’s contract (perhaps 80% to occur) only adds to not wanting to bid, but sometimes it skews the bidding to such an extent that the opponents wind up underbidding and missing a very good game.

Again, it is something to discuss with partner regarding general strategy with competitive situations, but to emphasize, there is no right or wrong, just do something smart partner.

bobbywolffMarch 30th, 2013 at 12:58 am

Hi Gregory,

I’m not sure about what you are asking, but if it regards the BWTA, please check my above answer to Jim2.

bobbywolffMarch 30th, 2013 at 1:07 am

Hi Iain,

No real educational thoughts, just a will to try and guess right. These types of defenses occur often and getting them right is similar to tiptoeing through the tulips.

Since there are no real guides, only distributional guesses a ouija board may be the tool to be wished for. As a general rule whenever one can either bid during the auction, without undue risk, or signal without helping declarer more than partner he should sometimes get out on a limb and so do.

As for guessing right all the time, you show me any player who has spent time on earth doing that and I will show you a despicable cheater ruining the game for honest players.

Good luck!