Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything.

Anatole France

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

*11-14 **No major.


It’s very easy to defend by rote. See if you can do better than the East-West pair managed on this deal, from the stratified pairs at the Memphis Nationals last spring. North-South had managed to reach four spades after a patented transfer auction to establish they had no club stopper, and had also done well to locate the more solid of their 4-3 major-suit fits.

The defenders led two rounds of clubs. So far, so good; but what next? East shifted to diamonds and declarer, Glenn Milgrim, could finesse, then draw trump when he got back in. That was 10 painless tricks and a top for him. Perhaps East should have led a third club instead for the ruff-sluff. Declarer should ruff in hand, could now lead a low diamond from hand, and might survive if he reads the position. But would he? Who can say? But making 420 rates to be very good here.

Let’s go back to trick one. The delicate bidding sequence means that West knows his side has the club ace and king, that both are cashing, and that the opponents are in a 4-3 fit. If he knows that he is going to get in with the diamond king later on, perhaps he can find the heart lead.

Now the club queen and diamond king will provide re-entry to give partner two ruffs, if declarer does not draw all the trump. (Incidentally, even a heart shift by East at trick two or three does the trick — and that is certainly easier to find.)

Partner has shown a powerhouse with spades. This hand is too good for a simple raise to four spades, so I need to find a way to do more. Since four diamonds sounds natural, denying a fit, my only choices are to use four hearts as an artificial call with a spade fit, not promising a heart control — which I would not do without prior agreement — or to jump to five spades to show extras. I’ll opt for that.


♠ A 7 2
 J 10 5
 A Q 10 6 2
♣ 8 3
South West North East
1 Dbl. Pass
3 Pass 3♠ 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


TedApril 3rd, 2013 at 5:44 pm

I don’t think I’d be good enough as West to find the heart lead, but East should beat this hand easily.

After cashing two club tricks, he can count four spade tricks and likely four heart tricks for declarer, which means South still needs two diamond tricks. The heart shift beats the contract any time partner has the A or K of diamonds (or less likely the spade A).

Declarer will always have to play diamonds himself, so the diamond shift can’t be right. A third club allows a short side ruff for the 9th trick and the diamond A would now be the tenth eliminating any need for a diamond finesse.

Patrick CheuApril 3rd, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Hi Bobby, if West leads the QC,and East signals with Jc,maybe easier for West to shift to a heart,declarer plays ace and drops queen of hearts,later discarding losing club,four trumps,four hearts and one diamond still only 9 tricks.Is the Queen clubs the better card to lead barring a heart lead?Or is that going to confuse East?Regards-Patrick.

bobbywolffApril 3rd, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Hi Ted,

Another good job by you of analysis combining bridge logic, with counting tricks and seeking the best direct way to defensive success.

bobbywolffApril 3rd, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Hi Patrick,

The queen of clubs is not a possible lead, since with this type of bidding (partner doubling for a lead) it is usually more important to give partner a possible count rather than to show his highest honor. The queen of clubs would either show a singleton or a doubleton club.

After cashing both clubs, when East then follows with the seven instead of the nine, West, his partner will know that East had either Q972 or Q72 because with 972, even after leading low (instead of the optional 9) he would then follow high then low, if holding only 3, but, of course, would never throw the queen under the ace.

After cashing the two club tricks he should then switch to the queen of hearts and hope for partner to get in with a diamond honor to give him a heart ruff for the setting trick.

Remember that both defenders know that declarer has only 3 spades, surely including the ace but will not be able to draw four rounds of trump until he has established the diamonds.

This hand only shows the importance of fully disclosing methods to the opponents so that they will know as much about conventions used during the bidding as the pair using them.

Patrick CheuApril 3rd, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Hi Bobby,your comment is much appreciated,and my sincere thanks.Best Regards-Patrick.

Iain ClimieApril 4th, 2013 at 8:56 am

Hi Folks,

I think the 3rd club defence may be under-rated here. South ruffs in the short hand and appears to have 4 spades, 4 hearts the DA and this ruff, but can he unravel? After taking the HA, how can south manage to draw trumps and cash all the hearts? The suit is blocked and the trump entry to the north hand has been used up drawing trumps. A low diamond from hand at T4 works as the cards lie although it could fall foul of D4-1 with trumps 3-3 all along.



TedApril 4th, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Hi Iain,

On the four rounds of spades, West has to discard his last a heart and his last club. Now when you cash three hearts and the diamond A you can toss him in with the diamond K and he only has a heart left.

(Of course, if East had the diamond K all along and a simple finesse would have worked, you lose the last two tricks; but taking the finesse is not nearly as good a bridge story.)

Iain ClimieApril 4th, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Hi Ted,

The play you describe is (I think) a stepping stone squeeze from Reese’s famous “The expert game”. I recall playing one of these largely by accident and “feel” many years ago and my studious partner was outraged that I’d just rattled off cards, paused briefly, rattled off a few more and bingo.