Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

A mortified appetite is never a wise companion.

Robert Louis Stevenson

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


Today’s contract of three no-trump sees West lead the spade jack, and — following general principles — you duck the trick. Spades appear to be the only danger suit, and ducking starts to cut the defenders’ communications.

East overtakes with the queen and advances the spade king, which you duck again. If the defenders continued with a third spade you would knock out the diamond queen, knowing that there is no danger from the spades; but as the cards lie East cannot continue with a third spade; instead he shifts to the heart 10, and now you appear to be home free.

But beware! If you win the first heart and play three rounds of diamonds, West will win and exit with a spade, locking you in dummy and cutting you off from your second heart winner. And if you cash the second top heart, West will unblock the queen and you are again doomed to go down.

Having identified the problem, no doubt you will have spotted the solution. After winning the heart king at trick three, simply play the diamond ace and then lead a low diamond. When West wins the diamond queen (and he might well duck!) he cannot simultaneously dislodge dummy�s spade and club aces. The best he can do is clear the spades, but you can arrange to cross back to hand with the diamond king, cash your heart winner, and go back over to dummy with the club ace to run the diamonds.

If you have a transfer to diamonds, make the call, planning to follow up with three hearts. This, by partnership agreement, should suggest a singleton heart, letting partner choose which game he wants to play. (With long diamonds and four hearts you would start with Stayman, of course.) If you don’t play this, simply bid three no-trump directly, as in our 52-card diagram today.


♠ A 5 4
 J 9 7 5 3 2
♣ A 10 8
South West North East
1 NT 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


Iain ClimieApril 9th, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA is it wort exploring for a spade fit, especially as there is a growing trend in some places to treat 5332 as balanced, even with a goodish 5 card spade suit? I noticed you didn’t support a 1N bid with 45 in the black suits in Sunday’s column but what are your views on this general trend?



bobbywolffApril 9th, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Hi Iain,

You ask a pertinent question which, at least to me, has only one easy to learn way to be solved. Instead of transfers, as is by far the most popular convention played on this side of the pond, my partners and I play 2 way Stayman where 2 clubs is NGF and 2 diamonds is GF. Therefore after bidding 2 diamonds and hearing partner bid 2 spades, then the responder should venture only 2NT (of course, still forcing) allowing partner to rebid 3 spades with 5 and then you will be able to boost him to the almost surely better contract of 4 spades.

Another way is playing Puppet Stayman (PS) wherein 2 clubs only asks for 5 card majors, otherwise partner responds 2 diamonds, however PS should only be played, if played at all, over a 2NT opening because it has some serious flaws when played over 1NT.

Finally another possibility is to jump to 3 of your major suit singleton, (here, hearts) which usually suggests a hand pattern of 3-1-5-4 or 3-1-4-5 but sometimes a 3-1-6-3 in one minor or the other will get the right message suggesting a minor suit game or possibly 4 of the other major with a combined 7 or 8 card fit. The idea is to send up a warning sign of what suit to beware of so that partner, not you, can make a mistake when placing the final resting spot.

Caution: with a singleton king or ace in the major suit it is probably better not to use that vehicle and possibly add a singleton queen to that caveat.

Aren’t you glad you asked?

Iain ClimieApril 9th, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Many thanks – useful thoughts and stayman and transfers are widespread here too. This doesn’t guarantee they are best.

Regards, Iain

MarvinApril 29th, 2013 at 7:24 am

Why not win the spade ace at trick one, then play 3 rounds of diamonds?