Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

‘Will you walk into my parlor?’
Said the Spider to the Fly….

Mary Howitt

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



Any contract that will make if a finesse succeeds cannot be considered hopeless. Sometimes, though, the auction will tell you that there has to be some better chance because the bidding has converted your 50 percent play into a no-hoper. Put yourself in South's shoes to see if you can spot the improvement.

When Denmark played Canada in the Venice Cup a decade ago, both declarers (Francine Cimon and Trine Bilde) reached three no-trump and knew that the auction had indicated that the heart finesse would fail. They ducked the first two clubs and worked out that West had the long club from the defensive signals.

They won the third club and decided against trying to find a favorable heart distribution (such as playing East for the singleton or doubleton jack). Instead, they cashed the diamond ace and king, then the two top spades, and exited with the fourth club. At this point West had nothing but hearts left and had to lead into declarer’s acequeen to concede the ninth trick.

As you can see, the natural play might seem to be for declarer to win the second or third round of clubs and cash all the spade winners, but then there is no way back to hand to endplay West in clubs. To succeed, declarer needs to find West with relatively short spades and diamonds; but the auction has made that virtually a racing certainty.

Jumps by passed hands facing an overcall should not be natural and weak. North would have opened two spades or would have bid one spade over one heart; so pre-empting by a passed hand makes no sense. A far better agreement to have is that the jump is a fit jump — a classic hand would be five spades to the ace-queen, plus four small hearts. With a minimum, you should therefore sign off in three hearts.


♠ 9 6
 K J 9 7 3
 10 4
♣ K Q J 10
South West North East
Pass 1
1 Pass 2♠ 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


bruce karlsonApril 10th, 2013 at 11:24 am

Could I be forgiven for taking the CA at trick 1 in anticipation of E having 3 to the 10??

P.S. That call for a cab you hear is me in dummy after taking all my spades to set the stage for my “brilliant” end play. I would have lots of company but that would be small solace. Thanks for again pointing out how easy it is if one simply takes the time to think it through. My former SEAL friend would always make it as SEALs plan “ops” from beginning to end taking no unnecessary risk.

jim2April 10th, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Bruce –

Actually, if you did take the AC at Trick 1 on the given layout, you wouldn’t need that cab.

bruce karlsonApril 10th, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Thanks Jim. I would have stumbled into the winning play. There is hope but it is fading fast..

Iain ClimieApril 10th, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Hi Bobby, Gents,

Two other points strike me as worth noting here, both on the opening lead. The first is that such a lead could be KQJ10(x), KQJx(x) or KQJ with the last less likely, risking declarer having e.g. CA109xx and firing one straight back. It clearly won’t be KQ, KQ10x or KQ10 but might at a pinch be KQ10xx.

The second point is when to shy away from a lead of one’s own suit (of this sort of quality) without a clear alternative. Curiously many would lead a heart holding HQ not HK at least unless the clubs were this solid but how often is it worth risking a H into the AQ against the risk that declarer has only one stop. Are there any useful guidelines here evven though the column hand is clear cut? If north had raised to 2N not 3N and south went on, does this suggest more caution?



Bruce KarlsonApril 10th, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Should have written “a winning play” rather than “the…” as success is hardly guaranteed. The column way seems to have a lock on the lock.

How about a bridge cruise BW/JW?? Tampa/Fort Lauderdale beckon. Almost a guaranteed “full boat” and a great time…

bobbywolffApril 10th, 2013 at 10:24 pm

Hi Bruce,

While Jim2 may have properly forecasted your bridge future, if you would have gobbled up the first club, instead of the third, he might not have been suggesting that by not needing that cab, your partner would have given you the “bum’s rush”, still by failing we (and I mean all of us, certainly including myself) sometimes will be goaded into learning by becoming embarrassed in front of our friends. I can easily prevent that happening to me, by simply stating I have very few friends left so my embarrassment may be less.

In actuality two important learning experiences occur on this hand. By remembering the bidding (West’s 1 heart overcall) and then seeing the play to the first 2 clubs with East not giving a come on holding only 3 while with 10xxx he would and should offer encouragement since he could have little left to which he wanted a switch. Also the correct “book play” by East is to, after the club king holds, then to play the 10 next, followed by the queen which to his partner would show solidity. The unfortunate result is that partner did not need to know that, but declarer will be grateful.

The second piece of learning has to do with “counting the hand” aka “the hallmark of the expert”. Once West shows up with 4 clubs and therefore inferentially 5 hearts he will have only 4 cards left which, as we all see go away when declarer takes both high diamonds and two rounds of spades. It was lucky for declarer, but then again he took advantage of that fortune and made his contract.

“Little by little we can do great things”, even if we start out by being ushered out the door with some help from others.

Possibly Judy and I may be talked into doing a bridge cruise, but first we need a call from a cruise line since Judy does the telephone talking because of my very poor hearing (even with hearing aids). I did a few of those on both the QE2 and the Seaboard line in my previous life, but that was years ago. If someone is interested and you know how to contact them and the publicity will get enough people to sail, we may have, to quote Humphrey Bogart from Casablanca, “The beginning of a beautiful friendship”.

bobbywolffApril 10th, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Hi Iain,

The asterisk in the column inferentially implies that NS are playing weak NT openings, 12-14, making a 1NT rebid 15-17.

The answer to your question is what makes the playing of bridge sometimes a random guess. The opposing auction indicates at least 10 (or perhaps a good 9) to come down in dummy, but your guess with the various holdings you might have is as good as mine. Please understand, first there is no requirement that declarer will have two heart stops, so partner may have the queen but, if so, since he didn’t raise, an easy action to take, particularly so, NV, it is not likely he has the queen but certainly possible that he does. Here, as you pointed out the club king is a standout choice, except perhaps the queen would have worked out better in order to get declarer to go wrong, thinking East, not West had the king.

Sometimes, just a little off center play will result in slaying the dragon, and to do it on this hand is very possible since, at least early in the play, West will be in control of the destiny of this hand. Otherwise, I may as well be writing to you asking the same questions which you are now asking me.

Jane AApril 11th, 2013 at 2:07 am

Wow, a bridge cruise with the Wolffs. That might even get me on a ship. I am not much of a cruise person, but this could do it. The only cruise I have been on was to Alaska and that was long ago.

I still hope you will write another book. You have so much more you could share with us. I know, don’t hold my breath.

bruce karlsonApril 11th, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Jane- I am working with JW and think it can happen if there is enough interest. There are a few hurdles but the first is the most important: Convincing BW as JW is ready. Stay tuned!!! Bruce