Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 1st, 2013

Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.

Henry David Thoreau

South North
Neither ♠ 4
 A 10 9 8 7
 K 10 8
♣ 6 5 4 3
West East
♠ 9 8 7 6 5
 J 5 3 2
 6 5
♣ 9 2
♠ J 2
 K Q 6 4
 A 3 2
♣ A J 8 7
♠ A K Q 10 3
 Q J 9 7 4
♣ K Q 10
South West North East
1♠ Pass 1 NT Pass
3 Pass 3 Pass
4 Pass 5 All pass


One of aspect of constructive bidding that frequently challenges beginners is the idea that when you have shown extra shape in the auction, you are then not obligated to continue showing the same feature of your hand. Instead, as in today's deal, once you have shown spades and diamonds, as South, and partner has suggested heart length and strength, why not try no-trump?

As you can see, trying for nine tricks in no-trump might have been the easiest way to bring home a game today, but South elected to rebid diamonds at his third turn, and soon found himself in the perfectly reasonable contract of five diamonds — doubled by East on general suspicion rather than anything else. Against the suit game West kicked off with the club nine. East took the ace and returned the suit, South’s queen winning. The main danger to the contract now was the threat of a club ruff.

To sidestep the danger, declarer cashed the spade ace and ruffed a spade. The fall of East’s jack simplified the play. Declarer threw the club king on the heart ace, then played the diamond king. East took his ace and played a club. However, South simply ruffed high, drew trump, and claimed.

Even if the spade jack had not fallen, declarer would have been decently placed by relying on a 4-3 spade break.

This is a close decision. Should you lead the club queen, playing for ruffs or to set up partner's suit, or a relatively passive spade, looking not to give anything away? With a seven-count, you know your side has half the deck, which argues for going passive. You can always be a hero tomorrow.


♠ 9 7 4
 9 7 2
 A J 5 3 2
♣ Q 8
South West North East
1♣ 1
Pass 2♣ Pass 2
All 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 15th, 2013 at 11:25 am

Why not “believe” the opening lead and put in the 10 rather than the Q?? The 9 may have been stiff but no combination seems to allow the J with West. Suspect as usual I am missing something but…

jim2April 15th, 2013 at 11:39 am

bruce –

The 10 went under the ace on Trick #1.

Iain ClimieApril 15th, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Hi Bobby,

I’d have bid 3NT as South over 3H but if West leads a heart it is not comfortable. South will surely shed a spade and now a small spade through makes life awkward. South can play a diamond to the 10 and a club to the King but if west won and played another heart it will be difficult to unravel the winners without setting up 3H and 2 aces for the defence. Maybe 5D isn’t so bad.

What is the best single dummy line in 3N if a heart is led?



bobbywolffApril 15th, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Hi Iain,

Declarer must duck the first heart and then play the king on a club shift. If the king holds then the diamond ace needs to be knocked out, leaving our self vulnerable to a 2nd club from East with West starting with AJ9x and down we go. There are other scenarios which also go set, but we cannot spend our bridge life worrying about shallows and despair, but rather instead, expect to make most contracts as long as we are extremely careful not to lose our focus.

The above is why self-confidence is so necessary in order to compete on a high-level since the real difficult competition all have high esteems and feel as if they can leap tall buildings and triumph over all adversity.

All of the above are real reasons why bridge, more than any other game (chess is way too cerebral and being basically without luck, can just be too much of a strain to always lose to a slightly better player, which is not the case in bridge), when lady luck may choose a different person to go home with any certain night.

Iain ClimieApril 15th, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Thanks for this but what if a spade comes back at trick 2 (after a spade discard by south at T1)?

Interestingly South has the option of dumping the DK on the SA later as an unblock if needed so I assume the best line after winning the SA is to keep bashing away at diamonds and leave the clubs alone, not as I first thought. East wins the 3rd diamond and exits with a club (say) and the King wins. Now the run of the diamonds will give 4D, 3 spades (unless the Jack drops as here, but odds against) and a club while it should be possible to throw in one defender with a black Jack to yield a heart at the end. If the SJ or CJ drops of course life is dull but easy. If one defender seems to have Jxxx(x) in both black suits, the endplay can still work in a different way.

I like the point about confidence – how many hopeless contracts has Zia brought home with opponents almost yielding at trick 1?

Iain ClimieApril 15th, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Or CAJxx of course with a guarded SJ

bobbywolffApril 15th, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Hi Iain,

Your points, at least the ones I checked out, are all valid. And….Neither feint heart nor lack of confidence ever win fair lady nor ever have anyone yield in bridge nor in love without a whimper and yes, Zia would be the one to ask in both battles.

Iain ClimieApril 15th, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Hi Bobby,

I just heard the shocking news from Boston. You rightly point out that bridge can be a way of building relationships between people, as can other games and sports, while I’ve seen far too many cases of people dying before their time from disease, accident and even disaster. This insanity beggars belief, unless it proves to be an accident; what sort of maniac wants to add anguish to a world already too full of misfortune?

I’m too fond of chatting, and this is probably not the most appropriate place, but can I send my sincere sympathy to anyone caught up in this atrocity, or who knows someone involved. Boston has a large population who are of Irish descent, and my wife’s mother is Irish, so it is even a little close to home.

With many condolences,


bobbywolffApril 15th, 2013 at 10:55 pm

Hi Iain,

Thanks much for your extra warm response to what happened in Boston.

Obviously it is too early to be sure, but it looks to me like a terrorist move, since the notoriety of the Boston Marathon is compatible with previous attempted atrocities.

We live in a dangerous world and up to now America, because of its far away location and between two huge oceans, has been spared more than its share of violence which up close and therefore vulnerable countries experience often.

We’ll just have to wait and see what, why and when will occur the next step.

Again thanks for your deep concern.