Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Protection is not a principle, but an expedient.

Benjamin Disraeli

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


Today’s problem poses a double challenge. Not only do you have to find the right defense, but you also have to try to protect your partner from finding the wrong play – and bear in mind that it sometimes seems that most of the players we associate with will find the wrong play even if no reasonable possibility of error exists at all.

You are East, defending three no-trump, after partner, who opened a weak two hearts, leads the heart king. Declarer wins with dummy’s ace and you have to make your first decision as to what to discard. Let’s say you pitch a small spade, and declarer now leads a low club from dummy. What should you do, and why?

The correct answer is that you should win the club queen and shift to diamonds – but specifically, you should play ace and another diamond. No other suit has any realistic chance of garnering the defenders enough tricks in time.

However, notice the effect of shifting to a low diamond initially, rather than playing the ace and a second diamond. If you do that, your partner might well cover South’s jack with the queen, setting up a second diamond stopper for declarer.

Since you need to find partner with the diamond queen, you might as well make sure that nothing bad happens should the cards lie as you project. Playing the ace and another diamond prevents partner from making a mistake, and thus saves you a few decades in limbo.

Nothing is perfect, but this hand is somehow unsuitable for a rebid of either two or three clubs. The best call, and one that is only a fractional overbid, is a jump to two no-trump. Admittedly, this suggests 17-19 while you only have 16 points, but your playing strength (coupled with the desire to protect your diamond guard) makes this the practical call.


♠ K Q 6
 A 3
 K 4
♣ A 10 9 5 3 2
South West North East
1♣ 1 1 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


Shantanu RastogiMay 1st, 2013 at 9:13 am

Hello Mr Wolff

In Bid with the Aces isnt it better to open 1 NT with South’s cards solving all rebidding problems ?

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

bobbywolffMay 1st, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Hi Shantanu,

Yes, opening 1NT does help solve rebidding problems and would be a popular choice among higher level players.

However, while holding a reasonable 6 card suit, bolstered by the A109 instead of only small support cards plus all prime cards with only one quack (queen of spades) and that lady also being stronger with her marriage support, makes this hand possibly too strong to fit into a 15-17 HC range. In the very old days when 16-18 reigned supreme for opening 1NT it was a more fitting choice.

Nothing above conflicts with your accurate suggestion and would be chosen by many, but, at least to me, having too strong a hand for 1NT is twice as likely to result badly as having too little, if only when that occurs your partnership may be doing the opponents out of making something by not entering the bidding.

To explain it another way, the greater danger is missing a game, when partner has a scattered 6 or 7 HCP’s and passes, a greater bridge sin to me than overbidding.

Thanks for bringing up this everyday important subject.