Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Exit, pursued by a bear.

William Shakespeare

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


Goldilocks heard the sounds of the bears arguing as they came back from the local duplicate, and as usual Papa Bear was defending himself against his wife's criticism.

While Goldilocks put the porridge on the table, she asked what was the cause of the fight, and the following hand was produced.

Three no-trump was the popular contract, and West led the fourth highest spade at every table. Where Papa Bear was declarer, he ducked the first spade in dummy. East won the king and returned the eight to the jack and queen. He ducked in dummy again and West carefully continued with the five, concealing the three. Now Papa Bear threw a club from hand and ran the diamonds, West pitching two clubs and a heart while East threw three clubs. Papa next played a club, and West cashed out for down one.

Mama Bear correctly remarked that East’s return of the spade eight made it highly likely that spades were originally 5-3, so that it would have been better to take the heart finesse instead of playing on clubs, while Papa insisted that this would simply have led to two down.

Goldilocks caught Baby Bear’s eye, and asked him how he had declared the hand.

He proudly responded: ‘I ran the diamonds, discarding a club from hand. When West pitched a heart, I cashed both hearts and would have shifted to clubs if no queen had appeared. That makes the contract unless West has the club ace and East the guarded heart queen.’

Don't panic and pass. Your partner cannot convert a takeout double into penalties on an auction like this. His second double shows extras, but is still geared to takeout. Since you are unsuitable for defense and have nothing but a fifth club to show, just rebid three clubs. Incidentally, if your clubs were headed by the ace, you would have enough to drive to game, perhaps with a cue-bid of three diamonds.


♠ K 8 2
 6 5 3
 10 6
♣ 10 9 7 5 4
South West North East
1 Dbl. Pass
2♣ 2 Dbl. 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


AviJune 17th, 2013 at 10:46 am

Hi Mr Wolff,

I would like to take the opportunity to thank you again for your great column. It is a pleasure to read it.
If possible, i would like your advice (and perhaps from others on this forum) on how to play a hand.
Dealer holds A73, 762, ATx, KJxx, and partner has J84, KQ, QJ9x, AQxx.
I believe that using most methods, Partner will be playing 3NT, and recieves a small (5) heart lead to the J and Q (or K).
what is the best chance to come to 9 tricks if hearts are 5-3?
If opps play Smith echo, you are doomed so let’s assume they don’t 🙂

Bobby WolffJune 17th, 2013 at 11:52 am

Hi Avi,

Assuming you are sure (or 90%+) that the opening leader has 5 hearts and that you are playing IMPs or rubber bridge (where making an overtrick(s) is not important, run three of your four clubs retaining an entry to hand, ending in hand, and then decide whether you will take the diamond finesse, which if onside will allow you to take at least nine tricks and probably ten by force, but also a consideration if, as declarer you decide, mainly by West having shortness in clubs, immediately throwing diamonds, on at least one good club and maybe more, then lead your other heart back (and you should have won the king (not the queen) at trick one, hoping if and when the opening leader decides to run his other three heart tricks East may get squeezed between the KQ109 of spades and the king of diamonds, if West cashes all four of his good hearts, when he , by force, has to then lead a pointed suit at trick nine and chooses a spade then up with the ace and when the 4th club is led back to your hand East will be squeezed in spades and diamonds as you have discarded three high diamonds from hand on the good hearts.

In the absence of this specific holding you will be better off just taking a diamond finesse and hoping for hearts to have been 4-4 or, of course the diamond finesse right after all.

I do not think that Smith Echo is a factor since hearts will be continued regardless, if the diamond finesse loses. Most times it is better to accept your fate rather than take an exotic line and find out that magically the diamond finesse was always working.

Thank you for the kind words about the column and good luck.

jim2June 17th, 2013 at 12:20 pm

The cooking smells from the Big Bad Wolf’s lair (that’s just one “f”, mind) beckoned in all his friends.

What happened, they asked, that you’re serving such a wonderful stew?

Well, he began, I sat down as East at the bridge table with that insufferable know-it-all little little bear and got dealt:

S K832
H Q53
D 106
C A975

He set out the rest of the hand and related how his opponents had bid to 3N and his partner had led the 4S.

Well, I knew that bratty bear was practically destined to make the hand, the wolf began The spades were 4-4 so all he had to do was knock out my AC and he had 9 tricks. Heck, if he risked the heart finesse, he had 10!

So, I decided that if I could not set that smug little brat myself, maybe he could do it for me.

I simply led back the 8S and watched him jump into pot all by himself!

That’s amazing, one said as he filled up a plate.

Not all that amazing, replied the wolf (still just one “f”). I could have had:

S K832
H 53
D 106
C A10975

Then I would ave got to see the look on that cub’s face when I won the AC and led my concealed spade over to partner to cash the QH!

Iain ClimieJune 17th, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Hi Folks,

If east leads back the S2 at T2 and West covers the SJ then hides the S3, declarer “knows” it is safe to knock out the CA – it is hardly likely that such a play will seriously fool West into an error. This is perhaps just a mirror of Jim2’s comment.



Bobby WolffJune 17th, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Hi Jim2 and Iain,

Yes, you both are right on with your analysis and the often necessity for high level mind games with particularly thoughtful and competent declarers.

Some players live for that opportunity to knock off a mammoth and would regard a success as equivalent to sweet talking Marilyn Monroe (before she died) into submission.

Play and imagine on and what is more, “You’ll be a man, my son”.

And to Jim2, that second f of mine is critical to me, allowing me to deny wrongdoing, especially when either little Red Riding Hood or a lesser constructed pig’s house is in the vicinity.

Bob HerremanJune 20th, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Tx Mr Wollf for your very instructive daily comumn.

Concerns: BWA…
As South I would have responded 1S to partner’s first double… Would that really be wrong ?