Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 15th, 2013

When a person cannot deceive himself, the chances are against his being able to deceive other people.

Mark Twain

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


In today's deal the situation in three no-trump is complicated by South's desire to keep West off lead. Declarer will have seven top tricks once he has knocked out the heart ace, so must find two more tricks from somewhere. Fortunately, there are lots of extra chances: the spade finesse, an additional heart trick, and an extra club winner or more. The key, though, is for South to combine his chances in the right order.

Duck the opening lead (East playing the queen) and win the diamond continuation with dummy’s ace. Now play a heart to your queen — all things being equal, it is best to knock out the opponents’ sure winners first. West takes his ace and continues with diamonds, East showing out.

Since you cannot afford to lose the lead to West, next play a small club to dummy’s jack. East wins the queen and returns a club. When West’s club 10 appears, you now have eight tricks on top: one spade, two hearts, two diamonds and three clubs. It looks as though you still need something nice to happen in one of the major suits. Not so. Provided that East does not have five hearts, you now have a sure line of play for your extra trick.

Take your clubs, cash the heart jack, then play a heart to dummy’s nine. If this holds, the heart king will be your ninth trick. If it loses, East will have nothing left but spades and will have to lead a spade into dummy’s ace-queen.

Since with 12-14 you would pass here, a free bid of two no-trump shows a balanced 18-19 now. So it is the right way to describe this hand, unless you play support doubles. If you do, start by doubling to show three-card support, planning to bid on in no-trump over a sign-off from your partner to describe your extra values.


♠ A Q 8
 K 9 5 3
 A 6 4
♣ A J 5
South West North East
1♣ Pass 1♠ 2

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


David WarheitJune 28th, 2013 at 9:06 am

Just for the sake of completeness, if west shows out on the 3d heart, play the king and then the nine, throwing east in with the ten and, since he has nothing but spades left, he has to lead up to dummy’s ace-queen.

Iain ClimieJune 28th, 2013 at 9:30 am

Hi Bobby,

A couple of thoughts on BWTA today. Firstly, do you think support doubles are a good idea? One objection I’ve heard (as well as not being able to punish RHO’s possible indiscretion) is the lack of definition of strength. I don’t play them but would be interested in your views.

The second point is whether 2N or 3D is better. The former could get 3N played the wrong way if partner had DQx(x). The latter might suggest a much more shapely hand with more playing strength.

Many thanks,


Bobby WolffJune 28th, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Hi David,

Considered alone, completeness is worth the effort. However, often when the number of words becomes a problem, judgment needs to be exercised, forcing the reader’s imagination to come into play, which to the learning process, requires more thought and therefore a better education.

Thanks for bringing up the subject, which could result in enabling for enthusiastic students of our game.

Bobby WolffJune 28th, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Hi Iain,

As usual, you pierce the heart of a problem.

My own opinion is that “support doubles'” is an inferior convention.

Not only the disadvantages you mention about random higher strength requirements and the lesser, but still occasional loss, of being able to score up a significant penalty the horrific advantage it passes to the worthy competing opponents, of when the responder immediately returns to the opening bidder’s suit (almost always a minor) the defense immediately knows they are mirrored by each having 3 of the responder’s initial suit improving their competitive judgment by bounds and leaps in recognizing their poor fit (at least in that suit).

Adding to that, when the responder’s suit is merely raised holding either 3 or 4 it creates doubts with proper evaluation in their opponent’s minds and finally, remember that the 4 card suit which responder holds will usually never be rebid, even after tacit support, causing the dreaded (in actuality not so, just ask Sonny Moyse, a former owner of the American Bridge World magazine many years ago) until his partner later confirms holding 4 for him later in the bidding.

Your other point about right siding NT, to be played from the side of the Qx or Qxx (and how about J10x or even Jxx) is very much on point, but sometimes gets lost in the shuffle because of the lack of bidding room often present in competitive bidding. Sometime fluidity in arriving at the right contract from the effective side is a difficult to impossible feat.

Anyone who thinks bridge bidding is essentially an exercise in exact science will soon learn differently, as he tries to scale the obstacles.

Bill CubleyJune 28th, 2013 at 4:28 pm

What about the club suit? Playing ace, jack smothering the ten, and then leading to the king – nine tenace? I suspect the odds are poor on this line. But it sure makes the rest of the hand easy to play.

Bobby WolffJune 28th, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Hi Bill,

But so would leading low to the jack, winning and having them split 3-3, or leading low to the jack, having the queen drop from West on the next lead and then guessing right on the 3rd round of leading the suit.

My guess is that either of the lines described above are better percentage than the winning line, which you have described and which existed on this hand.

Iain ClimieJune 28th, 2013 at 5:52 pm

Many thanks for the useful advice although many of the players I meet at club level haven’t heard of support doubles. Maybe ignorance is bliss!