Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, July 5th, 2013

The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.

Blaise Pascal

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


It was not easy to see a way to reach four spades in today's deal, a contract that can be brought home with careful play even against a 4-2 spade break. Five diamonds looks hopeless, but when West paid more attention to the cards played by declarer than to those played by his partner, he paid the penalty.

West led the heart three, and declarer ruffed the heart continuation. When two rounds of trump failed to drop the queen, East pitching a heart, there seemed to be no chance of avoiding a club loser as well. Or was there? Declarer cunningly led the spade nine to dummy’s jack, then cashed the ace and king, dropping the queen from his hand on the second round. Next he led a trump to give West the lead and a problem.

West surmised that South had started with a 3-1-5-4 distribution. In that case, if his clubs were as good as A-J-x-x, a club lead would be fatal, but a ruff and discard would not help declarer, who would still lose a club at the end. So West obliged with another heart. Dummy ruffed, South’s losing club went away, and only later did South’s hidden spade eight appear.

West had not thought enough about the auction (South’s cue-bid strongly suggesting four spades). Had he watched his partner’s spades, he would have seen him follow up the line, suggesting an original odd number. Had East started with four small spades, he would surely have echoed to show an even number.

The first question you should ask is how many clubs does this sequence promise? I'd say at least five, not necessarily six; partner can have an awkward call with five good clubs and no heart stopper. That said, you have an awfully good hand for a simple invitational raise to three clubs, but nothing else really appeals. A cue-bid here should probably set up a game-forcing auction.


♠ Q 10 9 8
 A J 9 6 4
♣ K 9 2
South West North East
1♣ 1
Dbl. 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


David WarheitJuly 19th, 2013 at 12:25 pm

South also had a chance to make his contract without help from the defense. If west had showed up with 4 spades, he probably would have been 4-4-3-2. South would then cash the AK of clubs, followed by the 4th spade and then would throw west in with his trump. Now at trick 12, west must give south a ruff-sluff, as south rids himself of his losing club, or if he feels strongly about it, south rids dummy of its losing club. Of course, west might have had more than 4 spades, making the success of this line of play even more probable.

Bobby WolffJuly 19th, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Hi David,

Yes, of course, and you are pointing out various end play situations which arise often, when playing suit contracts, which are designed to enlist the opponents to surrender a key trick, often the contract fulfilling one.

Going further, one of the earlier courses in a bridge curriculum designed for an educational school system, would be to entice the student to think in terms of distributions around the table, which then leads to organize thoughts featuring numeracy and bridge logic of forcing opponents to help declarer score up an extra trick.

And although the playing of bridge will not just restrict itself to emphasizing just the game, but rather the strategy involving numbers, which figures to be very helpful in sometimes developing various scientific projects which, in turn, will help humanity.

But first, we MUST get bridge into our early school system so the process may begin.

TedJuly 19th, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Hi Bobby,

I would have bid 3S with North’s hand hoping the high spade honors would make a 4-3 fit playable.

A 4-2 break by itself is no problem, but I don’t see a way to handle both that and a diamond loser (give West one more spade and one less heart). Can it be done without a defensive error?

Many thanks for this blog. It certainly keeps my mind exercised (although not necessarily sharp).

Bobby WolffJuly 19th, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Hi Ted,

Thanks for the kind words and competing in bridge has a way to keep their players sharp, even into advanced age.

Obviously 4-3 fits have their limitations, but since many bridge hands need special techniques, sometimes we just have to accept not making what we bid, especially when other suits do not break favorably.

Try to play and learn as much as you have time for, and the game will become even more enjoyable later.