Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, August 2nd, 2013

The dream alone is of interest. What is life without a dream?

Edmond Rostand

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


Former president of the European Bridge League Bill Pencharz reported this deal, played by Mary Gordon at his duplicate bridge club in the depths of central France. As he said, Mary is a fine intuitive player, and when this deal came up at her table while she was playing with Bill, she got it right, without apparent pause for thought. Few of us would have been able to duplicate her play — or her speed.

Defending four hearts, after a spade to East’s queen, a diamond to West’s ace and a diamond ruff, East didn’t have the courage to switch to a club, which would have broken up the position. Instead, he played a heart, giving Mary her chance.

Five rounds of hearts followed (two clubs being discarded from dummy) and two further rounds of diamonds saw the lead in dummy in a three-card ending, with North holding the K-9 of spades and the bare club ace while declarer had two clubs and a trump left.

Both defenders now needed to keep two spades or declarer could establish a winner in that suit. If East bared his spade ace, declarer would ruff a low spade to hand, and if West came down to the bare spade jack, declarer would lead the spade king from dummy to establish the dummy’s nine.

Accordingly, both defenders reduced to one club. Mary cashed the club ace, ruffed a spade to hand, and took her long club at trick 13.

Your partner signed off facing your limit-raise or better in diamonds. What now? It would be premature to bid three no-trump directly. Try three hearts, hoping partner can bid three no-trump with a positional club stop such as the queen. If he temporizes with a three-spade bid, you will be forced to bid three no-trump, having shown doubt in the process.


♠ K 9 2
 A 7 3
 K J 10 3
♣ A 9 8
South West North East
1 2♣
3♣ Pass 3 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 WarheitAugust 16th, 2013 at 10:14 pm

No one has commented yet, but I just received an email from Cyrano de Bergerac. He points out that when W gives his partner a diamond ruff, he has the choice of 4 different diamonds to lead. When he actually leads the 5, it’s not too hard for E to read that as meaning “lead a club!”. Life may not be a dream, but bridge often is.

jim2August 17th, 2013 at 1:01 am

I was waiting to hear back from my most frequent partner on the BWTA, and now I have.

How would one bid this North hand?


Would you really bid 3S?

Bobby WolffAugust 17th, 2013 at 1:07 am

Hi David,

Thanks for “nosing” around. Declarer can partially hide the meaning of the 5 by falsecarding the 7 and the queen on the diamonds, but that ruse shouldn’t work, although the declarer’s distribution (his 4 heart bid) transmitted no side suit evidence.

No doubt, the high-level game is often a fencing match between a wily declarer and his opponents, but on this hand your side should win by at least a nose. Jimmy Durante might have been a terrific player.

Bobby WolffAugust 17th, 2013 at 2:48 am

Hi Jim2,

This type of bidding is something like early explorers must have experienced as they traversed the square earth and found it round.

When the partner of the diamond bidder has already announced a big enough diamond bid and heard his partner now bid where most of his side values lie, yes, it is possible to mark time with 3 spades, probably denying any type of club stop but still leaving it up to partner to guide us to shore, by merely making a noise of 3 spades. No one could conscientiously critcize a jump to 5 diamonds or even a 4 diamond weakness effort instead, but perhaps this hand just has 9 tricks with the 6th diamond we hold and, of course, partner showing a club stop, which he had not at that point.

It takes getting used to, and I haven’t necessarily taken it 100% to heart, but at least, probably like you and your partner, can understand why we might bid 3 spades.

Remember 3 spades is the last train before you bypass 3NT so that is always a consideration.

Thanks for allowing me your ear.