Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.

Edward de Bono

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



When you are short of entries to a hand, a little lateral thinking may get you to the position you require. Today's deal provides an example.

Against four hearts West led the diamond king and ace, on which the seven then two from East suggested a holding of four diamonds. Declarer played low from dummy on West’s switch to the club four, and East won with the club king as declarer followed low. East now carefully returned a club to South’s queen, and after drawing trump, declarer had to rely on the spade queen dropping. It didn’t; and down went the game.

South’s play lacked imagination. We can all see that if the spade queen drops, declarer is home. But there is a second string to declarer’s bow, which he failed to consider. If South had unblocked his club queen under the king at trick three, the opportunity to finesse West for the club jack is a valid possibility if the spade queen fails to oblige.

This unblock will also come up in positions such as the doubleton queen facing A-9-2 or K-9-2, when West leads the jack and East takes the trick with his high honor. Unblocking the queen leaves a finesse against the 10.

Incidentally, East did well to return a club to South’s queen at trick four. On a major-suit return, South would have won, drawn trump, and tested the spades. Then he can run the rest of the trumps and squeeze West in the black suits.

It would be nice for North to be able to make a support double of two diamonds, not to show extras, but three-card spade support. That lets the simple raise to two spades show four trumps, often critical in deciding what level to compete to. Without such an agreement, I'd guess to pass as South. Doubling for takeout now would require at least the heart queen in addition to my values.


♠ J 7 6 5 2
 8 7 4
 Q 6
♣ A 10 5
South West North East
1♣ Pass
1♠ 2 Pass 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


Howard Bigot-JohnsonAugust 17th, 2013 at 10:44 am

HBJ : If my partner failed to unblock the queen I would be most unhappy. It seems obvious to me that keeping the queen for an easy winner is magical thinking. Declarer can neither get to dummy’s club ace or take a finesse in clubs ( against the jack ).
They always say in bridge look for ways of increasing/combining your chances. The unblocking of the queen stops East from returning a club ( to avoid finessing himself or his own partner ). So now declarer has his
two chances of making the contract as you so rightly pointed out.
A very instructive hand indeed.

David WarheitAugust 17th, 2013 at 11:45 am

A simple case of a declarer blessed with “too much stuff”. If his club holding had been Jx instead of Qx, I suspect that he would have had little difficulty unblocking the jack.

David WarheitAugust 17th, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Howard: by dropping the CQ, S actually has 3 ways to make his contract: a) drop the SQ, b) finesse W for the CJ, and c) squeeze a defender who has both the double-guarded SQ and the CJ. True, if it is E who has specifically Qxx of S & the CJ, S will have to guess whether to try b or c.

Bobby WolffAugust 17th, 2013 at 6:11 pm

To HBJ and David,

All three very wise offerings, leaving me with nothing more to say.

Did I overhear anyone say, “thank goodness for that”?

Patrick CheuAugust 18th, 2013 at 8:42 am

Hi Bobby,how do we get to four hearts on this hand (if possible)for North/South?N 102 K109 10643 10753 E 54 5 QJ92 AKQJ64 S AQJ3 AQJ8764 7 8 (4 7 11)W K9876 32 AK85 92.(nv all).N pass E 1C S 1H(mind elsewhere) W 1S N pass~E 2C S 2H(still in a trance,3H or x?)W 3C N pass~E pass S 3H-pass out +170.How would you bid the South hand?Five clubs does make EW way.Your thoughts would be much appreciated~regards Patrick.

Patrick CheuAugust 18th, 2013 at 8:49 am

Hi Bobby,five N/S pairs out of 13 got to game in Hearts,and three E/W pairs got to 5C~Patrick.

Iain ClimieAugust 18th, 2013 at 8:53 am

HI Patrick,

We’ll get sound advise from Bobby, but are you sure you want to reach 4H as East might bid 4N over it, showing clubs and diamonds with the latter shorter, and reach 5C / 5D? I must admit that I’d double then bid 4H; 2nd choice 4H straight away, 3rd choice 4H on the 2nd round. I don’t think that giving opponents too much room to exchange info here is sensible.

How good, bad or otherwise was the score of +170 by the way?

Iain ClimieAugust 18th, 2013 at 8:54 am

OK, advice!

Patrick CheuAugust 18th, 2013 at 9:29 am

Hi Iain,Thanks for you comment,+170 was worth 14-10,average plus to NS.I was disappointed by my poor bidding perhaps through lack of concentration as the board came ‘too early’ in the session.Concentration is all important in any game or sports.Maybe Bobby can enlighten us…regards~Patrick.

Bobby WolffAugust 18th, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Hi Patrick & Iain,

The primary lesson to be learned with Patrick’s offered hand is that any way one looks at it, the game of bridge is certainly the master and all of us are merely players.

On the one hand (if you’ll excuse the pun) there is one terrific collection of 13 cards at the table, of course, the 4-7-1-1 almost worth a GF opening, but probably not chosen, likely for tactical reasons.

The strong hand, can indeed make 10 tricks in hearts with ease, only held to 10 (instead of 11) by the king of spades being (for NS) in the wrong hand. That same spade finesse for EW (low to the king) enables them to make a game in either minor suit (the 4-1 diamond break makes 5 diamonds a more difficult contract to play than 5 clubs).

The above analysis when brought to the table is what mainly distinguishes bridge from other mind games such as chess which does not have any luck or unseen factor which is not transparent at the table (other than possible intimidation or some such mind games).

Therefore when NS shows good judgment and bids the normal 4 hearts, but then EW competes to a minor suit game they will wind up making it (certainly 5 clubs and likely 5 diamonds), although the probable reason is being a good sacrifice against the opponents, with Dame Fortune, then granting a windfall make, thanks to the location of the spade A.

However South chooses to bid his giraffe, (Terence Reese’s apt description of a 7-4-1-1 distribution) EW may show a winning mentality by one or the other opting to bid 5 of a minor which rings the bell. So when, as Patrick describes it, NS are slow to never climb up to 4 hearts, if they either win the contract short of game or sell out to their opponents at a minor suit part score, they will, by accident or luck, be granted a better matchpoint or IMP result than they deserve.

Edgar Kaplan said it best when he described the difference between daring and foolhardy is directly tied to the result, meaning that when EW go on to 5 of a minor after NS have bid 4 hearts, their action will be thought of as daring.

And so it goes, leading to a 3rd quote (never made) from the Bard himself who might have said if contract bridge would have been discovered 3 or 4 hundred years earlier, the result on this hand is “signifying nothing”!

As to lessons learned, yes, we all need to bring intense concentration from the beginning to the end in an important bridge contest and without it, we must prepare to vanish from anywhere close to the winner’s circle, but sometimes lady luck is a lady to us and allows us a windfall result as a gift from the bridge gods, before our mind wakes up to the task ahead.

Boys will be boys and bridge will be bridge and chances are, never the twain shall meet.