Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

The standing is slippery, and the regress is either a downfall or at least an eclipse.

Francis Bacon

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


While the world junior championships were being played in Bali 15 years ago, a tournament to celebrate Indonesia(s 50th anniversary was being run simultaneously. This problem came up for the British team — and was not solved at the table. As they failed to qualify for the final stages by the smallest of margins, this was an expensive slip.

South handled his very powerful hand sensibly enough, but North might well have reasoned that the club king was not likely to be pulling its full weight. The final contract looks next to impossible, even on the lead of the diamond ace.

However, after a lot of thought West switched to the club ace, then the heart nine to East’s queen and declarer’s ace. What next? The line chosen at the table was to draw four rounds of trump and try the heart 10, but East ducked that, and declarer had no chance now.

Can you spot the winning line? It is not so bizarre; West’s bids and opening lead suggest he has seven clubs and the bare diamond ace. You need to win the first heart and play West to be 4-1-1-7. You can test the theory by playing three top trumps, then throwing West in by leading your low spade to force him to play a club for you. Now you have an entry to dummy to take the diamond finesse, and eventually you will establish a second parking place for your losing hearts.

When you failed to act at your first two turns and took a minimum call at your next turn, your partner had every right to expect a very weak hand. If he is still interested in game, you must bid five diamonds. Whatever you have must be at least as much as he has a right to expect.


♠ 9 8
 J 6 3
 10 7 5 4 2
♣ K 8 4
South West North East
Pass 1 Dbl. 1♠
Pass 2♠ Dbl. Pass
3 Pass 4 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 21st, 2013 at 10:00 am

If W starts by leading the CA then the CQ, S must ruff, draw trumps, cash the HA, and then lead a small D. Do you think S should find this line of play? Or would it be more reasonable for him to win the CK, discarding a H & then play a D to his J?

On the line of play given, if you shift the S2 with any S in W’s hand, W must carefully preserve the S2 as S draws trump, thus winning the prize for best defended hand.

jim2August 21st, 2013 at 11:51 am

David –

As I have said before, I am not an expert, but the actual South had a lot more information than your declarer so I cannot imagine anyone taking that first line.

On the second line of play, I think declarer goes down with these hands, yes? Losing AC, AD, KH, and later QD. That is, when West exits with either the 9H or a high club when in with the AD forcing SOuth to later play diamonds from hand.

One thing I found interesting about this hand is how it demonstrates the power of a solid suit. Consider:

– S-W = 7S
– S-N = 4S
– S-E = 5S (though there I see one unlikely defense to hold it to 10 tricks)

Iain ClimieAugust 21st, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Hi Bobby, Jim2 and David,

I’ve a strange feeling of deja vu about this hand – has it been seen here before?



Bobby WolffAugust 21st, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Hi David, Jim2, & Iain,

Yes, between the three of you, most, if not all, of the bases have been touched with declarer judgment and technique, philosophy about the power of solid suits (between the partners), and history of deja vu.

What I may be able to add is that, in this bidding situation, when South injects his double between two bidding and (at the time) unlimited opponents, the jump to 3 clubs, without the interference could be based on a combination of a good hand (HCPwise) and, of course a very good suit. With the competition, since redouble is usually a viable alternative option, a jump in one’s suit is often only a good suit with better than average distribution, but not a defensively powerful hand.

With the above, two masters are served. Your suit and distributional offensive strength should come across to partner, but also your worry about your lack of defense, and because of that, the jump may take away, at least partially, some of the opponent’s bidding room.

Ergo, without the double by South I would choose to only rebid 2 clubs, because of the initial misfit with partner, and, of course, preferring a club rebid to rebidding that mangy 4 card spade suit.

Yes to Iain, but since these hands were written at least 6 months ago I need to do some research to see if this hand, perhaps with a different emphasis, since it is a real tournament hand, was discussed before.

Thanks to all for their contributions. It does seem odd that a singleton diamond ace was preferred on lead to leading a lower singleton in partner’s suit, or even the club ace, hoping for a singleton club in partner’s hand, but this hand did come from a world junior tournament which interestingly (at least to me) stamps differences in opening lead choices between young aspiring players, often with great natural talent, but still learning bridge judgment on opening lead when applied to different competitive bidding sequences as opposed to only hearing bidding from one side.

jOE wHEATAugust 22nd, 2013 at 12:59 am

Why has the Houston Chronicle stoped posting your bridge game in the daily newspaper/

Bobby WolffAugust 22nd, 2013 at 5:05 am

Hi Joe,

I am not officially aware of why they have stopped posting my bridge column in the Houston Chronicle.

Perhaps you will call them and ask why.

I know many newspapers are having trouble surviving in this recession environment and the competition present with advertising from various forms of media.

Through the years some newspapers need to be assured that many of their readers do read their bridge columns and perhaps the Chronicle is now one of them. Houston has always been a hotbed for bridge and has been very supportive in promoting junior bridge and, for that matter, all other types of tournament and rubber bridge.

Perhaps a few calls will help and, at the very least tell them you miss the daily column.

Thanks for caring.

Bobby Wolff

ArunAugust 22nd, 2013 at 11:06 am

This hand appeared earlier on July 31 – hence the feeling of Deja Vu. Thanks to google for being able to locate this.