Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.

Jane Austen

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

*Second negative (0-4 HCP)


When missing five trumps, you will find they break 4-1 more than one quarter of the time. So planning against that is generally not a waste of effort.

In today’s deal, had North’s spade 10 been the queen, a small slam in spades would have been a reasonable contract. However, even four spades was not laydown when West led the club queen and continued with the jack. South ruffed, then laid down the spade ace and king, discovering the 4-1 break. Belatedly, declarer started on hearts, but West ruffed the first round with the trump jack and cashed the queen, which removed South’s last trump, with the club 10 representing one down.

Unless you have total trump control — and sometimes even then — it is more often right than not to establish your second suit before drawing too many trumps. If at trick four, having drawn just one round of trumps, declarer had played the heart ace, West’s ruff would not have fazed him. South trumps the club return, cashes the trump king, then continues with hearts from the top. West can trump in with the master spade, but that is the last trick for the defense. A club return is ruffed with dummy’s penultimate trump, and the diamond entries allow declarer to ruff out hearts, then come back to hand to run the suit.

Even if hearts were not 4-0, this would be the best line — either a defender would ruff in, leaving declarer with trump control, or dummy’s third club could be discarded on the hearts.

It looks natural to invite game with a cue-bid raise of two spades. But my preference as a passed hand would be to jump to three clubs, a fit-showing jump to indicate my source of tricks and to help my partner work out how far to compete against the opponents' spade bids. Incidentally, this hand is not worth a splinter bid in spades facing a third-in-hand opening.


♠ 4
 J 7 3 2
 J 9 5
♣ A K 6 4 3
South West North East
Pass Pass 1 1♠

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


Iain ClimieSeptember 24th, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Hi Bobby,

A tiny trap, although long odds against – West has SQJx in a 6232 hand. On the 3rd H both defenders throw Ds and now South must cash the SK. A 4th H throwing a club sees West rufff high, East drop his other D, then ruff the next D and play a club for a trump promotion! Very unlikely but you can never relax against some players.



Iain ClimieSeptember 24th, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Clarification – a 4th H instead of SK…

bobby wolffSeptember 24th, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Hi Iain,

Nor can bridge writers relax against some readers, particularly great analysts who like the big, bad wolf, huffed and puffed and blew my house down.

Thanks for at least attempting to keep me off the reader’s toes and thus make my explanations clearer, not to mention complete.

Iain ClimieSeptember 24th, 2013 at 11:17 pm

Hi Bobby,

I’m not just picking holes here I hope but trying to show how a good East can unhinge declarer by not jumping in with a small trump. The refusal to ruff causes worry (trumps could be 4-1), then hope (I can handle this) then carelessness (I can just play Hearts) as trumps MUST be 4-1! Greek gifts galore are the result, plus very nervous declarers.

I just wish I could put such ideas into practice or sit West opposite such an East.


Shantanu RastogiSeptember 25th, 2013 at 9:18 am

Hello Mr Wolff

I wonder why east hasnt cared to make a lead directing double of 3 Clubs. A top notch declarer would make 4 Spades and 5 Club doubled by EW goes down 2 against best defence with a good chance of getting away in one down and if NS compete upto 5 Major then a potential swing.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

bobby wolffSeptember 25th, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Hi Shantanu,

Your comment is, of course, right on and deserves recognition since doubling 3 clubs, will at the very least, secure a club lead, although on this hand fate determined that he still got one.

And your more important point that by doubling West should possibly bid 5 clubs in spite of his good defensive spade holding and make a good sacrifice available and even possibly, as you mention, cause NS to go beyond what they wound up making.

Thanks for your comments, which may in turn be an educational tool for active bidding, rather than selecting the safe road.