Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, October 4th, 2013

Coleridge holds that a man cannot have a pure mind who refuses apple-dumplings. I am not certain but that he is right.

Charles Lamb

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


Despite the combined North-South high-card strength, three no-trump is a poor contract. But it is hard to stay out of, since North should not try to land on a pinhead by passing two no-trump. So imagine that South declares today's deal in three no-trump, against which West leads the spade seven.

With one defender holding an established suit, declarer can only run seven tricks before giving up the lead, so two more tricks must be generated from the hearts. Moreover, these extra tricks obviously will have to come from that suit without letting West obtain the lead.

South therefore must assume that East holds the heart ace and no more spades. To trick two, a heart is led, and if West plays the seven, dummy ducks! East must win the trick and now declarer regains the lead and plays a heart to the jack, achieving his goal.

Note: If West produces the heart 10 or queen on the first round, dummy covers cheaply. At the next opportunity declarer plays a second heart and ducks West’s seven. This line risks an extra undertrick, but is the only way to come close to making the contract.

Curiously, there IS a defense to three no-trump, but not one that any mortal would find. West cashes a top spade and leads a second, letting East discard the heart eight. Now West can follow with a high heart when the suit is first led and can no longer be kept off lead.

Were you tempted to bid on? I can understand that, but your partner's decision to reraise to four hearts — instead of describing his hand with a call of four of a minor — leaves him in absolute control here. You can double or pass, but should never bid on without freak distribution here.


♠ 2
 A 9 8
 Q J 9 8 6
♣ 10 8 6 5
South West North East
1 1♠
2 3♠ 4 4♠

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 ClimieOctober 18th, 2013 at 11:21 am

Hi Bobby,

Many thanks for the kind comment the other day and I loved today’s. quote. There is a card available over here showing a lady looking at chocolates. Inside it says. “There are two kinds of women – those who like chocolate and skinny b**ches!”

Have a good weekend.


Michael BeyroutiOctober 18th, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I find the defense to 3NT fascinating. First East has to discard the heart 8 on the second spade… That, in and of itself, is a feat. Second, West plays the 10 of hearts on the first round of the suit. And third, I think that West must contribute the Queen on the second round of the suit, or else declarer can duck letting East win with the 9. West knows from the bidding that South doesn’t have three hearts or else he would have raised. If West watched the heart spots carefully, he “knows” that East’s 9 will fall under the King so that his own seven becomes high. Fascinating!…
To ponder all that is making me burn all the calories from apple dumplings and chocolate!

Bobby WolffOctober 18th, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Hi Iain & Michael,

Much thanks for your comments and your grateful and positive attitudes.

Iain’s thoughts about the quote probably are echoed by men and likely more so, women, since it strikes home, particularly about keeping a trim figure.

Michael’s thoughts reveal the magnificence and beauty of our game itself, since it rarely lets our mind wander, at least not if we want to succeed mightily. Summing up, what in truth usually cannot be done, playing the game of bridge is very humbling at every level, including the very top, which continually creates puzzles which are difficult to solve, if for no other reason, than the unusual nature they appear.

Thanks to both of you, and for the many others who are active on our site, for appreciating what also means so much to me, our game of many wonders and its daily presentation to those who both play it and often think about it.