Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, November 11th, 2013

What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to the soul.

Joseph Addison

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


On the second round of bidding in today's deal, South must choose between raising clubs and bidding no-trump. With strong stoppers in the unbid suit and mediocre support for clubs, he should go for the nine-trick game rather than the 11-trick game. Of course this is an auction where North can always repeat his clubs at his next turn if his hand is unsuitable.

The appearance of dummy after West’s spade lead should indicate to East that the contract can be defeated only if the defense can run the spade suit when it gains the lead with the diamond ace. East knows that his partner cannot hold much more than a queen outside whatever spade honors he may have,

Since the spade suit may become blocked unless East retains his small spade, he must jettison an honor (the jack is clearly the right card) under dummy’s spade ace. East can then obtain the lead with his diamond ace and will next lead his remaining spade honor through declarer. Even if declarer ducks, East’s last spade will put West on play to cash out the suit.

The defense can thus win one diamond and four spade tricks to defeat the game. But if East parsimoniously plays small at trick one, the spade suit blocks and the defenders cannot take more than two tricks in the suit whatever they do. South emerges with four diamond tricks, three heart tricks, and the black aces for nine tricks.

Just because your opponents have announced a stopper in your suit should not be enough on its own to put you off leading it. But you have an attractive alternative in your spade suit. Yes, declarer rates to have four, but so does your partner, and as long as he has any of the three missing top spades, you should be able to set the suit up for your side.


♠ Q 10 7 3
 K 7 5 2
 9 7
♣ J 7 3
South West North East
Pass 1 Dbl. 1♠
2 Pass Pass 2 NT
All 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


Jane ANovember 25th, 2013 at 2:21 pm

So in the column hand, by listening to the bidding, south should consider that north could have the 5/4/3/1, or maybe the 4/4/4/1 hand. With south having such weak spades, maybe a raise to three clubs would be best. Not to necessary look for a club game but to show fit. If north wants to proceed, he can. I like to think there is a game in every hand also, and Christmas is coming, but not all opponents are in the gift giving mode already. A great hand to show how important it is to pay attention to the opening lead, and count down the hand. Unless east is asleep at the table, three NT never makes. If north plays the hand in NT, he might get a heart lead, and then three NT comes home once the diamond ace is gone.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Bill CubleyNovember 25th, 2013 at 2:38 pm

I figured out the spade block before I read the column. Am I getting better or is it the coffee?

Happy Thanksgiving to both of you. We are enjoying the herons and egrets who feed in our yard and lagoon.

bobby wolffNovember 25th, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Hi Jane A,

And a happy Turkey day (except for the turkey) back at you.

All you say is true, but because of the nature of our game, all you, I, or anyone could say is also speculative. Partner (North) could have 1 or 2 spades including major honors or in some partnerships even 3 so, with holding such a powerful holding in hearts, it, at least to me, would be folly not to offer NT.

1. West may not hold such a powerful holding in spades (at least it turned out to be)

2. West may lead a heart in deference to the bidding.

3. As stated above a spade lead, if partner had the right spade holding or the ace of diamonds is in the other hand 3NT would be scored up while 5 clubs has no chance.

The answer is to pay off on this hand, if, and only if, East rises to the occasion at trick one and begins the necessary unblock.

Drink a toast to Pilgrim pride, although since Contract Bridge had not yet been discovered, they were deprived the fun we get from playing it.

bobby wolffNovember 25th, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Hi Bill,

Both! Probably you drink the kind with caffeine which heightens your senses.

Also Judy and I are jealous since, believe it or not, Las Vegas is having cold and rainy weather now, but no regrets for your egrets and only wish Washington would have heroes for our country, instead of the graceful herons on which you are gazing.

Happy Thanksgiving!