Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Distrust and caution are the parents of security.

Benjamin Franklin

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


Today's problem comes from "A Great Deal of Bridge Problems" by Julian Pottage, who is one of the more creative bridge writers around. His collections, written clearly and incisively, are aimed at players who are already experienced enough to compete in duplicate tournaments.

You find yourself in seven clubs, on a heart lead. What is the best play to the first three tricks? Clearly you must win the heart ace at trick one, and you appear to have 13 winners — so you need to plan for what can possibly go wrong.

If trumps break, everything is easy, so you need to cater to East’s holding all four clubs. Obviously, if West has all four trumps you are doomed to disaster, whatever you do.

If you cash the club king at trick two, you will find yourself short of entries to dummy to draw trump and run the diamonds. The trick is to unblock the diamonds before touching trump, so after taking the heart ace, you must cash the diamond ace. Now you play the club king (West discarding) and once the bad trump break has come to light, you simply run winning diamonds through East. As soon as he ruffs, you overruff, draw trump ending in dummy, and cash your long diamond.

You finish up taking three discards on the diamonds when the suit breaks 4-3, since East ruffs one of your winners. But three discards are all you need.

There is no perfect answer here. A call of two no-trump would show your values but risk getting too high or wrong-siding no-trump. The only option is to invent a club suit by bidding two clubs. If the auction stops here, you may have fallen on your feet. If partner reverts to diamonds, you might risk a two-heart call. And finally, if partner repeats hearts, you can raise him.


♠ J 7 4
 A Q
 K Q J 7 3
♣ K Q 2
South West North East
1 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


Michael BeyroutiDecember 3rd, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Dear Mr Wolff,
in BWTA I am afraid a call of two clubs may misreprensent the strength and shape of the hand. The danger is that partner may pass and we end up on a 3-3 fit…
How about a Double, pretending to have three hearts?
Or, better yet, how about a call of two spades? Does that necessarilly show a fit for hearts? Doesn’t it ask for a spade stopper?
Your thoughts will be much appreciated.

Bill CubleyDecember 3rd, 2013 at 4:12 pm


Thanks for the Christmas present. I figured out the diamond unblock before reading the excellent analysis.

bobby wolffDecember 3rd, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Hi Michael,

One reason we use the BWTA is to present everyday problems (or almost) to as many bridge players as possible.

Bridge magazines, the world over, have bidding panels where so-called experts (or perhaps just above average players since higher-level players are not always available) answer various and varied bidding problems and then are discussed openly for all to read.

On today’s hand many choices are mentioned, all with flaws, but we (I especially) think that the path to improvement, particularly among players with some talent, is to only deal with difficult and certainly less than cut and dried answers.

Yes, in bidding discussions and worse, while occurring in important events, the best bid available, often a lesser of evils choice, is well worth the time and effort to weed out the better of the several choices with reasons for that selection.

On this BWTA hand an immediate cue bid is usually thought of by top players (at least 95%+ of them) to be a very strong raise of partner’s suit and to create an air of slam may be possible, but the suit bid by the responder will eventually be trump.

In this specific case the AQ doubleton is just not enough trumps to consider such a choice and rarely would either AQx unless partner’s bid would have shown at least 5, which is not true in this case.

To bid 2 clubs is also a distortion which may or may not work out, but so is a jump in diamonds with honors in all suits and only 5 diamonds or, of course, NT without spades stopped.

In other words we are dealing with the real bridge world and not a hypothetical one, where everyone is assured of living happily ever after.

In conclusion the answer given is as close to giving a complete and accurate discussion as I think possible.

I do sincerely appreciate your interest and opinions and hope that you and, of course, many others, benefit from our discussion.

Michael BeyroutiDecember 3rd, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Yes, absolutely!

jim2December 3rd, 2013 at 4:42 pm

I would note that Michael Beyrouti’s first suggestion of a double would promise only three hearts, though I am not certain we can be certain that the “support double” is what “we” are playing.

Two clubs would be my choice, btw. I do not fear being left to play three clubs in a 3-3 fit:

– with fewer than four spades, pard’s 10+ non-spades will always provide an easy response, so assume pard has four spades (with 5+ spades, pard’s hearts would be long, providing an easy rebid).

– pard will rebid 2H with five hearts, so assume only four, this means the limiting case is pard 4-4 in majors,

– pard must then hold precisely five minor suit cards, so if has three clubs (3-3 fit), must have two diamonds

– with 4-4-3-2. pard should always show false preference to 2D (or bid NT with a spade stopper),

Thus, if pard does pass two clubs, pard almost has to be weak with 4-4-1-4. This is the precise situation that the BWTA meant by, “[i]f the auction stops here, you may have fallen on your feet.”

ZoranDecember 3rd, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Hello Mr. Wolf,

What if East allows South to make all the pitches and pitches two spades instead of ruffing a diamond?

jim2December 3rd, 2013 at 7:49 pm

I am not Our Host, but I believe declarer would simply cash the last high trump on the board and lead the low one towards the closed hand to finesse, then finish drawing trump and cash out.

bobby wolffDecember 4th, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Hi Zoran,

Yes, Jim2 (my very welcome substitute host) completed the play to make the slam by, after discarding his losing heart and 2 spades, he still had the queen low in trumps (clubs) to lead in that order, finessing the 10 and then drawing the last trump and claiming.