Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

The distance is nothing; it is only the first step that is difficult.

Madame Du Deffand

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


North-South did well to reach an excellent game contract with their limited values in this deal, but South spoilt the effect by missing a logical point in the play.

The key to reaching game was South’s optimistic decision to reverse into two hearts. Over North’s (forcing by agreement) three-diamond call, South took a shot at five diamonds. West led the club king, on which East signaled with his queen.

South now decided there was nothing to the play. He required either the spade finesse to be right, or East to hold the heart ace. Accordingly he drew trump and took a losing spade finesse. Later he lost two hearts and so went one down.

South commented after the hand that he could have made the hand by leading a low spade from dummy to his king, but that there was no reason why East would be more likely to hold the spade king than West.

True enough — but South had overlooked something critical. West, who was marked with both top clubs from the play to the first trick, might also hold the spade king but could hardly hold the heart ace as well, for he had dealt and passed.

So leading a low spade from dummy after drawing one round of trump was the right way to play the suit. If East had the king, South would obtain two discards on the spades, and if West turned up with the king, it would have been certain that East would hold the heart ace.

When the two opponents have each bid a suit, a sequence like this implies worry about hearts, not clubs. Maybe your partner has three small hearts? In any event, since you can't bid no-trump or suggest a partial stopper, you can bid three diamonds to say where you live, and let partner make the next move.


♠ A J 6 2
 6 5 2
 K Q 8
♣ 9 7 2
South West North East
1♣ Dbl. 1
2♠ Pass 3♣ 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 WarheitJanuary 7th, 2014 at 9:43 am

Two minor points. 1) You say S should lead a low spade from dummy to his king; you meant to say to his queen. 2) I can’t see any reason why S shouldn’t completely draw trumps (ending in dummy, of course) before leading a low spade towards his queen. No matter who has the SK, S still has just enough entries to dummy, while eliminating any chance of the opponents getting a heart or spade ruff.

Okay, third point, not so minor. I would have opened the W hand (1C, of course). I am a strong believer in not opening light, but I always open with 3 quick tricks, plus W has an easy rebid (1S). Note that EW have a good save at 6CX (down 3, -500, versus 5D making for -600; of course, not against this declarer). All that is needed is that S have one H honor & N have either the Q or J of S (and that there is no unlikely S ruff, and even then the opponents would have to find it). All those spot cards in H & S sure help. Possible auction:


At this point N might bid 6D (goodie) or double. W should bid 6C in this auction because he can easily see that 2 of his 3 quick tricks are worthless on defense.

Bobby WolffJanuary 7th, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Hi David,

Yes, I should have said to my queen (of spades), instead of king.

I still do not see any reason to not draw a second round of trump, once both follow to the first one, since by leading a spade from dummy if East has the king, I will have two heart discards, but if West instead does, then I still have two entries for leads up in hearts and one discard for a heart.

When you say you usually do not open light, but you would the West hand, at least to me, it seems to be a contradiction since, although I still am a Culbertson fan and believe in honor count (togetherness of honors) that West hand, should an 8 card major suit fit not be discovered and NT becomes the final contract, players who normally do not open light are usually badly placed by partner expecting more “meat” from the opening bidder, like a useful queen or a pair of jacks.

However, I do not disapprove since IMO the defensive values are good as well as directing a lead should we be on defense. Perhaps you are saying that unusually good distribution (such as 5-5) doesn’t tempt you to open the bidding while honor count does. If so, I will go one step further and open both types of hands in order to strike the first blow and get important and sometimes destructive blows to the opponents who do better when they are not interfered with.

One final point is that if I did open West with 1 club, I would only bid 3 clubs with East, leaving open 3NT as a final resting spot and although on this hand 5 clubs works out best (for the reasons you selected) but I think that is a bit double dummy and not the bid which would work out best in the long run.

However, of course, I cannot prove it, only a guess, but volunteering for a small set by bidding 5 clubs while starting out with a random opening bid by partner and then a pass by RHO doesn’t (shouldn’t) always lead to having to bid defensively.

I do appreciate your opinions and the column blogging would suffer without them.

David WarheitJanuary 8th, 2014 at 2:10 am

Of course I look at distribution when deciding whether to open or not. I use losing trick count. If a hand has 7 losers, I strongly think of opening it; 6 losers & I will almost always open, although when I say “open” I, of course, include pre-empts. Admittedly the W hand has 8 losers, but the 3 quick tricks make it an automatic opener for me.