Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends.

Lennon and McCartney

North North
Neither ♠ A K J 10 4
 A 10 7
 Q 7 6
♣ A 6
West East
♠ 8 3
 Q 8 6
 K J 8 2
♣ K 10 4 3
♠ 9 7 6
 5 4 3 2
 A 5
♣ Q J 8 5
♠ Q 5 2
 K J 9
 10 9 4 3
♣ 9 7 2
South West North East
1♠ Pass
1 NT Pass 3 NT All pass


Although it looks normal to play four spades unsuccessfully here, two tables found their way to the reasonable three-no-trump contract after South decided nine tricks would be easier than 10. Only one declarer, however, saw a way to persuade his opponents to help him come home with his contract.

Against the no-trump game both Wests chose the diamond two for their opening lead. One South played low from dummy, hoping that West’s holding in the suit included the jack. It did, but after taking his ace, East saw that he couldn’t persist with diamonds without giving declarer a trick in the suit. Accordingly, he switched to the club queen. Declarer held off and won the club continuation. All now depended on guessing who held the heart queen. In an attempt to get a count on the hand, South cashed the five spade winners, but this hardly helped him. He then decided (correctly) that East had probably started with more hearts than his partner and so finessed into the West hand. Unlucky!

At the other table, South saw he could avoid the heart guess if he could persuade the defenders to continue diamonds. At trick one he put up the diamond queen from the table and East won with the ace. South dropped first the four from hand, then the nine on the continuation. Placing his partner with an original three-card diamond holding, West led a third round of diamonds. South now won nine tricks without needing to resort to the heart guess.

Just because your partner might have only three diamonds does not mean he actually does — in fact he has more than four at least 95 percent of the time. That said, you should only raise to two diamonds with real support or decent responding values. This hand just fails to make the grade. Change the heart king to the ace, and I'd raise to two diamonds.


♠ Q 5 2
 K J 9
 10 9 4 3
♣ 9 7 2
South West North East
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


Shantanu RastogiJanuary 14th, 2014 at 9:22 am

Dear Mr Wolff

I think defenders especially East was asleep in case 3 NT got made. West’s 2 of Diamond lead clealy shows 4 Diamonds with South. So West can not have running Diamonds playing standard leads. Why would anyone play Queen of Diamonds if he doesnt have a stopper. So East needs to shift and a club seems logical. South’s play should create doubts for West but it is East who should see the reason.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

David WarheitJanuary 14th, 2014 at 9:27 am

Well, let’s see. Partner holds: xx

and E holds: AKJxx

If I pass, W will pass & partner will probably do so also, and E makes 1S. If I bid 2D, we make 3D & they, of course, go down if they bid any more. I was going to bid 2D if E had passed, and his bid has actually improved my hand (the Q of spades is obviously now worth something, and even the hearts look better). Also, since I don’t play 4-card majors, the odds are more like 99% that partner has a 4-card or longer diamond suit, and this hand is another small example of why I play 4-card majors.

bobbywolffJanuary 14th, 2014 at 11:44 am

Hi Shantanu,

I agree with you and place the blame on East for continuing diamonds at trick 2.

However, perhaps simple detective work and past experience has tempted East to return partner’s suit, the reason being that East’s partnership with West has seen his partner lead 5th best, instead of 4th, in order to catch the declarer in a trap, but in reality it is partner who took the bait. Also some players prefer attitude leads which might prompt West to lead the 2 from KJ1092, which if playing that method, the opening leader may shy away from leading the 9 which seems a denial of a good holding or the jack which might be from “jack denies” (my thought of a terrible convention since IMO it is usually much more helpful to the opponents than it is for partner).

Against “attitude leads” declarer may be making a mistake by ducking the queen in dummy, since West may be leading away from the AK. At any rate, on this hand there is reason to rise with the queen, if just to throw a doubt into East’s play and then West’s continuation later. You and I probably would not fall for it, but then East, like at the other table, may see the club switch as mandatory once we duck the diamond lead in dummy.

In order to win psychological battles with the enemy, particularly worthy opponents, sometimes we need to create losing optional defense chances for us to succeed, and perhaps this is one of those times.

Just another reason why competing in bridge and against equals often offers great opportunities for throwing a spanner in the works.

Thanks for your opinion(s), which everyone should always consider when you take the time to express one.

Iain ClimieJanuary 14th, 2014 at 11:55 am

Hi Folks,

Shouldn’t west ask why east has returned the D5 from A1053? Something odd is happening although east is probably more to blame.


bobbywolffJanuary 14th, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Hi David,

No one can dispute your results offered with the 52 card hand (well almost except for insignificant spot cards) you offered.

However, bridge, IMO, does not lend itself to trying to guess overall complete layouts (it is just too difficult, practically impossible, and would slow the game down even attempting to think through such a thing). The above does not begin to criticize your keen mind for doing such a thing, but at the table it is seldom (never, from my experience) done.

Sure, the layout could be what you suggest, but since there are so many variations possible all most humans, even computer programmed ones, can do is evaluate what one thinks is enough to offer a raise and the BWTA example does that, but if your hand then occurs, down goes the result of this hand for NS.

Simply speaking a 3-3-4-3 hand with only 6 hcps opposite an opening bid of one diamond probably shouldn’t be immediately raising his partner, but no self-respecting good player can doubt what bad may happen if he does not.

Thanks for your reminder of what can happen when one gets conservative and since bridge has a reputation of being “a bidder’s game” perhaps that fact alone should enable the responder to “bid ’em up”.

Thanks for taking the time to offer your view. No doubt if Jim2 would have passed, your exact 52 card layout would be heavily favored to occur.

jim2January 14th, 2014 at 12:11 pm


bobbywolffJanuary 14th, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

Both of you made very appropriate comments and signs.