Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

I have no great message to the world.

Orson Welles

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


When declarer is running a suit, the advice given by bridge teachers is to keep length parity with dummy, unless the bidding or play has suggested otherwise. A defender should also make every effort to tell his partner which suit to keep.

Against three no-trump West led the fourth-highest of his longest and strongest suit, the spade seven. Declarer rose with dummy’s 10, more in hope than expectation, and East covered this with the queen. South ducked this trick, and also played low on the second spade. West carefully overtook the spade eight, but how should he plan the play thereafter?

West has two opportunities to clarify where his re-entry is located. He can win the second spade with the jack rather than the king, and at trick three should return his lowest spade, the six, as a suit-preference signal for the lower-ranking of the red suits. (He could hardly be interested in a club return with those clubs on view in the dummy.) Had West held the heart ace instead of the diamond ace, he should win the second spade with the king and play back the jack.

After taking the spade ace, declarer will continue with four rounds of clubs. Ignoring the principle of matching dummy’s length, East should then discard a diamonds on the third round of clubs, and another diamond on the fourth, retaining all four hearts. Declarer can then come to no more than eight tricks.

Do not hesitate to make a one-spade overcall, even if your chances of declaring the final contract are relatively low. With a chunky suit and a strong preference for a spade lead rather than a heart lead, you should take any relatively safe opportunity to get into the auction, no matter what the form of scoring or vulnerability.


♠ K J 9 7 6
 7 4
 A 9
♣ 9 8 5 2
South West North East
Pass 1♣ Pass 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJanuary 16th, 2014 at 9:16 am

Hi Bobby,

West can also help east by playing his clubs upward to show suit preference as count is clearly irrelevant here.



Shantanu RastogiJanuary 16th, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Hi Iain

I think play of Spade suit should suffice as from lead East knows that South has only one card bigger than 7. If partner has only 4 cards of Spade then 3 NT would likely to score. So this is the deal & ocassion to watch the Spades played by West carefully and not get unneccesairly confused.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Iain ClimieJanuary 16th, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Hi Shantanu,

What you say should be enough but there is a case for the belt and braces approach. To maximise pressure on east, south should arrange to lead the 3rd club from dummy, so win CJ, club to ace then CQ intending to overtake. It shouldn’t work but…


Shantanu RastogiJanuary 16th, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Hi Iain

If one doesntwatch partner’s card there is just one inference. If South had AQ of Diamonds then he has three cards of diamonds else there is no reason to play on Clubs finishing all the entries to Diamond King. So its most likely that partner has diamond Ace and declarer has Heart Ace. But please note the assumption of Diamonds being three cards.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

bobbywolffJanuary 16th, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Hi Iain and Shantanu,

Between the two of you will result in a very positive educational experience as to the ins and outs of one defender legally signalling his partner what he, himself has, therefore easily (and I use that word advisedly) informing his partner what to hold on to, in this case, his four hearts, instead of his four diamonds.

However, this hand can also be used as a teaching tool to someone who aspires to, at the least, become one of the best and brightest we sometimes talk about in discussing learning curves while on the elevator going up.

To be frank, and from what I feel and experience this site is full of people (players) who are honest (sometimes painfully) in discussing what it takes.

Playing tournament bridge in the USA, and probably the same around the civilized world, the local tournaments are unique in that the the average or even below average, in truth, relative novices, often play (and rub shoulders) with, in some cases, players who might even rank among the best in the world.

The learning in bridge is based perhaps less than 1% on the lesson in this hand and the rest including declarer and defensive techniques, opening lead choices, bidding systems and their wide ranging conventions including hundreds of varying choices, the best ones having extremely positive and practical integration with each other.

Add the above to a positive mindset and align oneself with a sometimes grizzled, bridge loving real expert who understands the game well enough to know what is very important against what is only window dressing and down the ranks in wasting much time discussing.

The result will probably resemble the Yellow Brick Road on the way to the Emerald City with bridge poisoned flowers and wicked witches in the form of power seeking, self-styled experts like the wizard himself (Frank Morgan) in the way, hindering, not helping, others in trying to be the best they can be.

Good luck to all who seek to become better in bridge. The result of success will create a very self-satisfying feeling and will IMO only reach its potential when bridge begins being taught in schools the world over instead of only the many countries in Europe and all of China which now do. Please do not ever doubt that the learning of bridge will directly improve one’s ability to think logically, better use numeracy in life, communicate with others using a much more limited language (bidding), learn the necessity for discipline
and getting along with partner through good times and bad, and learning to perform well alone, when being declarer against fierce and unrelenting opposition with only one’s own wit and cunning to rely on.

Herreman RJanuary 21st, 2014 at 5:17 pm

I see your reasons…
but if I would bid 1spade on this hand… my partner will not be happy…
He surely is expecting somthing more solid, than only a lead indication…
Is this only a matter of style ?