Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, January 4th, 2014

No one can build his security upon the nobleness of another person.

Willa Cather

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


In today's deal, South took two good views, one in the bidding and one in the play.

To start with, he decided that his 5-5 shape would play better in four spades than in three no-trump, and rather than look for alternative strains, he bid the suit game at his second turn. Right he was: The no-trump game can be defeated via repeated heart leads.

Following this, South had to negotiate the play after the lead of the heart five to dummy’s king. Seeing the paucity of entries to his hand, South decided to go after diamonds at once and simply led a low diamond from dummy. He was prepared to concede three diamond tricks — that would still allow him to take 10 tricks if everything else behaved normally.

At trick two, East won the diamond king and continued the attack on hearts. Dummy’s heart ace won the trick, and the diamond 10 was led. East took the trick and played a third heart, forcing South to ruff. It would have done West little good to pitch his diamond jack, so he threw a club, letting South lead a third diamond for East to ruff.

East had no winning play. If he led a heart, declarer would ruff in hand, cash the club ace, then crossruff for the rest of the tricks. On any other return, declarer would simply draw trumps and take his diamond winners.

One can make a case for rebidding one no-trump to get across the basic nature of the hand (minimum and balanced), but in fact the intermediates in the long suits argue for the simple rebid in clubs. Whatever anyone tells you, a hand with a 5-4-2-2 pattern is better off for play in a suit than in no-trump, all things being equal.


♠ 5 2
 Q J 10 9 7
 A K
♣ K J 8 2
South West North East
1 Pass 1♠ 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJanuary 18th, 2014 at 10:47 am

Hi Bobby.,

On BWTA would you consider bidding 1N with DAQ instead of AK for tactical reasons, hoping to avoid an early lead through the AQ? Of course partner may still keep bidding spades, but I wonder if such a concern would outweigh the point about 5-4-2-2 being more suitable for suit play?



ClarksburgJanuary 18th, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Mr. Wolff,
In addition to the “shape” reason for rebidding 2C rather than 1NT, is there also a secondary reason in that this hand is a “strongish” minimum, valued at say 15/16. (i.e. partner more likely to continue over 2 clubs than over 1NT).
Also, if the hand can be credibly valued at 15/16 one might consider opening it 1NT. If the shape were 3 5 2 3 with the same Heart suit could / should it then be opened 1NT rather than 1 Heart?

bobbywolffJanuary 18th, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Hi Iain,

You, as usual, bring out a sophisticated subject to discuss.

My offhand answer is, I don’t know.

No doubt AK doubleton is a suit holding, not as well suited (pardon the pun) for NT because of the doubleton, not allowing a situational duck, and therefore usually more useful in a suit since the 3rd round is at least, theoretically under control.

Yes the AQ instead, especially, of course, when led up to because of the possible different declarer, takes on the same value as the AK, although the position of the king may or may not equalize that advantage, if led through.

Everything considered, or at least taking advantage of saying such a thing, leads me to still prefer a 2 club rebid, even with the AQ, because of the semi-unbalanced hand which on percentage leans toward the advantage of suit contracts rather than NT plus the unaltered fact is that if I become declarer, still perhaps 3NT, my diamond holding will be led up to, instead of through and if partner sees fit to originate NT himself, he figures not to be disappointed in what I hold in diamonds.

What is your opinion?

bobbywolffJanuary 18th, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

You, also, present technical points well worth discussing.

The solidity of the hearts (109) increase the value of this hand. However I would still prefer to open 1 heart instead of 1NT because of the 2-5-2-4 distribution, keeping in mind that, in these days of 2 over 1 (which I confess I do not prefer, although I play it often), when partner responds 1NT (which occurs frequently) my heart solidity may help immeasurably when later playing a likely 5-2 fit.

Whether one raises the value of this hand for opening bid purposes or not, since your hand will not change until the next deal, the raised value well may influence your decision whether to accept an invitation later, but the choice of opening 1 heart instead of 1NT, IMO, would be a high-level choice among experienced players for the above reasons.

Yes, changing the distribution to a 3-5-2-3 or 2-5-3-3 pattern would be a significant reason to choose opening a 15-17 1NT, since the heart solidity would, on average, be worth at least an extra point in the play on many hands as long as you, as declarer, could ward off the opponents getting to 5 tricks before you get to 9.

All of the uncertainly mentioned or implied above is all part of our wonderful game and emphasizes, at least to me, the patience and determination it takes to play it well.

Iain ClimieJanuary 18th, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Hi Bobby,

I take your point here – if I bid 2C, part bids 4th suit then I’m happy in NT while if partner bids NT he has decent diamonds. Bidding 2C may also find a making 5 or even 6C when partner has weak spades and the opponents are mean enough to lead one, perhaps doubling 3N in the process e.g. If pard held Axxx HKx DJxx CAQxx and east had good spades, HA and doubled for the lead.

I suspect that years of playing moderate pairs can cause an obsession with NT!



bobbywolffJanuary 18th, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Hi Iain,

You are right and on the other hand you are again, right.

With your assumed example, I do not believe your partnership, nor many partnerships, would get to the lofty 6 clubs, simply because there is not enough meat on those bones, and, of course, as you said, a spade lead immediately puts paid to the contract. The exception could be at matchpoints, once a partnership passed 3NT, they may feel disposed to gamble out the club slam for fear of 5 clubs being a poor board losing to most who reached and stayed in 3NT.

Your last statement is also on target, but it would generally apply across the board, including all who have not had the difficult but sometimes exhilarating experience, of playing against the best the world has to offer. No pain, no gain, but plenty of the first emotion will always be in store.

jim2January 18th, 2014 at 5:01 pm

At three notrump, what three cards would you suggest East discard on five rounds of spades?

For example, if West pitches three clubs, declarer can play ace of clubs then ten of clubs for at least nine tricks. If West pitches a diamond, declarer can play on diamonds for at least nine tricks.

bobbywolffJanuary 18th, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Hi Jim2,

East is in a terrible bind while defending 3NT if, after winning the first heart, South runs 5 spade tricks throwing 2 hearts and a club. East would then have little option but to throw 2 clubs and a heart, whereupon the only winning option declarer can then have is to lead a low diamond and then another one when East, after knocking out the other top heart honor, cashes only 2 heart tricks to go with his AK of diamonds, contract made.

Declarer cannot be sure that East doesn’t hold a singleton diamond honor and 5 clubs, but if so he would probably have thrown another club not a heart, but not necessarily, since East may not be sure of the club distribution around the table.

Your keen bridge mind gravitates to tedious possible endings, which overall is positive because of your determination, but mine tries to stay away from guessing endings, particularly ones which sometime offer little chance of success, particularly when the tempo indicates to me that all roads probably lead to defeat.

jim2January 18th, 2014 at 10:59 pm

I was merely reacting to the words in the column text:

“The no-trump game can be defeated via repeated heart leads.”

As for West being 2-5-1-5, West will have pitched three clubs up to the knave. Unless West is playing a really deep game of some sort, that would mean that West’s club suit was headed by the KQJ. In that case, West would surely have started with clubs and not hearts.

In fact, if West did start with that club suit, the remaining holding would mean that ace of club and out a club is still at least nine tricks.