Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Cowardice, as distinguished from panic, is almost always simply a lack of ability to suspend the functioning of the imagination.

Ernest Hemingway

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


Against three no-trump West led the spade queen. After holding off on the first round, declarer won the spade continuation. It was natural enough to play on clubs — a low card went to the king, which held, and declarer ducked the second round of the suit completely, hoping that West had started with the doubleton ace. No joy, for West won with the jack and cleared the spades.

One possibility now was to hope that the spades broke 4-4 and lead another club, However, South correctly decided to abandon the suit. Instead, he cashed the diamond king and finessed the 10. East won and exited passively with another diamond. Declarer cashed dummy’s two diamond winners, throwing two clubs from hand, and watched West’s discard with interest. That player parted with the heart three on the last diamond and kept his winning spades and club ace.

Now South came to hand with the heart ace and led another heart. When West showed out, it was easy to play low from the table and leave East on lead, compelling him to lead a heart into dummy’s K-J.

Curiously, if West lets a winning spade go on the last diamond, declarer is helpless. He cannot throw East in with a heart without covering West’s nine with the jack; then East has two natural heart tricks. Had West found this play, declarer would have regretted his failure to play the club queen from hand at trick three, a far easier way to knock out West’s sure club entry.

Your partner rates to have extra values (typically three-suited with short spades), and your hand has negative defense. Your heart length augurs that his heart tricks won't stand up, while your three small spades indicate your side has no future in trumps. You should therefore bid five hearts as a sort of two-way shot.


♠ 8 6 5
 Q 10 7 6
 Q 6 4 2
♣ 10 5
South West North East
1♠ 2 4♠
Pass Pass Dbl. 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 ClimieFebruary 1st, 2014 at 11:08 am

Hi Bobby,

Another reason for playing the CQ on the second round of the suit is that a really good player as East might have ducked smoothly with CA10x. I keep trying to make such plays at the right time, but usually manage it when a desparate declarer is trying to sneak his 9th trick in 3NT.



bobby wolffFebruary 1st, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Hi Iain,

You make a good point, since, with the hand entirely different, the club trick indeed could turn out to be number 9.

However, the red suit holding that East might hold should be almost a certain indicator as to that possibility, so adding the tempo to how long it took for the wily declarer to play the club queen should help with the investigation.

Finally with East holding only Ax, he almost certainly should not duck, especially if he had to pause to consider it, or else it would be tantamount to raising his white flag (with overtricks to boot).

Thanks for your imaginative contribution.