Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Had it been his brother,
Still better than another;
Had it been his sister,
No one would have missed her.


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


This hand, submitted to the Australian Gold Coast bulletins by Sue Lusk, demonstrated nice technique by her brother Bruce Neill from the Teams Qualifying event.

South had declared four spades on the spade-jack lead, which seems to be a moderately helpful start for declarer. East had won the spade ace and continued with spades.

Declarer could now have crossed to dummy and played a diamond to the 10, hoping for something good in either diamonds (the diamond jack doubleton or tripleton in the East hand) or the less than likely chance that the defense would not be able to play a third trump.

Declarer, however, had a seemingly better plan. He played the club king, a club to the ace, and a club ruff. It was at this point that Neill found the best defense by not accepting the “Greek gift” of an overruff, but simply discarding a heart — a diamond discard would have been fatal.

This left declarer without recourse, since if he played on diamonds, it would allow the defense to play the third trump, leaving declarer with one spade loser, one heart loser and two diamond losers.

Had West overruffed, he would have been endplayed to lead hearts or diamonds, either of which would give declarer a trick. Declarer would run the heart around to his queen, while an overruff and diamond shift would allow declarer to score two diamond tricks and a diamond ruff. Moreover, South could pitch his losing heart on the eventually established fifth club.

Nothing is ideal here, but my best guess would be to jump to two hearts, natural and invitational. The range for this call is typically 9-11, but your extra shape argues for an aggressive call. Since you could easily make game facing a balanced minimum opener with nothing in diamonds, you need to do more than make a simple call of one heart, and you may always get clubs in later.


♠ 7 4 2
 A 10 6 3
♣ A 7 4 3 2
South West North East
1 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


David WarheitMarch 11th, 2014 at 9:36 am

Nothing could have persuaded me, as S, to do anything but pass partner’s raise to 2S. Note that partner has 2 aces and a singleton & spades lie perfectly and 4S failed anyway. About the only hand I can imagine that N could have where 4S would be a reasonable contract (reasonable, but far from certain) would be S10xxx, HK, Jx of diamonds & CA. Would you have tried for game?

Iain ClimieMarch 11th, 2014 at 10:59 am

Hi Bobby, David,

I suspect over reliance on the Losing Trickl Count may have caused this – at least by south, as North’s hand is worth accepting the game try and could have bid 3S first round. South should downgrade, though – an aceless hand so none of the 3 queens can be balanced by aces and a potentially worthless heart holding. It is a bit unlucky that the DKQ10x face a singleton but the NV odds for thin games ae not that good anyway. The result was deserved.



Bobby WolffMarch 11th, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Hi David & Iain,

Yes I agree that South overbid when he opted to bid on after only a 2 spade raisel from partner. Both of you gave good reasons for the eventual set.

David, I do not think that North had to have all three of the cards you suggest (HK, DJ, CA) but no doubt, those 3 were the ones to be pointed out, though also including the jack of spades which, because of the lead and continuation was rendered moot.

Iain, whether over reliance on the Losing Trick Count or bidding on without an ace (and nothing extra in high cards or distribution), was the culprit or just being too optimistic may forever not be solved to everyone’s satisfaction, but two often used sayings in bridge immediately come to mind:

1. When one overbids he usually goes set.

2. Please do not play me for specific cards, for chances are, I will not hold them.

Optimistic players seem to try and overcome those above truths, by good play, the blind nature of the opening lead, and hoped for less than stellar defense.

When the defense come through, as West did on this hand, the declarer fails, but I, for one, while on defense, would rather be playing against pessimistic players who do not put as much pressure on their opponents by not attempting close games (or slams).

However, from a bridge writing point of view, it is always more interesting when the stakes are higher.