Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 21st, 2014

Who overcomes
By force, hath overcome but half his foe.

John Milton

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

*2-plus clubs


Depending on how you look at it, it is either a truism or a cliche that second hand plays low and third hand plays high. Fourth-hand play doesn't really have any such rules, though. You either win or you duck — and normally the question about which to do is easy to answer.

But not always: Today’s deal comes from the 1998 Junior European Championships, declared by Igor Grzejdziak. Igor had reached four hearts, and West led the spade eight, playing third and fifth leads. Note that the spade-six lead would have allowed declarer to cover with the spade seven and avoid a spade loser altogether.

However, on the lead of the spade eight, Igor sized up the position very quickly and played low from dummy. When East also played small, declarer also ducked in his hand. Cashing the club ace could have been a disaster with a slightly different layout, so West continued with the spade six. Declarer took East’s jack with the ace, played three rounds of hearts, and later finessed in spades. This allowed him to throw a club loser on the fourth spade, and a club ruff made a total of 10 tricks, thanks to declarer’s very imaginative deceptive move at the first trick.

Just for the record: Note that on the lead of, or shift to, the diamond jack at trick two, declarer might have ducked THAT trick too!

In fourth seat you would not consider passing out the deal. Equally, you do not want to open one diamond if any sensible alternative exists. Here, you do have a highly desirable option — in this case, opening one heart is far more attractive. When you are facing a passed hand, the moment to open a four-card major is when you plan to pass any nonforcing response, and you can direct the lead you think you want.


♠ K 10 7 4
 A K Q 8
 7 4 3
♣ 9 5
South West North East
Pass Pass 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 WarheitApril 4th, 2014 at 9:12 am

In BWA, I assume you would also open 1H in 3d seat, but what would you do in either 1st or 2d seat, and then assuming you would not pass (I would pass, but I’m rather found of Roth-Stone), what would you then do over various inconvenient responses by partner?

Iain ClimieApril 4th, 2014 at 11:07 am

Hi Bobby, David,

On BWTA, my grandmother would probably have opened 1S in the 1930s while feckless fools like me would trot out a weak NT regardless of position or even vulnerability. Yet is there a case for playing 12-14 in 4th even if playing strong elsewhere? I agree with 1H in 3rd, though.



Bobby WolffApril 4th, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Hi David & Iain,

My answer to your specific questions, David, will tend to give my philosophy away.

Yes, I would open 1 heart in any position. First I think the queen of hearts while holding both the ace and king is offensively underrated. My other values are prime and my distribution is not 4-3-3-3. However, I admit that I would distort my rebid over 2 clubs or 2 diamonds by rebidding 2NT which I have always played as minimum.

Bridge bidding is often far from an exercise in precision, causing me to regard expediency ahead of beauty. I want a heart lead and when faced with a choice, choose maximum preemption. Yes, I am still a 4 card major lover, so I would have gotten along great with Iain’s grandmother, with both of us choosing 1 spade, if playing 4 card majors. Another small advantage with that style is that partner can better trust my 1 diamond openings and raise them a little more often when the bidding gets higher.

I do like your style Iain, and yes I now play weak NT when NV. Your thought about playing WNT in 4th position has much to recommend it, since when opening with a marginal hand in 4th seat you want the opponents to risk something before they choose to compete after passing.

The above treatments would not necessarily be approved by the high-level bridge world, but ask me and I will tell you my real feelings.