Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

The play, I remember, pleased not the million; 'twas caviar to the general.

William Shakespeare

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



Today's deal comes from the round-robin of the Yeh Bros. teams championships, which was held in Yokohama this time last year.

Included in the field were the then current Bermuda Bowl world champions from the Netherlands, who went on to win the event in fine style, defeating the top Italian team in the finals. Here are the Dutch at work.

With both tables in the same contract of three spades, Shakespeare had it right when he said “The play’s the thing.” The defense started the same way in both rooms, with a club lead from West to East, who took his three top clubs. In the Closed Room the Japanese West discarded a discouraging heart, and East got off play with a trump. Declarer Simon de Wijs won in hand with the king, drew a second round of trump with the queen, then played on hearts and claimed nine tricks for plus140 since he had a spade entry to allow him to discard a diamond loser on dummy’s heart winner.

In the Open Room Ricco van Prooijen also led the club jack and continued the suit, Louk Verhees also cashing a third round of clubs. But van Prooijen, who could see the possibility of discards coming, thoughtfully ruffed his partner’s winner and led the diamond jack, ducked to the ace. Now declarer led the heart 10 from hand and passed it to East’s ace, but Verhees saw his five defensive winners. After taking his heart ace, he cashed the diamond king for down one, and 5 IMPs.

Had the opponents not overcalled, you would have bid two clubs yourself, as Drury, to show a maximum pass with heart support. Now your choice is to make a simple raise to two hearts, or to make a cue-bid raise to three clubs to show a limit raise in hearts. Facing a third-in-hand opening bid, the former course is wiser. Partner can always make a try, knowing you may have pulled in a notch.


♠ A 7 2
 K J 5
 Q 8 3 2
♣ 6 4 3
South West North East
Pass Pass 1 2♣

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 WarheitMay 27th, 2014 at 9:11 am

I think E should play the C7 at trick 1. If he does so, I think W should be able to figure out why. However, if W can’t figure it out and continues clubs, E should force his partner to figure it out by leading a small club at trick 3. So, for W, “the play’s the thing”; but for E, not so; in his case, “the partner’s the thing”.

Iain ClimieMay 27th, 2014 at 10:42 am

Hi David, Bobby,

There is also scope for East to use his club honours to give suit preference e.g. If he had HAQ and weak diamonds then playing C, then K then C9 or CQ should get the message across. How much scope exists for this sort of play and what are the pitfalls of partner seeing messages which weren’t intended?



Mircea GiurgeuMay 27th, 2014 at 11:23 am

Continuing David and Iain’s line, is it not reasonable for East to overtake partner’s CJ with the ace and then play the queen as suit preference?

On BWTA, i guess the same rationale would apply if West doubled? I find it sensible to play that (any) Drury is off in competition. Am i right?

bobby wolffMay 27th, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Hi David, Iain, and Mircea,

All three of you are right, with East needing to be more concerned with legally helping his partner. My suggested specific order of
clubs would be: overtake partner’s jack with the queen, then lead the king and follow that with the seven. In that way each card is the same message, and what is desired to convey, diamonds before hearts. Furthermore, just in case partner did not have only a doubleton club, but rather J10x, nothing is probably lost (except when partner has J10x and the jack of diamonds together with declarer needing and getting time to develop a heart trick before his diamond loser(s) are exposed) and to continue to add fuel it is extremely unlikely that partner has something important in trumps like Qxx since between our hand and dummy, what else could the 2 spade bidder have besides reasonably good trumps and at least the KQ for his overcall. Yes, East was lucky his partner had the jack of diamonds, but the defense needs to cooperate (they didn’t in the other room) and all four of us (probably five or six, including both East and/or West in that other room) will primarily blame East for not forcing his partner to make his own luck. This hand is a great example of partners combining their bridge brains (BB, in order to differentiate it from bird) to make it easier for each other.

Mircea, yes, I think it better to play Drury off when it goes P P 1H 1S (or dbl where redouble can be used including 3 of partner’s major) and play dbl and a return to hearts as a Drury bid (over a 1S overcall) leaving 2 clubs available as natural. Why, you may ask? Simply because in 3rd seat I will choose bidding 4 card majors ahead of not when it could be the last opportunity to get the right lead with a minimum hand, such as, x, AK10x, Qxxx, Qxxx
or KQ, KQ10x, J10xx, xxx with, of course the option of opening a weak NT(12-14) if the partnership decides and desires to play it.

Since, the opening lead is sometimes critical, especially at matchpoints where every trick is so important when playing part scores, therefore catering to that, instead of possibly slightly more accurate bidding (usually avoiding 4-3 fits assuming a 4-4 fit is available somewhere) takes priority to me.

What I may be subconsciously saying is that the real answer is to improve one’s dummy play so that the partnership doesn’t ever mind wrestling with declaring 4-3 fits.

Good advice? maybe, Worth discussing? perhaps, Long winded? definitely.

Herreman BobMay 28th, 2014 at 3:23 pm

…and that is why Nico is one of the world’s best players….
Bridge is beautiful !