Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 29th, 2014

The height of cleverness is to be able to conceal it.

Duc de La Rochefoucauld

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


When holding 4-3-3-3 distribution with a major, I tend to use Stayman after partner has opened one no-trump only when I have two three-card suits where I either have no honor or the suit is headed by the ace or king. In each case a small doubleton opposite will probably make a trump contract more attractive.

On today’s hand, North guessed well to use Stayman, since three no-trump would almost certainly have failed after an initial heart attack. But as West pointed out, the spade game could also have been defeated.

West led the diamond eight against four spades. Dummy played the two, and on winning with the queen, East switched to a heart. Declarer won, played the spade queen (losing to the king), and won the heart return. He drew the remaining trump, cashed the diamond ace, and continued with the diamond 10. After East had taken his king, a club loser from dummy was later shed on the diamond jack.

So what was West’s suggestion for the defense? If East reads his partner’s opening lead as being from a doubleton, he should find the ingenious defense of returning a low diamond at trick two. Then, as before, declarer comes to two diamond tricks, but now when East gets in with the trump king, another low diamond allows West to ruff.

East still has the diamond king to take care of the jack, so South will still have to lose a club trick and cannot avoid going one down.

Yes, your partner's pass suggests a minimum opening bid, but are you going to allow the opponents to steal from you? Double them and expect to beat them comfortably. I would lead a top diamond, not the spade king, since this is certainly an auction where East might have passed initially with spade length.


♠ K 5
 J 10 8 3
 K Q 9 7
♣ 10 5 3
South West North East
Pass Pass 1♠ Pass
1 NT Pass Pass 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 WarheitJune 12th, 2014 at 11:13 am

“Then, as before, declarer comes to two diamond tricks”. No, he only wins one, winning the ten but seeing the ace ruffed away, at which point he is left with the jack while E still has the K. You should have said: declarer appears to come to two diamond tricks, but when E gets in with the trump king he leads another low D allowing W to ruff away dummy’s ace.

By the way, if E returns a club at trick 2 and leads another club after winning the trump king, this defense also defeats the contract. Of course, if the 8 & 9 of clubs are switched, a club shift would not be successful.

Bobby WolffJune 12th, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Submitted on 2014/06/12 at 11:43 am

Hi David,

Yes, you are correct that when East vs. 4 spades leads a diamond back, into the teeth of the suit, but then, when in again with his trump king, leads a 3rd one back, his partner will trump, leaving East with the diamond king to cover declarer’s jack and, of course, then setting up the club loser.

That, of course, leaves declarer with only a losing club finesse, putting paid to the contract.

Nor, if we would have interchanged declarer’s 8 of clubs with West’s 9, by taking what would be called a backward finesse, leading the jack, forcing a cover and then finessing back to the nine (although much against the probabilities), he could still have saved making the contract, lessening East’s earlier defensive error, a move we decided against in order to make East’s heart switch, instead of a rattlesnake back (diamondback), a losing option.

Sometimes attempted humor can cloud the mind and, more importantly, camouflage a mistaken explanation.

jim2June 12th, 2014 at 12:38 pm

I also was going to comment about not needing to be ingenious, just lead clubs.

Got to post early here to be first!

(Thus, since a trump return can be ruled out, East can take the lowest cards in the three plain suits, chose one at random, and have a 2 out of 3 chance to defeat the contract)

Bobby WolffJune 12th, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Hi Jim2,

Oh, how you talk (or at least, write)!

Although, it is correct to say that after winning the first diamond and with a trump back not exactly called for (however it would probably be as effective as a heart) it would result in 2 of the 3 suits (diamonds and clubs) being winners and only 1 (hearts) a loser.

In actuality however, and without playing mind games, my guess is that most all players (perhaps 90+%) would return a heart. To not do so, even though I am slightly exaggerating, a non-heart back, especially a club might mean the beginning of a cheating investigation or at least a slight suspicion that this EW pair knew more about this hand than they had the right to know, but then again West’s heart and club holding would not be the reason why, but rather just the overall 52 card layout instead might raise some eyebrows, especially if EW were good, well known players.

All I can report is that successful cheating investigations have started with less evidence than a club back on this particular hand, since like Nevada’s casino business, if a player continues to defy the odds and over a very long period of time wins substantially, that fact, while not guaranteeing that this player in various casino games, or in bridge, that partnership knows more than they legally should, but as Damon Runyon has been often quoted, “That is the way to bet”.