Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, July 18th, 2014

Those whose conduct gives room for talk are always the first to attack their neighbors.


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


In today's deal both tables played three no-trump, but at one table it was North who was declarer; in the other room it was South.

Where North was declarer, the lead was the spade jack, and declarer won in hand with the queen, and still had two spade guards left, while needing to knock out the ace and king of diamonds. So he had no trouble coming to 10 tricks.

In the other room West led the spade five in the auction shown. Declarer captured East’s king with his ace, and West won the first diamond and pressed on with spades. Now the defenders could set up their spades while retaining the diamond ace as an entry to the suit, beating the game by two tricks. How many mistakes were made here?

The last mistake was declarer’s. If he ducks the spade king, the defenders cannot both set up and cash out the spades, since when West wins the diamond king he will have no spades left. And there is no shift that will help the defenders at trick two.

However, East was also at fault. The opening lead made it clear that declarer held two spade stoppers. With just one side-entry, East should compel South to use one of those stoppers at once, by declining to cover dummy’s singleton spade queen.

Now when West gets in with the diamond king, he can establish the spade suit before East’s diamond ace is removed.

The point here needs to be made occasionally, if only to reinforce it to everyone: Bidding a major over a one-diamond overcall promises a minimum of just four cards. But if the opponents overcall one heart, you double with four spades and bid the suit with five. So bid one spade here, rather than make a negative double, which would guarantee both majors, typically with four cards in each.


♠ A 9 8 3
 Q J 9
 10 6 4
♣ K 8 6
South West North East
1♣ 1

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 ClimieAugust 1st, 2014 at 9:15 am

Hi Bobby,

The play you advise today is excellent, provided you trust South to have A98x and not to have taken a flier with SA9x and Hxxx DKxx instead of his actual holding. He would then be gambling on partner having (say) SJ10 or SK or to have DAQJxxx or similar. Against some players (and with some partners) I think I might wimp out of ducking even if I thought it were right, especially at pairs. This assumes I thought that hard in the first place, of course!

While we’re at it, how much of a giveaway or otherwise is the lead of the S5? Clearly this will come out from S52 or 53, but what if partner would also lead it from S852?



ArunAugust 1st, 2014 at 11:19 am


I guess most of us would lead the 2 from 852



bobby wolffAugust 1st, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Hi Iain & Arun,

Iain, the 5 of spades should be (or almost) telling from partner.

At least to me, MUD (middle, up, down) has almost nothing to recommend it and especially here. Often, in high-level circles, it is asked, “What is led from 3 small”? Some partnerships lead high, but most lead low, unless they have supported, which, to me, is logical.

Also, while holding only the ace and two others (below the 10 or even the 10), a good bidder will not repeat NT, but rather respond 3 spades to his partner (jump in minor rebid) to indicate doubt in his primary duty to satisfy the stopper requirement which may be needed to score up that 9 trick game.

In the absence of having already established a partnership, most all worthy players will salute to that caveat. So, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck……….

Many, in fact, most of us, who have advanced in bridge through the ranks have had many partners in route. The above, while sometimes slightly different, fits in the sophisticated stage as an important and practical application. I would bet, that at the table and playing with one of your favorite partners, would always get it right.

Thanks Arun, since you, like most winning players, would lead low from 3 after not supporting, if only to tell partner that your holding may be better than expected, reserving a high one for 2 or fewer).

To all, and from the opening leader, thank the bridge gods for not dealing him the three, deuce doubleton, where there could be ambiguity. However, if so, I think East should still figure it out, because of South’s choice of 3NT rebid.

John G ibsonAugust 1st, 2014 at 3:03 pm

HBJ : Excellent hand showing how declarer can counter the defence’s first move , but how the defence can then counter the declarer’s counter-move. Isn’t this why the game is so truly great.

bobby wolffAugust 1st, 2014 at 4:37 pm


Yes, while you are likely not the most talented player to be born to playing our super game, you have the artistic bent and superior feel to imagine its great off-the-chart qualities.

Furthermore, what you represent does more for our game to be recognized for how great it is than some of its world class players, who sadly take it for granted, but zealously keep its virtues quiet and therefore do not help its popularity and expansion, which realistically matters much in its future existence.

Thank you, for without your (and a few others) great effort, our game will likely disappear at least, from certain geographical areas in the entire world, seriously questioning its ever appearing again.

Peter PengAugust 1st, 2014 at 4:39 pm

hi Mr. Wolff

how do you evaluate a 2S or even 3S bid by East, versus the 1S bid


bobby wolffAugust 1st, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Hi Peter,

Since East’s partner has yet to be heard from, (East being in 2nd seat with an opening bid on his right), he needs to be accurate in his evaluation. Both 2 and 3 spades are preemptive (usually determined by length of suit, 2=6, 3=7) and thus his actual hand looks like a normal overcall of just 1. If partner had passed originally it becomes justified to sometimes take liberties and not be stereotyped, making at least a 2 spade effort in the ball park. We do want to make it as tough as possible for our opponents, but not our partner and his not having passed, makes his hand possibly too wide a range to be predicted.

Example hands opposite a non-passed partner:
KJ109xx, x, x, Jxxxx=2 spades
KJ109xxx, x, x, J10xx=3 spades

Partner’s spade fit or lack thereof will determine his involvement. Nothing much more, nothing much less.

Iain ClimieAugust 1st, 2014 at 7:34 pm

Hi Bobby,

A stray further query; given that the SQ will be useful, would you bid 2N rather than 3D with the North hand? It is difficult to see 5D being a likely option and the SQ will probably be useless there wheras it could be a handy filler card here e.g. even if South has just A10x.


bobby wolffAugust 2nd, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Hi Iain,

I had answered you earlier, but my computer mysteriously erased.

Yes, 2NT, strictly because of holding the queen of spades, although only singleton, makes total sense, rather than the equivalent strength wise, 3 diamonds, since 11 tricks in diamonds appears less likely than does 9 tricks in NT.

And, as you are acutely aware, those types of decisions occur frequently, sometimes making NT raises, even jumps to game, come in all shapes and sizes, (from a balanced 17, xx, xxx, AKQJ, AQJx to one holding xx, Ax, AKQxxxx, xx), of course more likely, a free 1NT response (over an opponent’s bid) than a mere 1NT, a sometimes courtesy response, when there is no interference.