Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

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

To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes
Is delicate and rare:
But it is not sweet with nimble feet
To dance upon the air!

Oscar Wilde

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


Today's deal from the Life Master Pairs at the fall nationals in Phoenix last year saw South playing a delicate heart contract. As declarer discovered, if you play five hearts on a club lead your task is straightforward. You win the trick cheaply and draw trumps ending in dummy, before leading a club towards your tenace. East must split his intermediates again, and you can win and drive out the club king. That way you establish a discard for your diamond loser painlessly. Thus you can hold your losers to one trick in hearts and clubs.

But consider what might happen on the lead of the spade jack. East can see no future in spades, so he should overtake the jack and shift to a diamond. That makes it clear to declarer that West has the diamond king (or else East would leave West on play for the diamond shift), and therefore presumably East has the club king to make up his opening bid.

The critical play comes at trick two. You must duck the diamond in hand — so that only one defender can win the second diamond. Win the diamond ace, then cross to the heart ace to ruff a spade, and come over to the heart king to ruff a second spade.

Now you finesse in clubs and cash the ace, finding the 4-1 break, and finally exit with a diamond to West for the ruff and discard. Whether he returns a diamond or spade, your club loser goes away.

There are two reasonable approaches (given that your partner has shown a limit raise or better in spades, and your weakest action here is to rebid two spades). A call of three clubs shows extras and is natural; alternatively, you could pass, and sell out if partner simply bids two spades, while moving on if your partner does anything else but sign off. I prefer the latter (slightly conservative) approach.


♠ A K Q 8 2
 9 8 7
♣ K 10 9 2
South West North East
1♠ Pass 2 Dbl.

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 WarheitDecember 9th, 2014 at 9:52 am

You say you can hold your losers “to one trick in H & C”. Of course, you meant H & S. What is truly fascinating is that that given the near certainty that W holds the DK, based on E’s shift to a D at trick 2, 5H is cold provided only that H are 2-1, since E must then hold the CK in order for him to have opened the bidding. Finally, note that 4S is cold, given the lie of the D suit N-S. Also, there are many ways the N-S cards overall could be distributed to make 5H a make and 5S down no more than 2, so don’t you think that EW should have bid 5S? The only objection I can think of is the general principle that if you force your opponents to either 5H or 5S, you should hope (pray) that you have done sufficient damage.

jim2December 9th, 2014 at 12:07 pm

S & C?

jim2December 9th, 2014 at 12:11 pm

On BWTA, I might note that one’s partnership agreement on one-level overcalls will dictate if South has extras or not.

In many partnerships (including most of mine), the given South hand (solid trump suit, side singleton, KC behind the AC if the opponents have it) does have extras.

Bobby WolffDecember 9th, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Hi David & Jim2,

Yes, the two losers for NS, with an original club lead, are in S & C, certainly not in H & C. No excuses, just sloth in proofreading.

And yes David, since none of us except, of course Superman, have X-Ray vision your caveat of having pushed the opponents to the five level while competing for the contract makes the normal process of then, instead of further competing to the same five level in spades, percentages should suggest to us to defend and hope 5 hearts goes down instead of us not having the non-pleasure of also going set.

Even on this hand, if South rises with the queen of diamonds (the normal play, but not right on this hand) and declarer wins in dummy and then tries to drop the club king he also goes down when the clubs split 2-3.

Often, even with expert play and defense, these hands hang on a thin string as to number of tricks taken, usually impossible to forecast, making our well known caveat, e.g once we force the opponents to the five level let them try and make it rather than bidding on, in short verifying the phrase, “The five level belongs to the opponents” is the way to think.

Yes, Jim2 I am basically in your camp in judging South’s hand in higher regard than seemingly does the BWTA. Since I overcall lighter than most, my range needs to be wider, therefore personally I respect a cue bid by partner more than most and when I have an above average hand, both in value and in position I tend to become more optimistic. However I also probably go set more often than most, but it might also have helped my dummy play over the years by getting much more practice of playing mediocre game hands more than others.

Thanks to both of you for creating this discussion, which have several, very practical, bridge truths.