Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Life doesn't offers charity, it offers chance.

Amit Kalantri

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

*Diamonds and a major.


This deal was played in the first final session of the Kaplan Blue Ribbon Pairs, with Yichoo Chen as South, playing with Jinjie Hu.

Against three spades doubled West led the heart king, to the two, 10 and six. Next came the heart jack to the nine, eight and three. This play suggested West did not have the club king-jack, or he would have led his low club to force East to win and play a club. What next?

At the table, West switched in uninspired fashion to the club queen. Chen took full advantage. He won in dummy and led a spade to the eight, nine and jack. Then he took the club continuation in his hand and advanced the spade queen to pin West’s 10. The intra-finesse brought home nine tricks, but the defense could have done better.

West knew that East did not have a singleton diamond – he would have overtaken the heart jack to play one – but he couldn’t have the club king either – or he would have initially discouraged in hearts. The heart 10 followed by the heart eight ought to suggest a diamond switch. At trick three, West can lead a club if he has the king-queen but here he should lead the diamond ace and another diamond, giving his partner a ruff if declarer tackles trumps as he did at the table.

Incidentally, if East follows with the spade 10 at his first turn at trick four, declarer might go wrong in the play.

When your partner makes a negative double here it would be wildly speculative to pass and pay for penalties, though I'm not saying it might not work on a different day. Instead your real choice is to rebid one no-trump or repeat diamonds. Put me in the former camp.


♠ A 7 5 4
 9 2
 K Q 7 6 3
♣ A 10
South West North East
1 1♠ Dbl. 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


ArunDecember 10th, 2014 at 10:00 am

Yes – a very nice hand for defence. West has to realize that he needs to 2 trump tricks which he can get only if his partner holds the S10 or a singleton diamond. Then comes the more interesting part of realizing that the declarer can take an interior finesse even if partner held S 10 and therefore to prevent that he needs to create the situation where he can give a diamond ruff to partner.

Once again – a deal that distinguishes the great from the average.

But here is a twist – what if declarer did not hold CK but held the S 10. Diamond Ace and back would give away the contract (a low diamond shift would not help) while the club shift beats the contract. But I suppose one can trust South to have some values for his bid.

Bobby WolffDecember 10th, 2014 at 10:36 am

Hi Arun,

Thanks for your kind words, although we certainly didn’t earn them.

Instead of South knew that North did not have a singleton diamond, it should read that West should have known that East did not have a singleton diamond. How this happened I have no idea, since it is very doubtful that is not how it read when it left our auspices, but at this point we can only apologize for this horrible confusing gaffe.

Back on this hand, defense is often about what partner didn’t do as much as what he did. Especially important when a pair is aggressive in competing with East’s free 2 heart bid, with so little.

Those tactics demand excellence in play and/or defense when the opponents fight fiercely
back by also competing instead of rolling over.

Then when and if EW play in 3 hearts and against a diamond lead (best), declarer must win with the ace, draw only 2 rounds of trump and embark on establishing clubs. Then what remains is only guessing both the black suit holdings, all of which is needed to land the 9 trick heart contract. As we can see, even if NS start out with 3 rounds of clubs and then a diamond, declarer can succeed with a later spade guess after first drawing three rounds of trump and discarding West’s diamonds on his 4th and 5th good clubs.

Challenging game, this bridge!