Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, January 19th, 2015

I do not wish to count the cost. I do not wish to consider whether it is good.

Bertolt Brecht

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


A nice point on defense came up in this deal, which was played in the finals of a matchpoint event at a national championships.

Reaching four hearts is far from easy here, though if North could have been sure that a call of three hearts would be forcing over the rebid of two no-trumps, that might have got his side to the perfect spot.

At the table nobody did anything really foolish when North-South bid the hand to three no-trumps, but the contract was not a favored one when West elected to lead spades.

After the first spade went to the jack and king, East returned the spade eight, covered by the queen and ace. Now West exited with a low spade and declarer, Eric Leong, alertly ducked East’s spade seven. After that play the spade suit was dead, so Leong had time simply to knock out the heart ace, losing three spades and a heart to emerge with plus 400 for a somewhat above average result. Some pairs managed to play the heart game, and a sizeable percentage of the field did not overcall with the West cards, and allowed North to play the no-trump game, which handled far better than by South.

Note that once West has decided to play a third spade, it can surely cost nothing to lead back the spade nine, which would have the effect of scooping up his partner’s seven and would allow West to retain the lead to clear the spades. Now the defenders take four spades and the heart ace for down one.

Attacking either minor might be right but could be equally disastrous if you guess wrong. The choice, it seems to me, boils down to what is likely to be a passive trump or a spade, and in the latter case it is clearly right to lead the spade king not a small one. The point is that if you hold the lead it should be clear what to do next; and partner can always overtake if a shift seems right to him.


♠ K 9 4 3 2
 J 2
 8 6
♣ Q 10 3 2
South West North East
1♠ 2
4♠ 5 Dbl. All 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Patrick CheuFebruary 2nd, 2015 at 3:41 pm

Hi Bobby,Does Gladiator 3C and 3D apply here,to enable N/S to get to 4H?Say,North bids 3D GF,showing 5H,and South with QJ may elect to bid 3H,in theory showing 3card support?If North bids 3H over 2N,that would be 6H GF..Still 3N looks reasonable,a case of six and seven of spades…regards~Patrick.

angelo romanoFebruary 2nd, 2015 at 4:45 pm

Hi Bobby,
couldn’t be right for S to duck the second spade, hoping for the H Ace in East ?
In the real play, couldn’t be right for W to duck the second spade, hoping East can later win a trick (but with which card ?) and play back a third spade through a possible Q-7 ?

bobby wolffFebruary 2nd, 2015 at 5:05 pm

Hi Patrick,

Either directly or possibly indirectly, you are touching on an unsoluble problem in bridge bidding, e.g. treating combinations such as QJ as 3 card support (opposite K10xxx instead of 9xxxx), which, of course, turns out to be quite a variance.

Because of the above I am resigned (sort of) to appreciate instead your last sentence and thus regard this difficulty in a blase manner.

From the immediate above comes, with many hopeful bridge players, sometimes a slightly unethical tempo or intonation which will warn partner that the current response may be suspect. Soon, however, the “good” guys learn that being unethical is the worst thing to do, and forever after learn to be solid citizens, while others, liking their results from it, go the other direction.

However, choosing unethicality is the worst, making bridge as we know it, unplayable (especially at higher levels).

Thanks for your query. I apologize for the added comment, but often championing what is necessary to be said is a good reminder to some who remain somewhat confused.

Instead of treating QJ as three, I am in favor of putting oneself at the mercy of the bridge gods and responding accordingly (eg the six and seven).

jim2February 2nd, 2015 at 5:08 pm

angelo romano —

I am not Our Host, but West not ducking the second spade pretty much announces s/he has an entry (and does not need to depend on East). Declarer knows that only one card can so qualify, and that is the AH.

bobby wolffFebruary 2nd, 2015 at 5:18 pm

Hi Angelo,

While your theory is very sound (declarer ducking the second spade) the bidding (West’s 1 spade overcall) does not speak well for your chances of the hoped for location of the heart ace.

If we talked about “the dog who didn’t bark”, as a likely 5 card spade suit, headed by the ace, then that non-bark pass, might suggest that the key heart ace is held by East. Such are the goings on in declarer’s mind, adding the vulnerabilities and tendencies from the EW players.

These tendencies sometimes are very enabling and separate winners from losers, making the playing of our very challenging game an exercise of positive logic, especially when the underneath spade spots can also enter the mind.

Thanks for your interest and for taking the time to write.

bobby wolffFebruary 2nd, 2015 at 5:30 pm

Hi everyone who is interested,

Let’s always look at “crossing in the mail” as only emphasizing the point, rather than redundancy, simply because it is very difficult to manage.

jim2February 2nd, 2015 at 5:52 pm

I am a nuclear engineer. The motto of a nuclear engineer is:

“Redundancy is good. Redundancy is good.”

bobby wolffFebruary 2nd, 2015 at 7:02 pm

I am not a nuclear engineer, but redundancy may make something new clear, but on the whole it is only medium and gives me atummy ache.

Iain ClimieFebruary 2nd, 2015 at 7:10 pm

Hi Jim2,

Redundancy is good provided common cause failures or fault propagation don’t occur, and subject to a failed control system not being identified. “Plausible but wrong can make you dead” as the old scenario of a plane at 9000 ft near a 10000 ft mountain at night with an altimeter saying 11000 ft shows!

I’ve spent many years working in avionics safety, so take your point.


jim2February 2nd, 2015 at 7:15 pm

For nukes, diversity is more than a social goal; it is a design imperative

Iain ClimieFebruary 2nd, 2015 at 7:22 pm

Absolutely. We must swap some work-related horror stories some time. Linked In, if you want?