Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, January 31st, 2015

Woman begins by resisting a man's advances and ends by blocking his retreat.

Oscar Wilde

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


In today's deal South played in three no-trump on a low heart lead. Declarer won cheaply and was about to try to run the club suit when he noticed an inconvenient fact about his high spots in hand.

Because of his nine and 10, the suit appeared to be irretrievably blocked even if the suit was about to divide 2-1.

One possibility was to try to lose a club to West, (which he might be able to do if West had any doubleton, or if he had the bare queen). But if South lost the club to East, a second heart would come through him and that would be curtains for the contract.

South found an alternative solution when he exited immediately with the heart king, knowing from the spot card led, the four, that West could not hold more than five hearts.

At the table West somewhat naively ran his hearts, which allowed declarer to shed one of his clubs and unblock the suit. Effectively, declarer emerged with seven clubs, a heart and one of the pointed aces.

However, despite declarer’s ingenious maneuver, the defense had a riposte available. Imagine that West shifts to a spade – let us say the king, for the sake of argument. Declarer can win and play back a third heart (if he gives up a club, East still has a heart left). But West wins the third heart and plays a second spade, setting up two winners for East if a club is ducked to him.

No matter how you cut it, your hand is only a 13-count, and you need more excuse than some nice shape to find another call when partner has shown 7-10 HCP. Just to put it on record: I would probably bid on with 5-5 pattern, or you could tempt me to a try for game of two spades, if I held A-10-5 in that suit, for example.


♠ K 9 5
 A Q 7 4 2
 K J 7 2
♣ 5
South West North East
1 Pass 2 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


David WarheitFebruary 14th, 2015 at 10:14 am

In the other room, S also opened 2NT. N responded 3S (transfer to C), S did as he was told and bid 4C and N bid 5C. W made the only safe lead he could, namely his singleton C. S won the A, crossed to dummy’s CK, and led a H. W won and cashed a second H and exited with a third H. S won, discarding a S from dummy, cashed SA, ruffed a S, came back with the C10, and ruffed a third round of S. When the SK fell, he claimed. If the SK had not made an appearance, he was prepared to take the D finesse. Note the critical importance of the H9 in declarer’s hand; without it, best defense beats 5C.

I believe that N should have bid as I just suggested. So I have two questions: do you agree with my conclusion & do you recommend having a system which allows partner to transfer to C after an opening bid of 1NT or 2NT?

angelo romanoFebruary 14th, 2015 at 10:44 am

S should play the club A first just in case the clubs are 3-0:
– if 3 with W, he ducks the second club and has at least 9 tricks
– if 3 with E, he ducks again and hopes for heart 4-4

bobby wolffFebruary 14th, 2015 at 2:52 pm

Hi David,

Your comment. while nothing short of brilliant, becomes, along the perimeter, a tad edgy.

If declarer, while not holding the heart 9, held instead KJ8, he would still be OK if he, while playing 5 clubs merely bested East’s first follow suit in hearts by barely beating his card, finessing the 8 if necessary or only playing the jack if East rises with the 9 or 10.

Should he do so? You tell me, but when analyzing hands such as this one, need to be treated like hot house plants or instead their life will vanish.

And you, my friend, would likely be my choice as curator of that hot house lab.

To answer your two questions requires patience which then demands thought and understanding of different viewpoints.

First, I certainly agree to your bridge analysis (conclusion) on this and countless other hands, but I would choose not to include a transfer to clubs over 1 and 2NT only because I think that bid can be more useful in other ways. I prefer no transfers over 1 NT but 2 way Stayman instead and basic transfers over 2NT but 3 spades to be used for both minors GF and at least 9 minor suit cards (no fewer than four in either minor). eg. s. Ax, h. x, d. QJxxx, c. Kxxxx as classic but s. void, h. Kxx, d. Axxx, c. Qxxxxx also qualifying. Needless to say, further rounds of bidding vitally need to be discussed or else chaos will be waiting.

Although bridge is always our focus, can one really imagine when first serious discussions may have been held at the Tower of Babel about languages and how they fit in lesser important things than bridge, such as life itself.

bobby wolffFebruary 14th, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Hi Angelo,

Yes, your choice of club plays on this hand should be under consideration, but let me only inject this thought. A worthy defender sitting West will not tend to lead away from AQ or AQ10 holding only 4 once the declarer has opened as strong a bid as 2NT. He will usually consider going passive and await his partner being able to lead through so as to not give away a soft trick unnecessarily.

If numbers and opinions are what you (and perhaps other readers) want, I’ll venture an opinion that West holding specifically 5 hearts (because of the specific heart led) is about 85%. Please just accept the above as only one person’s bridge judgment and would apply as long as West appears to be an average + player.

angelo romanoFebruary 15th, 2015 at 11:13 am

Hi Bobby,
the play I outlined is OBLIGED with clubs 3-0. I don’t suggest it with clubs 2-1. Thanks

bobby wolffFebruary 15th, 2015 at 1:49 pm

Hi Angelo,

Yes, it is, of course, obliged with clubs 3-0 either way, but what if West had the singleton queen?

Perhaps if declarer preferred leading clubs first instead of continuing hearts, the lead of the nine would be best, since if West then produced the queen, a duck would then cinch the contract, but, if instead West produced the jack, then a duck would still score it up if West also held the lady, losing only in the possible event of West covering the nine with Jx wherein ace and one club (ducking) would have been successful.

However, if declarer leads a lower club and West follows low, he then would have no other winning choice but to also duck, but, by doing so, when (and if) West follows low, he should fear the worst and before another card is played realize that the best he can hope for
is that either West failed to split from QJx or that what has already been discussed, the hearts are 4-4.

Overall and bridge percentage wise, the decision to either lead the ace first or rather a low one depends on West’s chances of holding the singleton queen as against honor one. Everything considered, especially psychology, my vote is to continue hearts at trick 2, except against a known excellent West.