Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, March 7th, 2015

Treat people with understanding when you can, and fake it when you can't until you do understand.

Kim Harrison

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


Against four hearts, in an expert game, West led the club queen, and South saw that if diamonds were three-three and hearts three-two, the route to a 10th trick would be straightforward enough. After playing ace, king and another diamond, he could duck a spade return and win the next spade. He would continue by cashing the ace and king of trumps then discarding dummy's last spade on the good diamond. Whether the defender with the good trump ruffed or not, South's last spade would be ruffed in dummy.

But declarer saw there was an additional chance when East had four diamonds too. If he could force an opponent to lead a trump, he might play the suit without the loss of a trick. For that to work, he had to remove the defenders’ exit cards. So, he ruffed a club at trick two, then played ace, king and a third diamond to East’s 10, while West discarded a spade. East returned the spade queen, and South ducked. After taking the spade 10 continuation with the ace, South led a fourth diamond, on which West correctly discarded a second spade.

Declarer ruffed the diamond in dummy, ruffed another club and exited with a spade. East won and did his best when he returned the heart queen but declarer took the trick with the ace and returned a heart to his king.

This was smart play by South, who reasoned that, with two small hearts, West might have ruffed in on the third spade to lead a heart.

Your partner has made a game-try, and you are certainly not minimum for the auction thus far. It is not so likely that no-trump has nine running tricks on a spade lead; but the diamond game might easily play much better than the club game (imagine partner with a strong hand and 1-3-4-5 pattern for example). Raise to four diamonds and let partner make the final decision.


♠ Q J 5
 Q 8 4
 Q 10 8 4
♣ K 4 3
South West North East
1♠ 2♣ 2♠
3♣ Pass 3 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


ClarksburgMarch 21st, 2015 at 11:57 am

In BWTA, about evaluation of the South hand:
I’m not looking for a black and white cookbook answer here, but what should one consider a “minimum” for South’s 3C bid, and how much better than that is today’s South hand?

Mircea1March 21st, 2015 at 1:05 pm

In the column hand, how can North justify accepting the game invitation with that pancake hand? Are two aces enough? He must have been desperate for a swing.

Bobby WolffMarch 21st, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Hi Clarksburg & Mircea1,

Both of you are correct in your evaluation.

Obviously the 3-1-4-5 should have been 1-3-4-5, the incorrect distribution making 3NT a precarious contract, What if North holds, s. Kx, x, AKxx, AQxxxx or x, Kx, AKxx, AJ10xxx, or void, Jxx, AKxx, AQxxxx. How about instead, x, Ax, AKxx, Axxxxx making 5 diamonds a very reasonable contract (with a spade lead and a 3-1 club division)? Most 6-5 hands might be handled with an immediate 2NT call (unusual NT for the minors) over the 1 spade opening bid.

No doubt that pancake hand, no quick tricks and almost all secondary values shouldn’t be too optimistic, but bridge being the game it is, being full of surprises, should allow for sometimes a secondary fit producing an extra trick, because of the critical discards it may allow.

Nico de NijsMarch 22nd, 2015 at 11:15 am

Dear Mr. Wolff,

A comment from The Netherlands. You write after taking the spade 10 continuation. I guess you mean the spade 5 continuation? Also I don’t understand, and I am not a faker..-), that it is correct by West to discard 2 spades on the 3rd and 4th diamond. Why is that correct defense, if West holds the King of spades, he will be able to exit with a club, giving declarer no chance to play the trumps well?

Regards, Nico de Nijs

Bobby WolffMarch 22nd, 2015 at 1:15 pm

Hi Nico,

Yes, the spade 10 continuation should have instead stated the spade 5.

However, if West discards differently and holds the spade king instead, I do not think it will make any difference with the defense and they will still take only 3 tricks.

Thanks for pointing out my error, but I think the play of the hand by South got the job done and will succeed against any defense.

Nico de NijsMarch 22nd, 2015 at 2:27 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for your reply. Indeed you are (of course..-) right, end play is then:

A 9


K 10 x

West can play clubs but as East needs to ruff holding only 3 trumps, South can finesse the J of hearts in case East ruffs with the Q

Thanks once more!