Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 4th, 2015

Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

St. Francis of Assisi

S North
None ♠ Q J 10 6
 A J 10 7
 7 4
♣ 8 7 4
West East
♠ 9 4 2
 K 5
 Q 9 8 3 2
♣ K Q 10
♠ 7
 9 8 6 3
 K J 10 5
♣ A 9 5 2
♠ A K 8 5 3
 Q 4 2
 A 6
♣ J 6 3
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 3 ♠ Pass
4 ♠ All pass    


Today’s four spade contract may appear to hinge on the heart finesse. But while the heart finesse is necessary, be warned that it is not sufficient.

At the table the defenders cashed their three top clubs, then shifted to diamonds. Declarer won the diamond ace, led a spade to the queen, then drew trump ending in hand and advanced the heart queen. West covered, and declarer tried to cash out the hearts. When they failed to break, he could not avoid losing trick 13, no matter which hand he finished up in.

Once West turns up with trump length, it is rather more likely that he has short than long hearts, including the king. The right line is to lead a heart to the jack at trick five, then lead out the spade queen. Next, overtake the trump jack with the king. When West turns up with spade length, lead to the heart jack and draw the last trump, then rely on hearts breaking 3-3. As it is, though, the sight of the heart king on the second round of the suit allows you to cross to the spade ace, unblock the heart queen, and go to dummy’s trump 10 to cash the heart ace.

Had West turned up with short trumps, you might well have led out the heart queen on the second round of the suit, subsequently playing East for a doubleton eight or nine of hearts, rather than trying for the 3-3 heart break.

I would raise two diamonds to three, upgrading my trump honors. Just for the record, if my partner had responded two clubs I would pass the response. The reason is that the trump intermediates are pulling their full weight in diamonds, while in clubs your diamond cards may not be so valuable. Passing is certainly not unreasonable, and I would do so if the diamond king was the queen.


♠ 7
 9 7 6 3
 K J 10 5
♣ A 9 5 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♠ Pass
1 NT 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 WarheitJune 18th, 2015 at 9:24 am

EW have a good save in 5D (down 2). Do you think they should have gotten there and if so, how?

Also, please explain N’s bid of 3S. Seems like a fairly ordinary raise to 2S to me.

Shantanu RastogiJune 18th, 2015 at 9:27 am

helĺo Mr Wolff

In BWTA if NT is forcing should 3 diamond stiĺl be bid ?

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

bobby wolffJune 18th, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Hi David,

Yes 5 diamonds is a very good save, and played from the long diamond hand, East, South will have to switch from his unsupported queen of hearts either immediately or when he gets in with his ace of diamonds or away goes one of dummy’s hearts on the 13th good club in East’s hand for down only 1.

No, I do not see a logical way for EW to get into the bidding, unless East becomes obsessed with his excellent distribution and intervenes with a TO double over either a 2 or 3 spade raise by North. Furthermore, to get the play from East, both East must double and then West would have to then bid 4NT over NS’s game bid allowing East to declare the 5 diamonds that he may or may not choose.

Yes, I agree with your assessment of North only raising to 2 spades, not 3, on his first effort. However, if so, +170 would be a significantly better part score than would +140, emphasizing declarer’s careful finesse in hearts, not wasting the queen. If North raised to only 2 spades, should East double with good distribution but short cards and if he doesn’t should West than reopen with 2NT to balance showing both minors?

Well, you tell me, but since it is right on (sort of) who knows whether or not either defender would do so?

However, one thing that a good declarer MUST do and from the beginning, exercising proper technique. When the defense cashes their clubs against a spade contract by, no doubt and on this hand West leading out the king, then queen and finally ten (let’s assume EW are using right side up signals, high=encouraging), declarer has then got to make a mental note in that bridge mind of his, that the 13th club is held by East, otherwise West would have led a small club at trick 2.

Why is that so important or even worth talking about? The answer is the absolutely KEY to the bridge universe (as I am sure that you already know, but I emphasize to counsel all the readers who have not been exposed). The first suit led is a beginning in counting both defensive hands and the knowledge of clubs being 3-4 instead of 4-3 can become critical later (as it is here) when arriving at the apex of the declarer position of how to play the hearts later (2-4 or 4-2 with 3-3 a slam dunk).

Without that bridge expertise (which so few wannabe excellent players learn) darkness prevails, judgment is impaired (not enough facts) and confusion reigns, causing luck, rather than bridge skill, to prevail.

Sometimes (usually early) the task appears too great to do such a thing, but like driving a car or riding a bike, if learned, it stays with for a lifetime (I can attest from age 12).

Is it worth it? Better ask does one like chocolate, since most do and without liking it, no one will know what they have missed.

Furthermore when I suggest that there are no child proteges in bridge, like there are in music and art, only a talent in numeracy which may lie dormant unless specifically encouraged. Therefore, when taught in primary and secondary schools that talent will always emerge, with others, who are only medium blessed with, to soon follow.

Is a steady dose of it necessary when young? Does one like chocolate? or, should bridge be taught in our schools?

bobby wolffJune 18th, 2015 at 1:13 pm

Hi David,

Please forgive me for calling East the long diamond hand since it is West, but East playing the hand would make the defense of switching to a heart from South much tougher.

bobby wolffJune 18th, 2015 at 1:31 pm

Hi Shantanu,

It is a close proposition and since the structure of the 2 over 1 GF system, which has taken the tournament bridge players by storm in the USA must then allow for the opener to rebid a 3 card minor with a minimum 5-3-3-2 hand immediately causing a distortion (my choice of word) in a partnership bidding machinery, allowing (possibly demanding among some) partner to always return to 2 of the major with only a doubleton and 4 of the bid minor.

Therefore I vote for your judgment and adhere, by passing rather than raise to the 9 trick level with perhaps only 7 combined trumps. However when the opener does have a minor suit (4 or even sometimes 5) the raise becomes very valuable for sometimes even bidding and making game, or, at the very least, preempting the worthy opponents so that they continue to stay out of the auction.

A very good question by you (showing a keen analytical bridge mind) and I hope, a relatively complete answer, covering the bases, although not lingering on the disadvantages, mainly because of not being able to suggest a better solution.

Iain ClimieJune 18th, 2015 at 4:50 pm

Hi Bobby, David,

A stray thought on sacrifices, especially at equal vulnerability. How good is 2 off doubled if declarer (as here) was going to go down? At IMPs, does it pay not to chase the 3 IMP gain if you might be about to go plus? Trickier at favourable vulnerability of course, but any thoughts on guidelines here?



bobby wolffJune 18th, 2015 at 5:57 pm

Hi Iain,

How good is 2 off doubled if declarer was going to go down? As bad as it gets is likely the off the cuff answer. However one will never know whether that declarer was going down or not.

With your other query regarding varying vulnerabilities (an unusual double v combination) the quote which comes to mind comes from Al Davis, the late controversial former owner of the Oakland Raider NFL franchise, I don’t care how you do it, but “Just win, baby”.

However, if forced to at least attempt to give a thoughtful answer, how about, psychology is the largest factor and sizing one’s opponents up is perhaps the largest single factor in winning that battle within a battle.

Shantanu RastogiJune 18th, 2015 at 6:49 pm

heĺlo Mr Wolff

Thanks for your kind advice. You are correct that it is a judgemental call to raise to 3 level. I like to bid 2 club when I have 5233 irrespective of quality of suit. So I would have trouble only with 5332 pattern as in all other cases I would have 4 carder diamond. Vulnerability would also play crucial role as is the suit quality.

best regards

shantanu rastogi