Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

Canada is not the party. It’s the apartment above the party.

Craig Ferguson

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


At the start of the world junior teams championships in 2003 Canada headed towards the top of the table at once. Most of the Canadian players were well known in the USA, but they had also produced a new star. Vincent Demuy is a French speaker who had not spent much time in the USA, but he is now a well-established expert. Here he is, at work on a deal from an early match against Denmark, who were also set to contend for major honors.

Both Canada and Denmark reached three no-trump by South, after facing a spade overcall from West, and both tables received a low spade lead, won in hand. For Denmark, Andreas Marquardsen won the spade lead in hand and crossed to dummy with a club to lead a diamond to the jack. Unlucky! West won and cashed a top spade to find the split, then tried the heart king, and now declarer could only make six tricks.

In the other room Demuy won his spade 10 at trick one and realized that he only needed four diamond tricks, but that entries to hand were going to be a problem, so he ducked the first diamond, leading a low card from hand. He knew that if the defense won this trick and returned a spade he would get an inferential count on both black suits before having to guess whether to play for diamonds to be 3-2 or 4-1. As the cards lay, when the diamond queen appeared he had 10 top tricks.

After partner uses fourth suit, any players are reluctant to raise their partner with only two trumps. But if you have no sensible alternative call (because you can’t bid no-trump or show extra length in your suits) raising with honor doubleton is the correct call. Your failure to raise spades at your second turn makes it less likely that you have three trumps anyway.


♠ J 3
 A 9 4 3 2
 7 3
♣ A K Q 5
South West North East
1 Pass 1 ♠ Pass
2 ♣ 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 WarheitSeptember 8th, 2015 at 9:10 am

Methinks declarer should play the SJ on the opening lead. The rule of 11 tells declarer that E can’t beat it, and if W has 6 spades or if W has to win the first D, you have just killed the spade suit for the defense. Same result as at Demuy’s table, but still a better play.

bobby wolffSeptember 8th, 2015 at 12:38 pm

Hi David,

Yes, your spade play at trick one could be a slightly better play, as long as by leading a diamond first from the dummy does not tempt declarer to insert the jack (at least on this layout).

I once had a more or less regular partner (back in 1959 in which I was playing the Spingold) who while playing IMPs, before he left the dummy (which held the AQ10 of a suit opposite the Jxx in his hand, but needing only one trick in that suit for 9 tricks while playing 3NT) cash the ace before he left dummy, so that later he wouldn’t be tempted to go for an overtrick.

That same philosophy may be present here which caused his spade play at trick one, just in case West was being deceptive on his opening lead from A987x.

Since you are always very exacting (and spectacularly consistent) in your analysis, there is a considerable difference in playing only about 20,000 hands in your bridge playing career instead of what may amount to 5 times that amount for a bridge professional.

Another description may simply explain that if one instead, plays 100,000 hands in a bridge life, most every possible situation (including 4th best aberrations) may occur.


Though not for a possible, but not likely