Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 28th, 2015

It is life near the bone where it is sweetest.

Henry Thoreau

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

*Jordan – a raise to at least three hearts


Defending to three hearts, West cashes two top spades then plays a spade to his partner’s ace. East shifts to a trump, won by declarer in dummy, who crosses to hand with a trump, to find the 3-1 break.

Now declarer needs to protect against West having both minor-suit kings. He takes the club finesse, cashes the club ace, pitching a diamond, and ruffs a club, then draws the outstanding trumps by crossing to dummy with a trump.

At this point nine cards have been played and declarer is down to three diamonds and a trump in each hand. Meanwhile both defenders still have their original diamond holding and one club.

Since the black suits have been eliminated, the defenders now have to be very careful when declarer leads a low diamond from dummy. If East plays low (or even if he puts in the eight) declarer follows with his small diamond. West must win the trick and then either concede a ruff and discard or lead away from his diamond king into declarer’s diamond acequeen; either way, South has nine tricks.

The defense fares better if East covers the diamond four with the jack. South plays the queen and West will win the king; now his remaining diamond spots will be good for a trick.

Note that even had trumps been 2-2, the entry position would have been very awkward to strip out the clubs. On the auction, the club finesse may be the right play, even when trumps divide evenly.

And yes, a diamond shift at trick four would have been fatal.

Neither a trump nor a diamond lead looks at all attractive, so the choice comes down to a club or a heart – and again we are looking at the least of evils. There is not much to go on here, but if I am going to lead a heart I might choose the seven not the four. If dummy hits deck with the ace-king, maybe I can persuade declarer not to finesse.


♠ Q 7 4
 Q 7 4
 A Q 7 6
♣ K 7 6
South West North East
1 Dbl. Pass 2 ♠
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


slarOctober 12th, 2015 at 7:02 pm

Isn’t the diamond shift indicated? Partner can only have one trump. What could possibly be gained?
Also, is there any reason not to play the DJ at the first opportunity? Second hand low is good when you have a card worth protecting but here you don’t.

As an aside, my partner and I have decided to ditch Jordan and just play 2NT as a game force. Redouble shows values and a subsequent return to partner’s suit shows a limit raise. Sometimes this allows us to play at the 2-level which is much more comfortable. Every once in a while the opponents go berserk and give us an easy penalty double.

bobby wolffOctober 12th, 2015 at 9:59 pm

Hi Slar,
Yes, no doubt a diamond switch is indicated at trick four, with the only problem, once declarer ducks East's three and West wins with his nine, not to lead a diamond back into the jaws of defeat (declarer's AQ).
Taking the next step, no East should lead the unsupported jack from his hand for fear of partner playing him for the ten at the next trick, but by counting, and expecting declarer to only have five hearts (his denying game values), there is no rush to set up the setting trick so West should merely get out with his singleton trump.
Summing up (as I am sure you well know, but others may not) all good bridge, fits within the subject of numeric logic and necessary counting (on every hand) which only makes adding up to thirteen a standard process.
For teaching tips (usually to the teacher's best and brightest beginners) merely ask the defense upon completing the hand to individually call off declarer's exact hand, but only not having to be specific on lower spot cards, which often as here, are all the same and not relevant.
Yes it is difficult at first, since new mind muscles are being developed, but so was learning to drive or riding a bike. And without which, it is impossible to raise above a relatively low ceiling, which will hinder an otherwise enthusiastic newbie (regardless of his latent talent), never to reach the heights necessary to truly enjoy a difficult challenge.
I agree with your bidding decisions regarding showing a fit, other than the Jordan convention, and contrary to some sources, redouble can also be used to show same starting with the next response.

slarOctober 12th, 2015 at 10:54 pm

Got it. Leading the DJ suggests (if not promises) the DT. If declarer leads a diamond from dummy, the DJ would deny the DT. These are things I know in isolation, but sometimes in combination I haven’t connected all of the dots.

I think I probably will have to find a proper teacher in the next year. I can usually work out the proper bidding sequences but without anyone to push me on the play side, I’m probably not advancing as quickly as I could be. Being an autodidact has its limitations.

Bobby WolffOctober 12th, 2015 at 11:29 pm

Hi Slar,

At least to me, you have what it takes to get there from here. And it is not so important to memorize or even to spend much time on learning how and in which way to best keep your partner informed.

Rather to be lucky enough to have available a potential partner who has card sense (the ability to understand card games and their numeracy bent) and has the same potential upside as you do in the application which will come to both with experience.

Regarding holding the isolated jack, (without the ten) one needs to know when to lead it (usually without any entries or at least enough quick entries) so that your defensive chances rise and fall with partner possibly holding AQ10 instead of without the ten, but to lead low will allow the declarer to safety play the suit by playing low and then keep that danger hand off lead.

Card sense just flows while memorization usually becomes flawed because of the many
exceptions which often accompany.

Also another poisoned flower is the absence of so-called proper teachers since high-level bridge has very few of those. Rather just to know a great or potential great player who becomes a friend and has interest in cultivating your involvement.