Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 22nd, 2016

If you quit on the process, you are quitting on the result.

Idowu Koyenikan

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


In today’s deal you are East, defending five clubs. You might well disagree with North’s third call. Looking for a spade fit was somewhat optimistic; he should have closed his eyes and bid three no-trump, hoping to protect his hearts and expecting to be able to run one or both minors without letting West on lead. Be that as it may, you have to defend to five clubs on partner’s incisive heart lead. Dummy plays the jack, and you are in the hot seat.

The size of the spot-card led tells you that your partner has five hearts at most, so declarer’s shape can be precisely deduced as 0-2-5-6. You must therefore cash your two heart winners before the rats get at them. What next?

You may feel like you are well placed to score one or both of your minor-suit kings. But imagine you exit with a diamond. Declarer finesses, ruffs out the diamonds, then finesses in clubs, and it is game over. The same applies on the exit of a low or high spade, while a small club allows declarer to make the same plays in a different order.

It may seem artificial, but there is one perfectly logical defense to set the game, 100 percent of the time, assuming your inferences about declarer’s handpattern are correct. Simply exit with the club king. Declarer must win in hand and can only reach dummy with a trump. Now he must lose a diamond, since you have killed his opportunity to ruff a diamond on the board.

There are various strong calls you might make now. One is to redouble, one to bid one no-trump, suggesting 18-19 or so. But partner passed your opening bid; are you really obliged to punish him when he has a Yarborough? I would pass for the time being, planning maybe to reopen if the opponents stop in two clubs, and otherwise to give up.


♠ K Q 9 7 2
 A Q 5
 K 9 2
♣ K 5
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass Pass Dbl.

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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieFebruary 5th, 2016 at 6:22 pm

Hi Bobby,
As South, would you have considered doubling 1NT on the basis that the hand is a misfit and East is "IN sandwich"? Similarly, although trap passes are out of fashion (and the tendency to reply on very little to opening bids shows why, is East's bid that sensible? 1N is going for a number and 2H is hardly great either. Where did East think he was going, especially as the lack of a WJO suggests West hasn't got much shape and/or many points?
Having said that, I'd have bid 1N too…..

bobby wolffFebruary 6th, 2016 at 12:32 am

Hi Iain,

Also count on me to do the same thing. Sure, 1NT is awkward, especially when spades are not going to be a great source of tricks and take up a great deal of space in our hand as declarer, but anyone who tries to accurately predict what to expect will often be surprised.

In truth, such as the defensive problem which East could have (should have) solved, is by far the reason this hand was chosen, sometimes the bidding only becomes a byproduct of the presentation.

It is fun to talk about, but little to learn until more is known about what happens later.

In addition the absence of West making a weak jump overcall is almost a given, once EW is shown to be vulnerable. There are just no suits to have nor high cards to go with.