Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 29th, 2016

If you want to be incrementally better: Be competitive. If you want to be exponentially better: Be cooperative.


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


The defense to today’s game requires some degree of partnership co-operation. After North’s strong no-trump, South uses Stayman and drives to four hearts when North denies a major.

As West your opening lead is easy: you lead the club king, and partner dutifully follows with the nine, suggesting a singleton or doubleton. Now you can cash a second club, and when everyone follows, you must decide what to do next.

The right answer is far from obvious, but I believe you should lead out the diamond king. Declarer is surely marked with 4-6 pattern in the majors; if he had only five hearts, or did not have four spades, he would have started with a transfer rather than with Stayman. Therefore you must cash your diamond winner (or winners) before something goes away on the clubs.

When partner sees the diamond king led, he really doesn’t have to signal attitude; he should work out you will have a shrewd idea who has the diamond ace when your king holds!

I believe East’s card should be count. You ought not to need confirmation that declarer has a singleton diamond, but when you see the diamond nine you can work out what to do next. Continue with a third club, since the only realistic chance of scoring another trick is to find partner ruffing in with the heart jack. Yes, it may be a fairly slim chance, but you might as well play for your only realistic chance, mightn’t you?

How to escape from one no-trump into a minor? One way is to play two spades as a transfer to clubs (weak or game-forcing) and two no-trump – or possibly three clubs – the same in diamonds. The advantage of playing two no-trump as natural is that you don’t reveal partner’s hand via Stayman. But playing two no-trump as diamonds lets partner ‘accept’ an invite with three clubs. Either way works fine.


♠ 8 4 2
 J 7
 K 9 8 7 3 2
♣ 9 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 NT 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


TedFebruary 12th, 2016 at 10:38 pm

Hi Bobby,

This is prompted by Jim2’s comment in yesterday’s hand about the migrating Q diamonds.

If West has diamond Qx and East has 5 small diamonds (rest of both hands the same), is there any way for East to determine – or for West to help him – that he can unguard the K clubs while continuing to holding 3 small diamonds to help obscure the diamond Q position?

All your insights and those of the contributors you’ve attracted to this forum are much appreciated.

bobby wolffFebruary 13th, 2016 at 6:53 am

Hi Ted,

First, thanks for the kind words about the site and its contributors, you now being one of them.

Let me give a relatively short (says who?) essay answer to your to the point question. My hope, of course, is to shed more light on the skills necessary to compete intelligently with other enthusiasts who are also attempting to ride the up elevator to better bridge.

Both declarer play and defense demand constant sleuthing in helping determine which side (declarer or the defense) wins the battle joined by the two partnerships.

Without trying to either oversimplify or, the other extreme, make it look like magic, and always keeping in mind the entire bidding sequence, and critically, the way declarer goes about playing the hand (in this case throwing West in to take his spade tricks, therefore achieving book*) it often is a chilly day in the desert where both defenders will not know all the key cards or card, both partners are now holding, therefore knowing declarer’s specific problem.

And that includes the original distribution of all four hands. IOW, the hand, at least for the defense will become a double dummy experiment for them, so the next task for the defense is to select an order of discards, if possible, in order to have the best chance of bamboozling that worthy declarer into guessing wrong.

Of course East would wish that he could pass that diamond lady to his partner since EW will not be able to camouflage their entire distributions from declarer. So if the simple diamond finesse will be taken it will be taken through East, and sadly for them it will work. However, occasionally the declarer is going through the motions of having to rely on a defensive mistake and that is, on this hand, the only hope for the defense, since, at least for Dame Fortune, she is in her palace and all is right in the distributional world since the queen is with the five not with the two.

I could, when I am not as tired, give different hands with slightly different holdings and therefore motives, but let’s save that for later and, at least for now, just ponder what I am attempting to say.

No black magic (or any other color) but only numerate logic based on the number 13, how many cards each player started with and will eventually put all 13 back in the board, but not without at least 3 players being able to call off each hand without looking at it, but likely not the specific small cards, unless one of them became integral in success or failure.

Also where I came from, the dummy, being the 4th player will also be able to do the same, unless he had to excuse himself during the play. Again no more difficult than riding a bike or driving a car, and once learned forever cursed eg. (being able to do it while one sleeps)!

Good luck and get to work learning how to do it.

*meaning the defense has now taken the number of tricks declarer is hoping to hold them to, otherwise to have to face defeat (or just call it a set) and in this hand the number is four.