Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Prepare for the worst and you won’t be disappointed.

John Connolly

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


In a good contract it is often sensible to work out what is the worst that can happen to you, then take steps to deal with that situation, should it arise.

Against three no-trump West led the club queen, and declarer thought that the best chance of making his game lay in the diamond suit, where he had a nine-card fit.

So he captured the club queen with the ace and continued with a diamond, inserting the eight from dummy. East won with the king then returned a club. Declarer ducked, won the club continuation and led another diamond. When West showed out, South played dummy’s ace then exited with another diamond. East won, and played a heart. With West having the ace, South finished with just seven tricks.

Admittedly the worst that could happen did happen, in that the diamond honors were all offside, clubs broke 5-3, and the long club hand held the heart ace. But how should South have saved the day?

The answer is that he needed to test spades first. If that suit broke 3-3, then there would have been no need to rely on the diamond suit at all. Declarer then knocks out the heart ace, and his game comes home. That is courtesy of four spades tricks, the diamond ace, and two tricks in each of hearts and clubs.

Had spades not split, declarer could have reverted to attacking diamonds, with the tempo on his side if the suit breaks. If neither suit splits, he has no realistic chance to succeed, whatever he does.

Your partner’s rebid of one no-trump shows a balanced hand but does not deny four of a major. You can bid two spades to show at least a good invitation to game with four spades, and let partner decide what to do next. There is no need to jump about in the auction. By bidding diamonds before spades, you have shown a good hand – since with a one-bid hand you might have started by bidding the major.


♠ K Q 7 2
 Q 8
 A J 8 7 5
♣ 6 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Pass
1 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


Iain ClimieApril 12th, 2016 at 2:25 pm

Hi Bobby,

Suppose South decides to check out (roughly) the diamond position before playing on spades by cashing the DA. He shouldn’t, of course, but East can always drop the King…..



bobbywolffApril 12th, 2016 at 4:15 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, and well the defender should, just to stay in practice.

The combination of the KQ10 (x) while behind the AJ9(x)(x) offers a treasure trove for deception and most times should be utilized.

It is only if partner is also materially deceived should a good defender not and those times are rare indeed.

While, during my lifetime of playing, I have even been seriously accused of not being ethical to do such things, but obviously those solid citizens who did, do not understand the rules and ethics of our great game.

While no private understandings are allowed to be kept as bridge partners, common deceptive practices, especially while defending are not only legal, but they are encouraged as good (and often necessary) defense.

Furthermore while holding the KQ10 over the J9x(x) in dummy is one of the most common. Falsecarding the king (or queen) while holding both is common, but when able to instead win the 10 but choosing not to, is the deception worth noting.

The above is “old hat” to you, but merely said by me to you, for those readers somewhat unfamiliar with that sometimes effective legal deception.

As always, thanks for bringing up that worthwhile subject, if for no other reason but to clarify the ethics involved in doing so.

Iain ClimieApril 12th, 2016 at 9:32 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for this although whoever thought such plays were unethical makes the high card wins brigade look like Bermuda bowl material, while you are famous for adhering to the highest standards. I suppose if East dropped the King under the ace while muttering “Lucky ” to declarer, then it might be different. Even so…


bobbywolffApril 13th, 2016 at 5:15 am

Hi Iain,

Since high-level bridge is so global, I guess it would be OK to mutter “lucky” in a foreign language when he or she was certain that declarer understood it.

Only kidding, since that evidence alone, is very indictable.

slarApril 13th, 2016 at 1:56 pm

I’m a little late on this comment, but isn’t 2H or 2S a game force in this situation? I think with an invitational hand, I would bid 2NT. Partner could accept the invite with 3H, 3S, or 3NT, giving us a way to back into our major fit if we had it. An alternative is to ignore the diamonds completely and just bid 1S directly. If partner raises, I can bid 2NT.

bobbywolffApril 13th, 2016 at 5:28 pm

Hi Slar,

Yes, regarding the BWTA, a 2 spade rebid would be a game force.

However the hand shown is very close to that, and therefore 2 spades would not be a gross overbid, although we wish we could have another honor card, but perhaps holding 5 diamonds will suffice if we wind up in 3NT.

Also, if in fact we had one less high card, but the same distribution, your suggestion of responding 1 spade the first time is a valid option.

There is also no harm in the opener rebidding 1 of a 4 card major, if he has one, rather than 1NT. All the above are options, but whatever one takes, the partnership needs to explore different options, before committing.