Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

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

Boldness, and again boldness, and always boldness!


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


It is almost a cliché that when you have only eight tricks in a contract of three no-trump, you should play off your long suit. South used this advice to good effect on this deal.

When North opened one diamond East went out on a limb when he overcalled two clubs. Even at favorable vulnerability, space-consuming overcalls can be taken only so far. Rather than play for penalties, South quite reasonably decided to try for game. When North repeated his diamonds, South advanced with two no-trump, and was raised to game.

West started with the king and another club. East allowed declarer to win the second round with the queen, imagining he had three club tricks, the heart ace as a sure entry, and that he had diamonds under control.

South saw the prospects of success were small, as East surely held the heart ace for his overcall. His only chance lay in finding a way to exert pressure on East – which required him to guard diamonds. That meant he must hold both five clubs and four diamonds.

Since South had no side entry to hand, it would be no good to him if East held the doubleton spade jack. So at trick three declarer boldly finessed the spade 10. When this held the trick, South could cash three more spades. On the last spade East, who had already pitched his small heart, was forced to part with a winning club. So declarer could force out the heart ace, and East had only two winners to cash; contract made.

Your partner has real extras in terms of shape or high cards – or both. Given that you could hardly be better and not have acted at your first turn, you can afford to cuebid two diamonds now, planning perhaps to pass a minimum call in a major or a bid of three clubs by your partner. North can jump at his next turn with real extras in context for the auction thus far.


♠ J 9 8 5
 J 8 4 2
 9 8 5
♣ K 2
South West North East
    1 ♣ Dbl.
Pass 1 Dbl. 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 ClimieMay 6th, 2016 at 11:35 am

Hi Bobby,

I don’t know if it makes any difference as the cards lie, but would a switch to the DJ at T3 be better if East reads South as being 4-4-1-4.



jim2May 6th, 2016 at 12:30 pm

I think South might let East’s JD hold.

Mircea1May 6th, 2016 at 3:36 pm

Hi Bobby,

You say that it doesn’t do declarer any good if East has Jx in spades. But what if his hand is:


Now the squeeze works by cashing four spades.
Am I missing something?

bobby wolffMay 6th, 2016 at 3:47 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

Yes Jim2 is right, or he could even win the diamond and lead a heart from dummy, with the intention of later guessing spades as he did, with the extra clue of suspecting East having the length in diamonds.

The high level lesson to be learned while playing among top players is that once an overcall has been made and the defense of the hand started, the guessing at the table becomes much more professional, since in many ways the evidence becomes overwhelming as to who has what in both high cards and sometimes even distribution.

Believe it or not, sometimes novices will have a better chance on defense since their motives may not follow what some experts may think is a logical line making the overall distribution harder to read.

bobby wolffMay 6th, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Hi Mircea1,

The column was instead inferring that once East had overcalled 2 clubs and then after the first two tricks was known to have exactly five, following then the switch to the jack of diamonds, by inference probably having the suit stopped by holding 4 (or more), there then did not leave room in his hand for many spades, making a spade finesse the percentage play instead of a drop.

Very true East could have exactly the hand you mention, but if he didn’t have precisely a singleton ace of hearts (very likely to have the ace for his overcall) then he was short in spades.

Obviously there are hardly ever guarantees on possible lines of play by declarer (or for that matter specific defenses) but all any player from novice to world class can do is play the way he (or she) thinks gives him the best chance for success.

The only thing you may have missed is that percentages in bridge change from play to play, with the original percentage table only applying generally but never to represent the ever changing conditions of following the play.

Also, just to mention, even though the spades may (as you suggest) turn out to be 3-3, don’t forget, that half the time the jack will be on side.