Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 19th, 2016

The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for.

Maureen Dowd

S North
None ♠ 9
 J 8 7 2
 Q 8 6 5 2
♣ 10 5 3
West East
♠ 7 4 2
 K 9 4
 7 3
♣ A K Q 7 2
♠ 8 6 5 3
 Q 6 3
 A 4
♣ J 9 6 4
♠ A K Q J 10
 A 10 5
 K J 10 9
♣ 8
South West North East
1 ♠ 2 ♣ Pass 3 ♣
Dbl. Pass 3 Pass
3 ♠ Pass 4 ♠ All pass


At the table South took an unusual view in the auction when he suggested six spades by rebidding his suit, after his partner had in principle denied any support for him. But South could see that even facing a singleton spade, his 150 honors might make spades the only playable game. And he was absolutely right; five diamonds has no practical chances if the defenders lead or shift to hearts, as they surely will.

While an improbable low club lead from West would have defeated four spades, the normal lead of a high club ended the defense’s chances, though it still required declarer to be wide awake. South was up to the task: he ruffed the second club and, without drawing trump, immediately played the diamond king. It did not matter whether East won or ducked. On winning the first diamond, East could see nothing more attractive than playing a third club.

Had declarer ruffed, he would have run out of trump, but he had the counter of discarding a heart from hand. Now, when a fourth round of clubs was played, declarer could ruff in dummy, while discarding a second heart from hand. Next he could return to his hand with the heart ace and draw trump in four rounds. Once trumps behaved, he could take the last four tricks with his winning diamonds. It would not have profited the defenders to shift to hearts at trick five, since declarer can always arrange to discard his heart loser on the fifth diamond after drawing trump.

There is room for a difference of opinion here, but in my view this sequence is natural, showing good spades and a strong hand. If your partner was strong and balanced he would double, with the red suits he has a cuebid of two clubs available, so the bid of two spades should be reserved. This being so, you should pass. With the club king in addition, you might bid two notrump.


♠ 9
 J 8 7 2
 Q 8 6 5 2
♣ 10 5 3
South West North East
  1 ♣ Dbl. 1 ♠
Pass 1 NT 2 ♠ 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


jim2June 2nd, 2016 at 11:14 am

Andrea Burgdorf –

Are you reading along with us? You posed a question on this hand on May 21. Did it get answered to your satisfaction?

bobby wolffJune 2nd, 2016 at 2:56 pm

Hi Jim2,

Evidently Ms. Burgdorf’s question was posed when the above column was released to the newspapers 14 days ago.

Perhaps she wrote me, but, if so, I do not remember ever receiving it. In any event this 5-1 trump fit appears to be the only makeable game, with 3NT, 4 hearts, and 5 diamonds (all interesting contracts, but unfortunately failing against the right defense).

Much thanks for always seeming to be my first line of defense and from both your point of view and mine, no doubt, not worth what you get paid for it.

A.V.Ramana RaoJune 2nd, 2016 at 3:19 pm

Hid Dear Mr. Wolff
Just wondering – perhaps same effect can be brought by south pitching heart at second trick instead of ruffing the club. If west leads a heart or a trump, south has easy time as he retains the tempo and if west continues with clubs, south ruffs and plays diamond K from hand praying spades not worse than 4-3 with and even diamond break with defense

jim2June 2nd, 2016 at 5:03 pm

A.V.Ramana Rao –

I am not Our Host, but that line fails when the defense shifts to hearts at Trick 3.

bobby wolffJune 2nd, 2016 at 5:17 pm

Hi AVRR & Jim2,
Yes, I will confirm, for what it is worth, that Jim2 is as right an anyone could be.
To be precise (or, if you will accept, nerdy), for the declarer to allow a heart switch at that time, trick 3, will establish 4 defensive tricks for the opponents before trumps are drawn (2 clubs, 1 diamond and 1 heart).
Sometimes, even often, a good declarer must play the role of a good surgeon, by deftly cutting through the problem in the right order. And please do not rebel against that "bloody" backdrop (Englishman or not).

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