Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, May 21st, 2016

Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!

Dr. Seuss

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


Today’s deal was preselected for use in the match between the House of Lords and House of Commons from nearly a decade ago. You should try it as a defensive problem for the player sitting in the East seat.

After you have escaped from being doubled in one diamond you should plan the defense to three no-trump, against which partner leads the heart 10. When declarer plays low from dummy, you can see that in the unlikely event that your partner has the heart king, the contract will surely not make. But if your partner has led from a heart sequence and declarer has the king, you do best to unblock the heart queen at trick one. It duly holds the trick. What now?

First, suppose you go for the ‘normal’ defense and play off two further rounds of hearts. A competent declarer should now find his way home. He will win the third heart, discarding a diamond from dummy, play off three top spades and then go after diamonds. At some stage you will win the diamond ace but will have no option other than to play a club. This will run around to dummy’s queen, and now the diamond suit will provide plenty of winners for declarer.

Can you see a way to avoid this ignominy? After you win the first heart you must exit immediately with a low diamond. Now when declarer plays off his spades and leads another diamond (what else can he do?) you win, cash your heart ace and exit with a heart. Declarer must now play clubs himself, and thus will go down.

Standard expert practice here is to use Crawling Stayman, to get to your best fit at the two-level. Here you can bid two clubs, planning to pass a response in a major but to bid two hearts over a response of two diamonds. This last call would show both majors and no game interest. Your partner must pass or correct two hearts to two spades with 3-2 in the majors.


♠ 10 9 5 4
 10 9 8 6 4
♣ 8 5 3
South West North East
    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


A.V.Ramana RaoJune 4th, 2016 at 1:27 pm

Hi Dear Mr . Wolff
In a lighter vein – Actually east must complement partner for finding the only lead on which there is any semblance of chance of the contract going down and he can complement himself for finding the right defense. As can be observed, on any lead except a heart , the contract always fails

A.V.Ramana RaoJune 4th, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Please read ” contract making” instead of going down in second line( After semblance of chance)

bobby wolffJune 5th, 2016 at 12:26 am


Yes, bridge often results in a contradiction.

The ostensibly best lead for the defense turns out to be the worst lead and requires a counter intuitive move by the defense to “slay the beast”.

However, I bet you agree with me that in can be figured out. Surely declarer is going to have the club ace, thus East must plan the defense to allow him to win the right diamond, although he may give one diamond trick away if declarer only has a singleton.

To describe it differently, East must squarely look at the dummy and trust that if those impending diamonds turn into tricks for declarer he might just make his bid.

Therefore the low diamond back by East in order to have a safe exit, of course with declarer holding the AKQ of spades, but he well may have it on this bidding and of course, the opening heart lead from partner.

Easy? No, Challenging? Certainly, Impossible? No

A V Ramana RaoJune 5th, 2016 at 9:48 am

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
Yes I agree. Bridge like life is a paradox
Thanks & regards

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