Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Common sense always speaks too late. …Common sense is the little man in a gray suit who never makes a mistake in addition. But it’s always somebody’s else’s money he’s adding up.

Raymond Chandler

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


Today’s deal sees North show both his long suits, after which South drives to game with a call in the fourth suit. North now has an option of rebidding his second five-card suit, or of bidding no-trump. However the decision isn’t close, to my mind. You can always find no-trump later, but getting your hand pattern off your chest as soon as possible is never a bad idea. As it happens, South can close proceedings by bidding no-trump himself.

When West kicks off with the spade queen, South can see there are at most five tricks available from the majors, so South must develop one minor or the other.

The clubs look slightly more promising than diamonds, but there is a real risk that going after clubs would let East in with the club king for a killing spade continuation.

In order to develop the diamonds South needs only to find the king with West, the safe hand, plus a three-two break.

So at trick one South discards a club from dummy and wins with the spade king. He then plays on diamonds with the intention of keeping East off play. He plans to lead diamonds twice from the South hand, using a heart re-entry when the queen holds. West will be allowed to hold the trick whenever he plays the king. That player can then cash three high spades, but South has the rest.

Note that if declarer plays the queen and ace of diamonds, losing the third diamond to East, a spade continuation would defeat the contract.

It is tempting to redouble and go head hunting, and indeed at certain vulnerabilities that might be a sensible approach. But if the option is to make a forcing call of one spade, I prefer that route. It becomes surprisingly difficult to get these invitational hands off your chest unless you start low, and waiting around won’t make them any easier to describe.


♠ A Q J 10 8
 J 10 8 4
 K 8
♣ 6 3
South West North East
    1 ♣ Dbl.

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


T GatesJune 8th, 2016 at 3:33 pm

Here’s the rookie again. My question has to do with the efficacy of South ducking spades, even with a continuation should West elect to lead three, thus eliminating that threat from East. But should West be discouraged from continuing spades by East’s discard, would not West likely lead a heart or club, thus making game still possible? And by ducking spades, isn’t it likely West could be end played. I realize this is not the lesson today, I am just asking about another option for play. Thanks

bobby wolffJune 8th, 2016 at 4:00 pm

Hi "T",

First, what you are asking is why we are here to discuss it. Hopefully others will also benefit from the give and take which results.

There is little to no benefit for declarer to duck, even the first round of the spade suit. He needs nine tricks, not eight (nor of course, less) and with only 3 hearts tricks guaranteed to go with a maximum of 4 diamond tricks, and 1 club trick the spade trick becomes a given in order to score up the contract.

The above is part of the numeracy necessary flowing through the mind of the declarer which necessitates his strategy for success.
However, declarer may be able to get away with ducking one spade, still allowing West to give him another chance to score up the spade trick that he needs.

Then of course, it becomes mandatory to keep East out of the lead allowing South's nine of spades to weave its magic in denying the dreaded defense for cashing out in spades, still allowing a make.

All the above helps this declarer to understand that good opponents WILL NOT help a declarer, once the opening lead is made and the whole hand begins starting to unravel. Good defenders will know where the cards are located causing the declarer to "earn" the making of a close contract, assuming the cards are located in such a way that it can be accomplished.

When novices are playing each other, sometimes the back and forth merely exemplifies a game of "now you can make it now you cannot" depending on just how the offense and defense performs.

However, "good" bridge does not often lend itself for extra opportunities to succeed, once an earlier one is squandered.

Since the subject hand is very open for all to see, it becomes obvious that East needs to be kept off lead, and by deftly playing the diamonds, (after winning an early spade) success is there for the taking.

Thanks for asking and joining others who may benefit from visualizing what needs to happen.

jim2June 8th, 2016 at 4:05 pm

The problem with ducking is the club suit. Specifically, West shifts to clubs. This creates an entry to East when declarer lets West win the KD. (or lets East win the JD)

So, West wins the first spade, then the KD and puts East in with the KC, and a spade shift through the closed hand …

jim2June 8th, 2016 at 4:07 pm

I see I have crossed replies with Our Host.

Note that declarer dare not duck even once.

slarJune 8th, 2016 at 4:40 pm

Interesting. So a diamond succeeds as long as west has the king AND is not stiff. A club succeeds as long as west has the king AND the 10 drops by the third round. That is just clear-cut enough to indicate the diamond approach but if west inexpertly gives away the position, you have just enough to pivot and try the clubs.

bobby wolffJune 8th, 2016 at 4:53 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks for specifically mentioning the winning defense, if even one round of spades is ducked.

Sometimes, and to which “T” was no doubt alluding, is that if West, upon winning the first spade, simply continued spades, then, of course, declarer could win the second spade and be in the same position he would have been in had he won the first spade, but only after giving those wily opponents a chance to deny declarer his one and only chance by defending as you suggested, a club switch, ducked by his partner, but creating an entry the declarer would, no doubt, regret.

Sure, sometimes deception, rather than a sure way to success becomes the best way to proceed, but when playing against very adept defenders, a declarer’s chances fade geometrically because of their talent, suggesting that declarer has to match that kind of excellence in play.

With the above as a backdrop then why wouldn’t our educational system take note at how great the game of bridge really is, to learn numeracy, problem solving, partnership cooperation, psychology, communicating by code (bidding) in order to develop young minds in thinking within the box, and for the very best and brightest even outside that box, by establishing the playing of bridge by teaching it as an accredited course in schools.

The experiments in eleven countries in Europe plus, of course, the 200 million students in all of China have established nothing but “rave notices” from both the students and teachers and yet the USA and all of the Western Hemisphere refuse to pay attention.

We sometimes pay rapt attention to our election process where good speakers with highly professional writers weave their magical rhetoric, sometimes true, sometimes not so, but haven’t got time to understand what really works in this ever developing world.

And at least to me, and a too few others, VERY SAD INDEED!

bobby wolffJune 8th, 2016 at 5:05 pm

Hi Slar,

Yes, well enough analyzed, but actually no way nor time available after a very early trick one or perhaps trick two to glean tell tale information.

Leaving only the time to act (trick one) and hope to choose the winning line (assuming there is one), this time yes, but having to be ever so careful with its execution.

slarJune 8th, 2016 at 6:04 pm

DxK(“telling” a singleton)Ax
Cash CA
Cross to HK
Cash high clubs until west takes the K
If West tries to cash spades, the defense gets 3 spades, the CK, and that’s it.
If West exits with a club or a heart, that’s it for the defense unless the clubs don’t run.

Am I missing something?

bobby wolffJune 8th, 2016 at 6:42 pm

Hi Slar,

Yes, I think you are, since when and if West after holding the first spade, does continue with a 2nd one (bad play but possible), never would he continue with a 3rd spade, but likely on the play up to then switch to a club, which a really good defender would have done at trick 2.

To amplify clearly, it would be 100% certain that declarer, not partner had the spade king, even after trick one when partner would have followed with his lowest spade unless he had the Kx then he would have played the king at trick one.

In actual practice perhaps 70% of the opening leaders world wide (all classes of players) may, after leading the queen of spades, winning, then continue with the jack, but, if the jack holds only a rank novice (and there are plenty of those) would then lead a third spade.

However, this bridge site, while acknowledging that bridge is played at all levels, still does not indulge itself with spending time discussing bridge at that level.

No criticism intended, but I hope everyone appreciates what is necessary to maintain a site, where either already good or at least aspiring players have the ability to exchange questions and answers.

jim2June 8th, 2016 at 9:45 pm

slar –

As declarer, I would duck the KD, not trusting it to be singleton. On your club line, what happened to the 10C?

bobby wolffJune 9th, 2016 at 4:29 am

Hi Jim2,

I’ll fill in for Slar. The club line could be right at another time another place, with the club honors (both the king and the ten resting in the right defensive hand with the ten vanishing underneath the ace, queen and jack, and of course the king of diamonds being offside or singleton onside

However, at least on the surface the diamond line looks considerably better and even more so, simpler.

Iain ClimieJune 9th, 2016 at 8:34 am

Hi Bobby,

A slight change of focus onto BWTA and sorry I’m late. The hand does seem right at the top of the invitational range and pard would need to be putting the brakes on hard for me to stay out of game, espeically given the likely location of the SK and DA with RHO. Much depends on diamonds here I feel; if partner has length there to go with his clubs then the hand is a partial misfit (unless perhaps he has 3S or SKx) and a penalty looms. If he has only 2-3 diamonds, we should have a decent fit somewhere and that spade suit could make 4S playable opposite xx or even a singleton.

Any thoughts here, especially at IMPs or rubber bridge? At pairs, I might be easier to talk out of game, but I’m not so siure at other forms of scoring.



slarJune 9th, 2016 at 1:34 pm

The only point for my interjection was if west inexpertly gave away the position. No good player would do this, but if he did give it away with body language, there is still hope in clubs. The club 10 has to drop for this to work. This isn’t all that likely which is why the diamond play is more promising.

bobby wolffJune 9th, 2016 at 6:39 pm

Hi Iain,

There is no intelligent dissent to which you express.

Even the ten of spades, especially on this bidding, which may include a 4 card holding including the king on your right.

However, since opening bid values seem to be becoming less and less among our best and brightest players, at least some provision needs to be discussed about raising the necessity for game forcing auctions between those partners.

And to further, at least slightly increase that fear, the failure to start off by redoubling, will not necessarily tip off to partner that this hand is ours, at least in the event of at least some normalcy.

Therefore, after the agreement that 1 spade, forcing, but only for one round, is passed around and acted upon by the table, we need to make a bid which partner can now appreciate as one having full value for only beginning with what is usually made with less overall strength.

The ability to convey these sometimes critical differences should be discussed beforehand between aspiring partnerships on their way to bigger and better recognition.

Thanks for carving out this important caveat in partnership bidding for overall discussion.

bobby wolffJune 9th, 2016 at 6:45 pm

Hi Slar,

Sorry for interceding with apologies to Jim2, but like the 10 of clubs falling out of the end of West’s hand face up, which could be done by a very clever player who enjoys playing mind games with anyone who would dare call his bluff.