Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 9th, 2016

A Daniel come to judgment, yea, a Daniel!

William Shakespeare

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


Today’s deal saw me as East, and wondering if I would have been weighed in the balance and found wanting had declarer put me to the test.

At the table my partner led the club king against four hearts. I followed with the two, feeling that my count might be more important than attitude here. After due deliberation, West switched to the diamond five. You might care to plan the play now, in declarer’s shoes.

At the table declarer was frightened of a ruff, and so rose with the diamond ace, then cashed the top trumps, and continued the attack on diamonds. I won the king and shifted to the spade four, a count card. Declarer knocked out the trump queen, and West cashed his spade winner, so declarer lost a trick in each suit for down one.

Notice that if I win the diamond king and give West his diamond ruff, South is a tempo ahead in the race to 10 tricks. That also applies if I continue with clubs on winning the diamond king. So it is surely best to finesse at trick two, hoping East does not find the spade switch.

My instincts are that the spade shift at trick three is sufficiently logical that I would have made the play. It might cost overtricks, but it is very unlikely to let through the contract, and surely West should have cashed a second club if one were standing up. Given that South appears to have three diamonds, he would not finesse unless the layout of the cards looks very much as it does here.

Your hand probably belongs in three no-trump, and it seems sensible to make that call. Is it possible you are off the whole heart suit? Yes, but it is very unlikely since your partner either has a really good hand or both red suits. And if your partner has clubs, you will hear about it on the next round of the auction.


♠ Q 10 6 4 2
 K 2
♣ A 9 5 3 2
South West North East
  1 ♠ Dbl. Pass
3 ♣ Pass 3 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


David WarheitJune 23rd, 2016 at 10:41 am

Actually, I believe that the S shift “is sufficiently logical”, not at trick 3, but rather at trick 2! I believe that E should have overtaken the CK with the A at trick 1 and then shifted to S10 at trick 2. Then, even if S held solid H, draws trump and loses the D finesse to E, E should know whether to return a C or a K, because the S W played at trick 2 should be count and not a smile card showing the SA since, on the bidding, he must hold the K, otherwise declarer has pre-empted in H holding SAK, which seems to me almost impossible. And, yes, if S held solid H, he would have to hold doubletons in both S & C for us to be able to defeat 4H. Bottom line: since a S shift at trick 2 should be so obvious to E, why should hope for his partner to find it when he can so easily do it himself?

Iain ClimieJune 23rd, 2016 at 11:04 am

Hi Bobby, David,

I agree that West (if on lead) should be playing a spade at T2 but East jumping on the first club and playing a spade could misfire if there is a second club. But why play a diamond? West has a natural trump trick and, unless South turns up with (say) AQ AJ10xxxxx xx x which seems unlikely, given the extra strength, then a spade switch is surely best. I suppose South could have DK alone and 3 small clubs, but it seems more likely partner has the DK and at least one of the SA or Q.

So I think West should be getting this right, even without East’s help. David’s line (from East’s viewpoint) works nicely if South has SKx but that option is still open after two rounds of clubs; the big gain is when West isn’t up to finding the spade switch and South has SAx. TOCM could have a field day here, though



Iain ClimieJune 23rd, 2016 at 11:29 am

Sorry, that South hand has an extra heart giving 14 in the pack! It is very unlikely.

bobbywolffJune 23rd, 2016 at 2:37 pm

Hi David & Iain,

Even though, while considering bridge life broadly as played across the whole wide world, this type problem is indeed somewhat of a surreal experience.

Yes, if declarer had the following hand, s. AQ10, h. AJ10xxxx, d. xx. c. x a diamond switch might be necessary to set 4 hearts easily since it removes the possibility of South using the diamond suit for more than one trick. And how about worse, if he held s. AQ109, h. AKJxxxxx, d. void, c. x. Of course if the first expressed hand above, is the layout and a club is continued West will likely have the option of later switching to the diamond after declarer plays ace and another heart once East’s singleton king falls under the ace. However what if South originally held: s. AQ109, h. AJ10xxxx, d. x, c. x and the jack of spades came down early.

All the above proves is how difficult bridge (especially at the pressurized high level) becomes in seeking double dummy ways to play and defend.

Simply explained it becomes rather ridiculous for West to even seriously consider switching to a diamond since East’s two of clubs suggests the most likely obvious switch and that is to a spade unless that partnership had a special understanding (of course, announced to their opponents) of only count at trick one rather than the more popular signal, attitude, or just overtaking and switching to a spade in case declarer had the king and partner the ace jack.

Even that defense is contra to holding the king of diamonds, but maybe, especially at matchpoints when East wpuld like to encourage declarer to take the diamond finesse if he indeed only had a singleton in order to defeat 4 hearts more than one trick.

However in competitive bridge “in order to deceive, we must weave” might likely be construed as always the “instruction du jour”.

bobbywolffJune 23rd, 2016 at 4:54 pm

Hi David,

Sorry, but I forgot to agree with you that overtaking the king of clubs and leading a spade back, 4th best, not the ten, since there were only two, not three in dummy.

However I (we) got sidetracked with discussing other aspects of this problem.

Patrick CheuJune 23rd, 2016 at 6:21 pm

Hi Bobby,Could you please suggest a sensible bidding sequence on this hand? Pairs All V. north A5 A974 KQ432 62~east QT983 KT8 65 J53~south void Q62 AJT98 AT984~west KJ7642 J53 7 KQ7.Dealer E. E pass S 1D W 2S N dbl–E 3S S 4C W pass N 4N–E pass S 5H W pass N 6D-1.(Acol).South thought 4C was justified by the shape and that I should have bid 4S not 4N and she would bid 5C to show no extras….regards~Patrick.

bobbywolffJune 24th, 2016 at 1:57 am

Hi Patrick,

How about,

East South West North
Pass 1 Diamond 1 Spade Double
3 Spades 4 Clubs Pass 4Spades
Pass 5 Clubs Pass 5Diamond
Pass Pass Pass

Since EW are vulnerable it seems 1 spade rather than 2 spades is more appropriate.

After reading what you wrote, I agree.

Patrick CheuJune 24th, 2016 at 6:19 am

Hi Bobby, Your thoughts are much appreciated here~Best regards~Patrick.

slarJune 24th, 2016 at 2:32 pm

I agree that sequence is sane but often the opponents don’t cooperate. I guess east has seen west’s weak jump overcalls before and therefore didn’t jump to game. There is something to be said for preempting to the level below what you want the opponents to bid. In PC’s case, it led them to overbid. On another day, they might stop in 4D when 5D is cold.

bobbywolffJune 24th, 2016 at 4:00 pm

Hi Slar,

The problem and therefore truth about the whole bridge process of bidding is that sometimes one point, e.g. South having the K62 of hearts instead of the Q62 and to compensate, South not having all those high spot cards in diamonds and clubs, still makes 6 diamonds more or less, a total laydown.

Yet, how can that difference be determined during the bidding. No doubt, South while holding the K of hearts may have jumped to the slam over his partner’s 4 spade cue bid instead of settling for game, but only experience in the major difference between a king and a queen (opposite an ace a king becomes just as valuable as that ace while a queen simply does not).

Instead of remembering “cute” and often helpful rules about preempting and such, it will be more productive to understand just what constitutes “real values” for slams, 1. controls, 2, adequate trumps in length and high cards. 3. not two immediate losers in any one suit, and 4. a source of side tricks to be able to count up to 12 out of 13 tricks.

IOW, aces, kings, voids, singletons and solid trumps are the building blocks for slams so during the bidding, once a slam is in the sights, both partners need to exercise deft judgment to get there from here.

The above is not learned in hours, days, weeks, months or even a year, but by being surrounded by especially talented players together with a keen and malleable attitude and an overwhelming desire to achieve.

The game itself is certainly worth it, with its earned satisfaction, but sometimes the emotional price for accomplishing it, is just too expensive to succeed since it takes all that time and effort, just to be able to get out of the batter’s box on the way to circling the bases.

Also, in order to do so, one must have the numeracy (continually thinking about numbers) to at least make the task a great deal easier.