Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, July 28th, 2016

How you think when you lose determines how long it will be until you win.

G. K. Chesterton

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


Today’s deal originally arose in a home countries international match between England and Northern Ireland (and was subsequently recycled into the Lords versus Commons match).

After a strong two-club opener, South ended as declarer in three no-trump. West led the heart queen, won perforce by South. Rate your chances.

The club blockage is extremely aggravating, and with only one heart stopper remaining, it might seem that, after cashing the top clubs, you will only be completely safe if West has both the missing aces. Equally, if West has just one of the aces, it may be a matter of guessing which, in order to reach dummy before the hearts are established.

Curiously, though, declarer can always get home if he plays the hand correctly. When the hand was originally played, after unblocking the clubs, both declarers continued with the diamond king at trick five. Naturally, East ducked; but now with a diamond trick in the bag, the declarers abandoned diamonds and knocked out the spade ace, to come to nine tricks without breaking a sweat.

The second time around, Lord Hamilton and Lord Kalms were defending three no-trump on the lead of the heart queen. After cashing the top clubs, South advanced a sneaky spade jack. But Lord Kalms wasn’t fooled – he ducked, and now declarer was toast. A second spade would see the defense win and shift to hearts, while declarer had only eight tricks. So declarer tried a diamond to the queen, and East won his ace and cleared the hearts to set the game.

Your partner’s double followed by a minimum action in no-trump shows more than a one no-trump overcall (with a balanced hand and less than 15 HCP, he would pass initially). You have a straightforward raise to three no-trump. Your partner may not make it — but he should be allowed to give it a try.


♠ A 9 7 4
 9 5 4
 A 7 6
♣ 10 7 3
South West North East
Pass 1 ♣ Dbl. Pass
1 ♠ Pass 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


jim2August 11th, 2016 at 12:13 pm

On BWTA, I agree with the 3N raise. I think the decision is made easier by the fact that “my” HCPs are two entries for finesses through West, who must surely hold nearly all the missing honors.

bobbywolffAugust 11th, 2016 at 12:52 pm

Hi Jim2,

While I agree both to your action and your likely reason for it, no matter the guessing why, aces are definitely undervalued when only assigned 4 and when the weak hand has two, my evaluation rises to at least worth the value of either 3 kings or as many as 5 queens.

And whatever the reasons for their superiority, whether entries, sure tricks which in our great game leads to the possessor of them usually in total control, or just increasing the value of the strong hands intermediates, always accept those too rare gifts as directly sent from bridge heaven.

While a barren balanced hand used to be thought of as “aces and spaces” opposite a strong hand, especially one behind your worthy opponent’s opening bid can be the poster child for taking many more tricks than one could imagine.

Try it and you will usually like it! Thanks for saying so.

And while I do not remember the last hand I played with 5 queens in tow, perhaps at some drunken party (in my dreams), but can anyone realize how many jacks I would need to take their place? And just thinking about it makes one a rogue knave.

Jeff SAugust 11th, 2016 at 2:50 pm

Ugh. I don’t like it when I know I must be missing something simple. After East ducks the JS, South leads to the QD and goes down in flames.

But why couldn’t he have just led the KD instead? It looks like East has to duck allowing South to revert to the prior winning line with a spade to the Q forcing the AS.

bobbywolffAugust 11th, 2016 at 4:26 pm

Hi Jeff S,

You are not missing anything!. Yes he needs, like you suggested, to merely lead the king of diamonds after clearing the high clubs from hand, which the opponents must duck and now he simply returns to knocking out the ace of spades which gives him his contract (3 clubs, 1 diamond, 3 spades and of course, the AK of hearts), totaling 9 tricks.

Read the column again and the two declarer’s were successful by first leading the king of diamonds. However in the Commons, Lords match one of the declarer’s fell from grace and tried a diamond to the queen, gobbled up by East and down he went.

Note that this hand was funneled into the Commons, Lords match since the organizers when pre-duplicating the boards to be played thought that this hand was very instructive and rigged it in, although it had been played before in another match before then, but not involving the same players so that those Brits were not aware of it being a rigged in hand.

Most of us learn by experience and you can feel satisfied with your performance in understanding how and why it was necessary to first lead the normally awkward diamond king from hand. You outplayed those British politicians, at least one of them, so congratulations for that.

Jeff SAugust 11th, 2016 at 4:42 pm

Thanks! I guess I was just a little confused by the wording of the column that said after East ducked the JS, declarer was toast.