Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, August 5th, 2016

I never saw any good that came of telling truth.

John Dryden

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

*6-9 with five or more clubs


Hands from team matches where a swing comes from a different line of play or defense often yield interesting discussion points. Today’s deal saw identical auctions, with South declaring three no-trump on a fourth-highest spade lead to East’s ace. Yet one table made their game, and one table went down.

Where the defense prevailed, East captured the spade with his ace and shifted to the diamond queen, ensuring four tricks in that suit whether South covered or not. When West complimented his partner, East remarked that this was hardly challenging as after South followed with the spade two at the first trick, the three of spades lead could only be fourth highest from four, marking declarer with four spades. Since the clubs were an obvious danger, his logical play at trick two was the winning one.

And that is the point of the hand; in the second room, South diagnosed the danger before he played from dummy to trick one. He could see that if he was going to win the first trick, life rated to be very straightforward, but if East had the spade ace he might need to be deflected from the winning defense. So he craftily followed with the spade nine from hand to trick one under the ace.

East now hoped his partner had five spades, and that continuing spades might allow West to cash out the spades or at least set up the suit. After a spade continuation, South played low from hand and emerged with 10 tricks at the end of the day.

North has shown real extra values in a threesuited hand with either three diamonds and one club or 5-4-4-0 distribution. Your assets seem to be working reasonably well in context – should you drive to game, and if so which? I say yes; and I think three no-trump will be easier to play than four spades. Without your decent clubs spots, you might feel differently.


♠ 10 5
 K 8
 6 5 4 2
♣ A 10 8 3 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♠ Pass
1 NT Pass 2 Pass
2 ♠ 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


Iain ClimieAugust 19th, 2016 at 3:31 pm

Hi Bobby,

A good hand for attitude (aka Busso) leads as West would have led the S6. Are they still in fashion, though, at least against NT?



bryanAugust 19th, 2016 at 3:37 pm

The 2 of spades made it ‘easy’ for west to find the shift. Were there enough clues for West to have seen through the 9?
If South had QJ9, a spade return would have still lost. if South has Q9, then the bidding does not make sense.
Only if South has J92 does it win, not sure how that would align with bidding and opening lead.

On the other hand, I could easily see myself as west being asleep at the deck and returning a spade…then going, ooops I should have switched.

Mircea1August 19th, 2016 at 3:57 pm

Hi Bobby,

Looking at this hand from West’s perspective and assuming this is played at high level, am I correct in assuming that his return at trick 2 is pretty much a coin toss? Declarer’s S9 could be false card or not, declarer could be wide open in diamonds, have only two small clubs, etc. In other words, under these assumptions there is not enough logic to draw on.

bobbywolffAugust 19th, 2016 at 3:58 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt, since the six, not being very low and thus either no major honor, or if so, then not as many as 5 of them will in most partnerships inspire the queen of diamonds switch at trick 2 from partner, with no successful falsecarding by declarer dissuading.

The above is the good news in what transmitted ethical information can accomplish when properly transmitted.

The bad news is when a normally fast opening leader takes time before leading, which even though the right card, 3 (fourth best) is chosen followed by the ace from partner, but the 9 from declarer.

How can either a spade continuation (not best) nor a brilliant switch to the queen of diamonds (success) be judged. Is it percentage (who knows) or is it taking advantage of unauthorized information (study)?

My answer, though subjective, is based on experience, wherein on this hand no one can tell, but in the fullness of time (over a much longer time period) the ethics of that opening leader together with his partner seemingly either making the “winning” play too often or, much better, some times yes, other times, no may tell “the rest of the story”.

Will fate cooperate and have that particular possibly suspect pair, be unlucky enough to have these “close” situations appear often against those same opponents, or instead have the luck necessary to have them spread out against many?

bobbywolffAugust 19th, 2016 at 4:05 pm

Hi Bryan,

Unfortunately, on this hand (with the biddiing presented) it may be right to return a spade even though the defense needed to persist in spades to eventually beat the hand.

IOW, bridge (often on defense) can get unduly complicated with even at the best of time, the best shot to defeat is only the result of a small percentage advantage (almost impossible to ethically determine at trick 2).

bobbywolffAugust 19th, 2016 at 4:13 pm

Hi Mircea1,

BINGO, you nailed the right thoughts.

Unfortunately the game itself is often afflicted with these impossible to accurately judge what to do, but is the reason for all young and aspiring players (and bridge lovers) to ward off those evil spirited questionable ethics and at least attempt to be squeaky clean not to pass unauthorized information (UI) to partner and even if somehow he fails, for his equally bridge loving partner, to lean over backwards to not take advantage.

original football shirtAugust 24th, 2016 at 12:57 am

Genuinely when someone doesn’t know then its up to other people that they will
help, so here it takes place.