Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, August 6th, 2016

The giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

S North
None ♠ 10 4 3
 A K J 9
♣ K Q 9 8 2
West East
♠ K 9 8 6
 K 9 7 5
 Q 10 7 6
♣ 3
♠ J 5 2
 A Q 8 4
♣ 10 7 6 5 4
♠ A Q 7
 J 6 3 2
 8 5 3 2
♣ A J
South West North East
1 ♣* Dbl. Rdbl. 1
Pass Pass 2 Dbl.
Pass Pass 3 ♣ Pass
3 NT All pass    

*May be short


Although aggressive competitive bidding can prevent the opponents from reaching their best contract, it can also sometimes simplify the play.

Today’s deal, from London’s high-standard Lederer Memorial Trophy, is a good example. It was provided to me under the seal of the confessional by the guilty South, who shall remain unnamed.

The defense started with four rounds of hearts, ending with East on lead. Not wishing to commit herself to a minor-suit discard, South threw all of dummy’s spades. When East switched to a spade and South won her ace, what should she have thrown from the dummy?

West’s misguided super-light take-out double should have given declarer all the clues she needed. West has at most 9 HCP, so is heavy favorite to hold a real three-suiter with at most one club. Thus declarer can be sure of four diamond tricks. Correct is to discard a club from dummy and play a diamond to dummy’s jack. When East plays low South can cross back to hand with a club to the ace and play a diamond to the nine. If West started with Q-10-x-x and inserts an honor on the second round, declarer can cross back again with clubs and take a second diamond finesse to make her game.

So the light double allowed declarer to make her game? No. South discarded a diamond from the dummy on the spade ace and now had to go down. Worse still, in the other room, where East/ West were silent, West led a spade. Now declarer had an easy nine tricks.

Despite your limited values, it feels right to raise to three clubs rather than pass out two clubs. Your five trumps and your ace mean that your partner does not require a moose for him to have play for game. Equally, if your partner is light, you may be well advised to keep the opponents out.


♠ J 5 2
 A Q 8 4
♣ 10 7 6 5 4
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
1 Pass 2 ♣ 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


Jane AAugust 20th, 2016 at 12:27 pm

I assume when you said “the guilty south”, you meant because he opened a short club holding only three spades and should have opened the hand one diamond. But if he does, it will keep east and west silent perhaps, and three NT will be reached anyway. Now if west finds the heart lead somehow, let the games begin. South has no idea where anything is or what the shape of the hands are. Four heart tricks later, now what?

My hunting dogs would love to clear those rats from the field. Looks like there was more than one on this hand.

Very interesting. Thanks for presenting the hand. So much to think about and so many thing to do.

bobbywolffAugust 20th, 2016 at 3:03 pm

Hi Jane A,

In bridge, guilt is where you find it, and although that word is just a substitute for sheepish, clever and alert let us zero in on exactly what she brought to this table. After the four losing hearts were cashed and the spade was switched to by East, South could be sure that West, having at most 9 HCP’s was surely 4-4-4-1, since while holding 5 spades she would surely opt to either pass or merely overcall 1 spade instead of the very aggressive (but 4 card support for all unbids).

Therefore, after East switched to the spade, the deal was tantamount to playing with transparent cards, but South was up to the task of first finessing the jack of diamonds (in case East was dealt the singleton 10 since she still had two club entries back to hand to enable a deeper diamond finesse the next time.

Finally, this hand mainly exemplifies to me what is mostly necessary to become very good at our no doubt superior and beautiful game, keeping up with the lay of the cards, by way of the bidding and up to then defense.

That visualization then allows South to shine like the bridge star (at least in the making) she is, and fie on the unlikely percentage break (5-1 clubs) this hand and at this point in the defense (after 4 rounds of hearts) almost proved it.

Finally, yes if East at trick 5 switched to a club instead of a spade, declarer would have had to finesse the 9 of diamonds the first time, but my guess, is that she would have.

So then, presto, magico the clubs are breaking 5-1, making the dye cast to take this spectacular winning line.

jim2August 20th, 2016 at 4:19 pm

Why not play a diamond to the A or K, and THEN come back and finesse the 9?

After all, it still drops the 10D offside, and the QD as well.

bobbywolffAugust 20th, 2016 at 5:38 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, I am guilty (sheepish) of not measuring up to my sometimes haughty manner.

Thanks for showing the way, you *&%$”, strong letter to follow. Well anyway, the innocent readers became better informed, proving that, even being embarrassed, has something redeeming.

And besides, if the queen did portend to fall, there is not a cow in Texas (my birthday state), so, of course my thought to be error is only a way of pretending weakness due to not wanting to exaggerate. And besides I so wish that East had been dealt the Q10 doubleton and of course, dropped the queen on YOUR ace, allowing you to be careless and not cash the king before returning to hand.

Hark! Does the above sound like current politics?