Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, August 26th, 2016

I have come too late into a world too old.

Alfred de Musset

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


To say that South had been given a complete blueprint of the deal below in his contract of five clubs would be only a slight exaggeration. After the bidding and the play to the first trick, he could pinpoint every high card in the defenders’ hands. The good news is he was given the opportunity for a rather unusual play; the bad news is that he thought of it too late.

Against five clubs doubled West led the spade ace to the three, queen and six, then rather woodenly led another spade. As it turns out, a heart switch would have been more purposeful. South ruffed and led a trump to the two, 10 and jack. East returned a heart to dummy’s ace and, although the finesses against both of East’s kings were right, there was only one entry to the table. East was able to cover whatever card was led from dummy, and wait for the setting trick in the other minor.

Can you spot the winning line? If you place East with every missing honor card, then declarer should start trump by the highly unusual maneuver of leading the nine from his hand. East can win with the jack and lead a heart, but the difference now is that declarer can make his second play in trumps the lead of a club honor from dummy. Whether East covers or not, there will remain a vital entry on the table to lead the diamond jack, and avoid a loser in that suit.

Normally with a weak hand and four trump facing an overcall, you should raise to the three level, preemptively. You can cuebid with a high-card limit raise in this seat. But here your balanced hand argues for a simple raise. That should suffice: there is no need to do any more than that, since your hand is so defensive in nature.


♠ 7 4 3
 A 8 6 2
 J 6 2
♣ Q 10 4
South West North East
  1 ♣ 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


Iain ClimieSeptember 9th, 2016 at 11:22 am

Hi Bobby,

The C9 also copes with West having CJ alone or CJx. In the latter case, even if the C9 is covered by the J, there is a 3rd round entry with the C4 if you ever need it, as long as the ruff at T2 was with the C5. Here it doesn’t matter, but I recall a BOLS bridge tip about not being too keen to part with your very small cards too early.



Bobby WolffSeptember 9th, 2016 at 2:57 pm

Hi Iain,

You have now, and from my view, always have had wonderful teaching instincts, and when combined with a sophisticated knowledge of what’s up in this hand or that, makes for a powerful and, more importantly, educational opportunity for those who listen.

This hand is, at least for the declarer, a relatively simple example of being able to find a way to likely (or possibly) have a way to stay in dummy to repeat another critical minor suit finesse, just in case East has the jack of clubs to go with his known two minor suit kings (after the opening lead, and third seat play almost guarantees their location).

Both top-level declarer’s play and defense sometime requires great investigative work to play and defend hands to maximum advantage and who better than Arthur Conan Doyle’s, Sherlock Holmes to use as a phantom detective, with his right-on analysis explained to his sidekick, Watson.

Yes, that combination has already been oft times used with bridge teachings and well it should. You are nothing less than brilliant when you spot West having the singleton jack, forcing you, the declarer to keep the 3 of clubs at the ready to overtake with the four in dummy should East cover the ten on the second lead of that suit (With West having the singleton jack then East will possess the deuce), unless of course they were 2-2 all along and then of course, it would not matter as long as declarer was shrewd enough to still have the three at hand.

Doyle’s readers would all be impressed, as long as, of course, they were bridge players.

jim2September 9th, 2016 at 3:39 pm

With what card would East “cover the ten on the second lead” of the club suit? (clubs being J – K82)

Bobby WolffSeptember 9th, 2016 at 6:48 pm

Hi Jim2,

Well again I am essentially “heist by my own petard”. Bridge seems to do it often to me, only proving I need to proof my posts more than just once or twice.

It may be poetic justice that I, through the years, have admonished, for all within earshot, but especially my partners and teammates, to take bridge very seriously or it will find ways to get even, and instead, it is I, not them, who get caught in that not so tender trap.