Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 29th, 2016

There’s nothing like being used to a thing.

Richard Sheridan

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


It is important to understand how South can describe a strong balanced hand by his first two calls. With 15 to 17 points, South can open one no-trump, whereas with 20 to 22 points, South would open with two no-trump.

However, with in-between hands, in the range of 18 to 19 points, the solution is to open one of a suit, then jump rebid at notrump. North can raise to three no-trump, since he has eight points in high cards, which should be more than enough for game.

When dummy comes down, South sees he needs four club tricks to make his game. He can only do so if East has the club king. Moreover, since there is only one entry to dummy, South must manage to take all of the necessary club finesses without wasting entries.

Best is to begin clubs by leading the nine from dummy. When it holds the trick, the queen can be led next. Once this also holds the trick, a third club finesse can be taken, and the contract can be brought home.

It would be wrong to lead the club queen first. If South drops the small club under dummy’s queen, he must win the second club in his own hand, and then cannot return to dummy for the third club finesse.

It would be no better to lead the queen and contribute the 10 under it. East would duck the first club, then cover the club nine with the king. This leaves South with a losing club for the fourth round of the suit.

The question here is whether to lead a diamond, trusting your RHO to have hearts under control, or to lead your long suit. I go for the heart lead – since even if East has the aceking of hearts, a heart lead may still serve to help set this suit up for the defense.


♠ 10 7 6 5
 Q 8 3 2
 9 8 2
♣ 7 4
South West North East
  1 ♠ Dbl. Rdbl.
2 Pass Pass 3 NT
All 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


slarSeptember 12th, 2016 at 7:54 pm

Of course the palookas will automatically cover the CQ, making the job easy for declarer. The declarer problem is one I can handle as long as I don’t play too fast. The one I have a harder time with is East. As the cards lie, it doesn’t matter what he does (assuming a competent declarer). But how does East decide whether to cover or not? The “rules” are contradictory and I can’t come up with any logic to help me make a decision. I can invent hands that favor one or the other, but then I get tangled up in whether a rational declarer would, for example, ever want to run an unsupported Q to try to steal the 9th trick.

Bobby WolffSeptember 12th, 2016 at 11:09 pm

Hi Slar,

Your concerns and emotions are about right, but your description might be more accurate.

When you speak of “rules” you should instead insert “advice” and better than use the word contradictory, mention somewhat inconsistent.

A secret, no doubt now taught in the countries which are officially teaching it, is learning exactly what happens when honors are covered, touching on making the declarer (usually) use two of his honors to gather together only one of the opponent’s protective cards instead of letting (as an example) an unsupported queen win the trick without contesting it from the beginning, usually most times without fear of defending incorrectly.

However there are other defensive considerations which include winning the trick in the right hand for one’s side rather than the other (when necessary) or, of course positional advantages when a jack is led from Jxx in view when holding the king (often an easier play) than rising with the ace when declarer started with only Qxx.

Without specific numerate teaching while covering one subject or the other, the actual play of a bridge hand can be off-the-charts-confusing when numbers do not flow from a gifted arithmetical student, which is certainly more prevalent than ones who aren’t.

IMO an early in life student needs to understand the genesis of the card combination and the necessity for defenders (far and away the most difficult part of the game, if only to just grasp) to visualize from the bidding and sometimes the tempo of the particular opponent, and soon in the hand, while totally concentrating (a task in itself) get a preliminary fix on declarer’s distribution allowing the defender to concentrate on what to expect later and thus be ready to not give away any extra advantage a good defender may gain by his own even tempo.

Without from the beginning of each and every hand one will defend (and that will include about half the hands one will ever play) that preliminary evidence gleaned from the bidding and then enhanced by partner’s opening lead together with the sight of dummy will only serve to clarify as the hand unfolds what that best defense will likely be.

No short cuts, only cold reality, but one which is possible to overcome, including the realization that most hands will result in the three active players at the table, hardly ever each playing the perfect percentage card which could be played. Yes, the game is that difficult, but the satisfaction representing an off-the-charts good feeling when anything close to perfection occurs.

One only loses the majesty of what the game could represent when he or she doesn’t try.
Most do not and never know what they are missing.