Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 5th, 2016

Here’s to the few who forgive what you do, and the fewer who don’t even care.

Leonard Cohen

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


This month I shall be running a few deals from Larry Cohen’s latest teaching tool: “Larry Teaches Declarer Play at Suit contracts”, (available from his website). The book discusses many basic strategies for intermediate players.

Try today’s problem, where West leads the spade king against four hearts. Declarer can count a sure spade loser in addition to potential losers in hearts and clubs. If trumps are 2-2 and the club ace is onside, declarer should come home with an overtrick. As you can see, Larry has not made your task easy: trumps are 3-1 and the club ace is offside.

It might appear that declarer has to lose a spade, a trump and two clubs. But, declarer can make his contract by combining the partial drawing of trump with a technique from Cohen’s chapter on throw-in plays.

The spade king lead marks the queen with West, which may turn out to be useful. Declarer wins the spade ace and tests trump with the ace and king. The 3-1 break is bad news, but the fact that it is West who is out of trumps will prove useful.

Leaving a high trump outstanding, declarer aims to get help from West. He strips off the diamonds and exits with the spade jack. West can win, but then has either to lead clubs or issue a ruff-and-sluff. East still has a high trump, but by keeping a trump in dummy, declarer is able to endplay West and hold his club losers to one.

In an auction of this sort your best hope to beat the contract looks to be to go passive, hoping the black suits are lying unfavorably for declarer. Here the most passive option looks to be a heart, so I would lead the heart nine, trying to give away as little as possible.


♠ Q 10 8 3
 9 4 3
 A 2
♣ Q 9 8 6
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Pass 2 ♣
Pass 2 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


TedSeptember 19th, 2016 at 9:20 pm

Hi Bobby,

A hand from yesterday’s Swiss which caused confusion. We landed on our feet (through no fault of our own), and partner played it well making 5 when the defense dropped a trick in the 3-card ending.

In first seat I held (opponents passed throughout):

86 AKxx AK108xx x

1D 1S
2D 3C
3H 3S
4S all pass

Partner held:

AQJxx xx xx A10xx

Where did we go off the rails?


slarSeptember 20th, 2016 at 12:33 am

IMHO you both bid well. I’ve found that 5-2 fits are underrated by advancing players, especially when it is a good five and/or responder is two-suited. You might not want to be in 3NT given the transportation issues.

Bobby WolffSeptember 20th, 2016 at 5:11 am

Hi Ted and Slar,

While both you, Ted, bid well enough, I suggest that your partner on the third round of bidding try 4 diamonds instead of 3 spades.

Since the 5 card suit was a good one, 3 spades is not unreasonable instead of 4 diamonds, but his partner, Ted, should be guaranteed that the responder had at least 5 spades ( and pretty good ones,unless his later bidding showed major slam interest and was only GF when he rebid 3 clubs over 2 diamonds.

However these bidding sequences are extraordinarily good experience for any partnership to begin to understand the design for bidding. While 6 diamonds is a mediocre contract it would not be totally unreasonable to arrive, but I think the best IMP (or rubber bridge) contract would be a simple 5 diamonds.

A partnership will be well on its way to success if they are able to discuss this hand and best, to remember the thought process which each bid caused, and, if important, why the biid made was the bid chosen.

IOW’s Ted, you IMO are doing the right thing in trying to improve your knowledge of what high-level bidding is all about.

And as a final word, at least from me, sometimes either of two (or even three) bids are acceptable with the one chosen not necessarily the very best, but that is not nearly as important as while the auction is going on for both partners to understand what was going on with each bid made and why.

Good luck and I think you and partner have a bright future, but it will not be easy to overcome the lows which will come to every partnership at sometime during the high-level learning process.

slarSeptember 20th, 2016 at 3:35 pm

If your path is taken (1D-1S;2D-3C;3H-4D), what is 4S by opener? Is it a control, shortness, or a place to play? Am I right in thinking that with the actual hand you would bid 4H to show good controls there?

It seems to me that 6D is a blind stab, the kind of bid you make when you are down in the 4th quarter of a team match when things don’t appear to be going well.

TedSeptember 20th, 2016 at 5:05 pm

Thank you Slar and Bobby,

Yes, the hand would have made 6D with the cards being friendly.

Our main discussion was on the meaning of my 3H bid. Partner thought that since this was the unbid suit, I was denying a control for NT and asking him if he had one. I thought that since 3C did not promise an actual Club suit, 3H promised a stopper and denied one in Clubs.

If my logic is sound, however, how should this auction proceed?

xx xx AK108xx AKx

AQJxx AJx xx xxx