Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

He was cut off out of the land of the living.

Book of Isaiah

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


In three no-trump after a spade lead East won with the ace and returned the nine, won by South with the king. As it happened that false card fooled nobody except perhaps dummy – since both defenders, from the carding to date, knew exactly who held the spade queen.

Declarer continued with the club king, catering for a possible singleton queen, then played a second club, to the jack and queen. Appreciating that South was now cut off from his own hand, East returned his last club – a good choice rather than the more superficially attractive option of a diamond. Stuck on the table, declarer cashed the rest of his clubs, but then was forced to lead hearts, losing three tricks in the suit and ending one light.

Can you see where South went wrong? It was by cashing the club king at trick three. The best play here is to take a first-round finesse, by leading the four to dummy’s jack. If East wins with the queen, no return can harm declarer. He still has the club king in place as an entry to his diamond ace and spade queen. After that, a heart to dummy will allow him to be reunited with his established clubs.

Ducking the first round of clubs will not help the defense; it makes it easier for South to come to 10 tricks. Just for the record though, it might be a different story if West held queen-fourth of clubs. But that would be somewhat against the odds, of course.

This hand shows one of the downsides of playing New Minor Forcing. You cannot sign off in two diamonds – that call has been subverted to becoming a forcing relay. Pass one no-trump, hoping partner can run the diamonds in one no-trump. With the spades and diamonds switched it would be much more attractive to bid two spades. Here, though, your weak spots argue against that action.


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


BryanOctober 19th, 2016 at 1:58 pm

If declarer “woke up” to the possible transportation problem after cashing the king of clubs, would cashing the queen of spades and then club finesse work? Is it playing for a too specific east hand? For example, would it matter if East had 4 spades?

bobbywolffOctober 19th, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Hi Bryan,

Yes, by cashing the spade queen first, it does cater to much too specific a hand especially regarding the location of the King and other hearts which, under most circumstances, would usually enable the defense to prevail.

While looking at this layout of the cards, I can understand your question with two spades in tow and 5 clubs to come, declarer then would only need two more heart tricks, which, in order for the defense to continue to keep declarer in dummy would have to concede two heart tricks, enabling declarer to take nine.

In order to continue improving in bridge, one needs to adopt a practical attitude of realizing that no certain knowledge of where normally lesser important cards such as the exact heart distribution can never be determined, just imagined.

Therefore the low club to the eight in dummy will solve most distributional layouts, so go for it and not worry, if and when West was dealt Qxxx in clubs making the column line a loser.

Often, right lines of play are only based on percentage, not certainty, making the “right line” not always the one which works.

This above fact sometimes, after unjust criticisms by partner after declarer goes down, proves the old adage, “Remain quiet and thought a fool, rather than speak and remove all doubt”.

slarOctober 19th, 2016 at 6:57 pm

BWTA also shows one one of the benefits of two-way New Minor Forcing or XYZ – you can bid 2C and simply drop your partner in 2D. I wasn’t a fan of this initially but after seeing it in action a few times I think it is worth adding if you and your partner are sure you understand all of the continuations.

mereOctober 19th, 2016 at 7:47 pm

Hi Slar,

Yes, a mere recommendation of a not often occurring convention is often not enough to cause the stir it deserves, but when a supposed convention (or treatment) has side advantages it usually is worth pursuing.

I feel the same about the relatively major change from transfers over 1NT to 2 way Stayman since, at least to me, all the inherent other advantages easily outweigh the likely reason why people play transfers, to get the opening lead up to instead of through the stronger hand.

Although major changes in a system, no doubt, require an agile mind, but when the change makes as much difference as I think the above does,, go for it, is my unqualified

However, I need to think about your choice, but for the moment I prefer 2 way checkback Stayman over a 1NT rebid.

mereOctober 19th, 2016 at 7:48 pm

Hi Slar,

I do not know where Mere came from since it should have said Bobby.