Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, October 7th, 2016

In a world of diminishing mystery, the unknown persists.

Jhumpa Lahiri

S North
E-W ♠ 9 8 6 3 2
 K Q 10 3
♣ Q 3 2
West East
♠ Q 7 5
 K J 3
 J 9 7 4
♣ J 10 5
♠ K 10 4
 9 8 7 5 4
♣ A 7 6 4
♠ A J
 A Q 10 6
 A 6 5 2
♣ K 9 8
South West North East
1 Pass 1 ♠ Pass
2 NT Pass 3 ♣* Pass
3 Pass 3 NT All pass



Put yourself in the shoes of East, defending three no-trump. Your partner leads the club jack, which goes to the two, seven and king. After a diamond to dummy, South plays a spade to his jack and West’rsquo;s queen. West continues with the club 10, which goes to dummy’s queen, and your ace. Plan the defense.

Your first reaction might well be to try to cash out the clubs, but if your partner started with a club holding such as J-10-9-x in clubs, there is no hurry to return a club right now, because you know that you will have a second chance. You can always cash out when you get on lead with your spade trick. But what if your partner started with a club holding such as J-10-x? If so, you need to switch to a heart now. And you should shift to the heart nine, so that if declarer finesses your partner can win and revert to clubs, setting up your long club for you, when you get in with your spade winner.

There is a good reason to play for this second position. First of all it covers far more possibilities than the chance that the clubs are blocked, when partner has precisely J-10-9. More importantly, if your partner’s original club holding included both the club nine and 10, he should surely have shifted to the nine not the 10 at the previous trick. After all, he knows you are aware he has the 10 – but you do not know about the nine.

There is no need to tell your partner what he has in his hand when you can ask him, hence your delicate invitation to game with the call of two no-trump. Your partner then indicated he had a weakish hand with four diamonds, unsuitable for an initial preemptive raise. Since you have precisely what you promised at the previous turn, just pass now.


♠ A J
 A Q 10 6
 A 6 5 2
♣ K 9 6
South West North East
1 Pass 1 NT Pass
2 NT Pass 3 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 21st, 2016 at 1:59 pm

I do not understand on the hand why leading a heart to get a club lead is better than just leading a club on your own to set up the 4th club. South could rise with the A hearts, A spades, Diamond to dummy and a 3 rd spade while still keeping the 9 of clubs.
Why did south go to dummy with a diamond to lead to j spades? This seems odd to use up a dummy entry hoping east has KQ and does not split.

Does this assume playing weak NT, I would normally opened this 1NT as it is the top of my range and not start with 1D?

bobby wolffOctober 21st, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Hi Bryan,

To answer your questions and more importantly why, may become illuminating.

While declaring 3NT, especially at IMPs or rubber bridge the iidea is always to score up 9 tricks before the defense secures 5. Naturally then, the defense should be attempting that specific reciprocal.

Here, and from East’s perspecitve, if South possesses the nine of clubs the defense will wind up one defensiive trick short if he continiues a third round of clubs, coming to only 2 clubs tricks (after he wins his second spade trick) and, of course, his 2 spade tricks.

IOWs no heart tricks since declarer will score up 4 diamond tricks, 3 spade tricks, 1 heart trick and at least 1 club trick. True, if declarer has the AK of hearts, the only winning defense is to hope to cash at least 3 club tricks.

By then, switching to a heart, when in with the ace of clubs and therefore through the likely AQ gives the defense one more spur to its bow in its race to cash the setting trick before declarer establishes nine cashing tricks.

Add that to the opening leader, when in with the queen of spades, not leading the nine, which should be code language for holding the 10 as well, while leading the 10 should, in this particular case, after starting off with the jack, should be a denial of that precious nine.

Good bridge, or should I say “great bridge” become legal language between the two defenders which should make the difference between success and failure on many hands.

And leading to the dummy in order to lead spades may catch the 10 doubleton with West instead of Qxx, therefore giving extra chances for declarer instead of just playing AJ from hand.

No doubt, this particular hand needs stellar performances from the defense to succeed, while playing against a declarer who is also giving his best effort to score his contract up.

Finally Bryan, with the BWTA, declarer holds 18 gilt edge points, plus a helping 10 and perhaps 9, making his hand just too strong for only 1NT, particularly when the normal range is 15-17.

Underbidding is, at least to me, more damaging than overbidding since sometimes when overbidding, either one’s luck is in, or the defense, undoubtedly the most difficult part of the game, is less than perfect enabling otherwise a possbly doomed contract to sometimes succeed.

Thanks for writing.

BryanOctober 21st, 2016 at 4:54 pm

Oh, left out one, If east switches to a heart and south plays Q or 10, Would a west return of a diamond also set declarer? 1 diamond was used for the first round of spades, a leading a 2nd here would leave declarer needing to unblock the ace, clear spades and get to dummy for the good spades, not enough entries to dummy?

This was behind my asking about the J spades (using a diamond entry after the queen of clubs gone on opening seemed a risk)

And also for why I assumed South would rise with the ace on the heart lead from West. (To help prevent a diamond)

bobby wolffOctober 21st, 2016 at 5:40 pm

Hi Bryan,

A diamond rerturn would allow declarer to stick in the 10 and after winning in dummy clear the spades while maintaining flexibility with diamond entries to both hands. First, establishing the good spades in dummy and then an entry back to hand for the ace of hearts.

While rising with the ace of hearts would do as you say at that point, it would leave declarer vulnerable to a second heart which, when East regained the lead in spades he would lead a second heart resulting in a set with the defense taking one club, two spades and two hearts before declarer could produce nine. tricks.