Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

When people will not weed their own minds, they are apt to be overrun by nettles.

Horace Walpole

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

*Two + cards


As West you are playing teams, using standard leads and signals. Against three no-trump you lead the club 10, since South has not promised real clubs. Declarer plays the queen from dummy and overtakes with the king as partner follows with the three. Now comes a low diamond to dummy and declarer advances the heart jack.

On this trick East plays the heart nine under the jack and you win the trick with the king. What next?

West should analyze the hand and try to count declarer’s tricks. Partner’s discouraging club at trick one suggests three club tricks, three diamonds and three heart tricks for declarer. Since East would not follow with the heart nine if he had begun with four, East has to have only two hearts — leaving four hearts for South.

West also knows that East has at least four spades, since South didn’t support that suit. Therefore spades are the only chance for the defense. West must lead out the spade king and return the spade four, hoping to find East with ace-queen-fourth of spades together with the jack 10 or nine, or with four decent spades and the heart ace. Either way, this defense may set up the four additional tricks the defenders need.

Today, the defense takes one heart and four spade tricks to set the contract. This defense may not work but it is the only chance.

Note declarer’s sacrifice of a club winner to try to persuade you to continue the suit; but you didn’t fall for it – did you?

I don’t think you are really worth responding one no-trump here. From my own experience, when facing a third in hand opener I like to be full value for this call (I’d say the range was a good seven to a bad 10). While you might find that the consequence of passing was to miss a partscore, there is a lot to be said for waiting for one round before deciding whose hand it really is.


♠ K 4
 K 7 5 3
 8 6 2
♣ 10 9 8 6
South West North East
Pass Pass 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


A V Ramana RaoJanuary 11th, 2017 at 12:45 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
How about declarer winning the first club in dummy with Q and advancing a small spade !
It looks almost certain that spades are no worse than 4-2 . Now if east plays Q/J on the spade lead from dummy, declarer sails home comfortably and in case east plays small and west wins with K, unless his crystal tells him what is happening, he may continue with a club or who knows? Return a heart. And if east is dealt with heart K, that card will be under finesse always and there would never a problem.

Iain ClimieJanuary 11th, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Hi Bobby,

As East has discouraged clubs at T1, would playing the DJ under the Ace at T2 have suit preference overtones, rather than being a Smith (or Dorothy Hayden Truscott) peter here? It is always worth giving partner a nudge in the right direction if you can, I suspect. The H9 could at T3 be seen in similar vein, of course, but why not do both?



A V Ramana RaoJanuary 11th, 2017 at 12:51 pm

Declarer will also prevail if spades are breaking 3-3

jim2January 11th, 2017 at 1:54 pm

At the table, I would have won the QC and led the 8H to my QH.

I think the flashy QC over-take would be more likely to start the defenders thinking than mislead them. For example, could I really have a doubleton AK and neither opened 1D or raised 1S? If I had 2 clubs and no more than 3 diamonds (hence opening 1C and not 1D), how could I not have 4 spades or 5 hearts?

Thus, the real effect of the over-take would seem more likely to set off the alarm bell in the minds of both defenders. I think it was Sheinwold that said something like any player could win if an alarm bell would go off when the key decision point arrived. I do not want to alert them!

I also do not want to make signaling any easier than I must. The extra diamond play and the JH lead are two such examples. The text did not say what East played on the first diamond, but why not the JD?!

Also, if East held only the 9H, any 9x doubleton, or something like 943, leading the 8H deprives East of a signaling chance, so why not do it? If declarer wants to pretend a two-honor doubleton, why not AQH?

bobby wolffJanuary 11th, 2017 at 5:05 pm

Hi AVRR, Iain, & Jim2,

Methinks all three of you gents have called attention to several helpful correct solvings of this attempted ruse.

Generally speaking, Horace Walpole’s wise opening quote, at least to me, together with Jim2’s analysis, wins the day for the most important theme.

Sure, the various particular cards suggested to be playerd, (three of clubs, nine of hearts, jack of diamonds) all may or may not joust West into switching to king and one spade, but we all know that intended meanings on defensive signals sometimes are misunderstood with partner instead becoming a victim of an enemy’s clever false card.

Suggesting intended legal defensive signals with the actual bidding, which in fact almost always means, similar to the rifle range, that when the flag is up and waving (meaning believe it, real bullets are now being fired) is like comparing a dream to a real life experience.

Either the similar above major suit holding or instead when partner could alternately hold the Ax of hearts and QJ10x or QJ9x of spades meshes conveniently with the bidding rather than falling for the bravado of a wily declarer..

No doubt, to those younger best and brightest players working on their games and therefore reputations, the experiences gleaned from playing against other good players has to be critical for their improvement, whether the event playing in is at a small bridge club or even all the way up to a World Championship.