Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, February 16th, 2017

The Devil watches all opportunities.

William Congreve

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


After South overcalled one spade over one heart, North-South were playing a style where new suits in response to a one-level overcall were encouraging but not forcing. Thus North had to start with a cuebid of two hearts. This call showed a strong hand with at least game-invitational values, but was not forcing to game. South had a minimum so rebid his spades, which did not guarantee a sixth spade, and now North-South flirted with diamonds before settling in four spades.

Two rounds of hearts were led, which forced South to ruff. As declarer, what would you do now?

If declarer goes to dummy and takes a spade finesse, he will be disappointed with the result. West will score his queen, and now another heart lead forces another ruff. Now declarer cannot draw all the trump, and West will be ready to ruff in on the diamonds, and cash his long heart for down one

The safety play is to cash the spade ace and king early, without conceding the tempo by finessing, and then simply to lead and continue diamonds. The defense takes one heart trick and two spade tricks, but declarer has enough entries to dummy to pitch his clubs on the diamonds.

Could the defense ever work out to find the club shift at trick two? I think not, but that would allow the defenders to jump ahead in the race to establish the clubs before the diamonds can be set up.

Ely Culbertson, who initially espoused the theory that a no-trump opener should have all suits guarded, might turn over in his grave were he to read this answer. But I would open one no-trump here with only limited qualms. I agree, you would rather have more in one or both of the spade or heart suits, but describing the basic nature of your hand never gets you far off base.


♠ 9 2
 10 3 2
 A K J 10 7
♣ A K 9
South West North East

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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact