Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Minds are like parachutes. They only function when they are open.

Sir James Dewar

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


All the deals this week come from the NEC invitation teams in Yokohama, Japan, last year, a world-class tournament with a three-day qualifying event followed by a knockout for the surviving eight teams.

Where I was watching a match on Vugraph I saw both Easts pass in third seat. Both Wests therefore led an interior heart against three no-trump. In one room, Paw Cheng won in hand to lead a club to the jack and ace. Declarer ducked the next heart, won the diamond switch, then played on spades for his ninth trick.

In the other room, Teruko Nishimura played a club to the jack at trick two, ducked by East. Now declarer came to hand with a diamond to lead a second club up. East won and played back a heart, and the play essentially transposed into the same position as the one Cheng had reached, with the ninth trick coming from spades.

That looks easy, but other tables found the hand harder, especially when East-West joined in the auction. For example, Roy Welland opened one spade in third seat, and now against three no-trump Sabine Auken led a spade to the 10 and queen. Declarer led a club to the jack, and when it held, he fell from grace.

He should have crossed to hand with a diamond to lead a second club toward the queen (as Australian Tony Nunn did in the other room after the same spade lead). Instead, he led a low heart from dummy to his queen and West’s king. Now a spade back left declarer needing clubs or hearts to lie favorably, and today was not his day.

Some partnerships, including mine, play that this sequence guarantees real clubs (at least four). If so, the choice now is whether to invite game in clubs or no-trump since, despite its lack of intermediates, this hand has real potential game interest facing a minimum opener. The location of my club honors persuades me to bid three clubs, as clubs seems like a safer part-score if the auction ends here.


♠ 9 7 6
 A 4 3 2
 A 6 2
♣ Q J 3
South West North East
    1 ♣ Pass
1 Pass 1 ♠ 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


A V Ramana RaoFebruary 27th, 2018 at 3:05 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
I think , second declarer would have prevailed even if he moved Q of club after J held. East has opened the bidding and should have at least ten to eleven points minimum. And so if east wins club Q and clears spades, he can have K of hearts or perhaps not but south does not bother. south cashes K of clubs and can claim if clubs break. As they do not, he now cashes three diamond tricks and throws east in with last club and need not guess heart K. He wins two spades , two hearts, three diamonds and two clubs . Only fly in the ointment is east unexpectedly turns upbwith six card spade suit but in that case , south has to play west for heart K.

A V Ramana RaoFebruary 27th, 2018 at 3:16 pm

& In case east shows out on the third club, south can take heart finesse and the contract is assured even if the finesse loses unless east has 5 2 4 2 hand with heart K and twelve points but in that case the contract is always doomed

bobbywolffFebruary 27th, 2018 at 4:17 pm


As usual, a complete non-flawed analysis of today’s hand.

The only, what I consider important fact missing, is a defensive suggestion of awareness, probably necessary to be thought before playing 3rd seat to trick one, although it is clear for East to play the ten of spades at trick one, enabling partner with the suspected doubleton spade to perhaps have a chance to get in first and continue spades, while East still has the vital ace of clubs entry.

Therefore East should be prepared to duck when and if declarer wins the spade in hand and leads a low club to the jack in dummy. And just as important, to duck in tempo, possibly convincing declarer to play East for a heart honor, while saving his ace of clubs for the vital entry to the potential setting tricks. Granted since East opened the bidding one spade (instead of a weak two bid) he certainly figured to hold the club ace, but third seat openers have been known to just be a nuisance lead suggestion, rather than a valid effort to buy the hand.

Of course, that is exactly what happened, but, I have no way of knowing East’s 2nd trick tempo, but I suspect it didn’t give the show away.

And while your analysis confirms your keen bridge mind, the lesser tempo consideration played a very large part in declarer’s demise.

The knowledge by declarer of East being a good and more importantly, an experienced player, also was a key ingredient in the defense prevailing, sometimes confusing aspiring bridge players as to the need to “think fast”, but first study at the time (trick one) not worrying so much about the obvious spade 10 play, but rather the duck, should declarer lead a low club to dummy immediately.

Overall plans, both declarer’s responsibility to hopefully choose the best line of play offensively and the defense (as a team) to be ready to defend to best advantage, without telltale giving away the location of “key cards” being critical to both sides, if bridge is to be taken seriously enough to want to win on a consistent basis.

Finally, “No Virginia, there is often no Santa Claus without intelligent work both directions in order to achieve “par results” and better than that, sometimes a birdie”.

Thanks AVRR for taking the time to allow all classes of bridge players to benefit from your keen analysis.