Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 2nd, 2018

What is the answer? … In that case, what is the question?

Gertrude Stein’s last words

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



Kit Woolsey offered up today’s problem from a Vanderbilt Knockout Trophy event in Memphis. You are given the full deal, but you may want to focus on just the North and West cards initially.

You lead the club eight (playing third-highest from an even number of cards and low from an odd number) and discover dummy has been simulating more values than he actually has, to keep you out of the auction.

Your club lead goes to partner’s ace. Back comes the heart 10 to declarer’s ace. South plays a second club, and you win the king to continue the attack on hearts. Declarer wins in dummy, cashes the club queen to discard a heart, then plays a low spade from dummy. Your partner discards the diamond queen, making it clear that underleading the ace won’t give declarer a chance to misguess.

So you capture declarer’s spade king with your ace, cash the diamond ace, and play a diamond, locking declarer in dummy. Now declarer has a real problem: How does he get back to hand to take the marked spade finesse? As you can see, a club is safe, but a heart will be over-ruffed. A careful declarer is going to ruff a club to hand (having registered that your partner did not play the club jack to the first trick) … that is, unless you dropped the club jack under the queen a few tricks ago!

Woolsey found this deceptive play, and consequently declarer went with the odds when he tried to ruff a heart to hand, for down one.

Your partner has suggested a good hand with short spades, or he could not back into an auction where he was unable to overcall at the one-level. He must surely also have club length.


♠ Q 7 6 4
 K 7 3
 K 5
♣ Q 10 9 5
South West North East
  1 ♣ Pass 1 ♠
Pass 2 ♠ Dbl. 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


Iain ClimieJune 16th, 2018 at 10:28 am

Hi Bobby,

Did Wolsey also play the H5 (not J) on the H10 to continue the deception. CKJ8 doesn’t look like much of a lead except that South has (effectively) bid hearts and nobody will fancy a diamond (Ace or small) from Axxx so declarer can’t be overly faulted here.



Iain ClimieJune 16th, 2018 at 10:29 am

Also, what was the suggested bid on BWTA? 3C?

Bobby WolffJune 16th, 2018 at 11:57 am

Hi Iain,

First a retort to the theme of the column hand:

1. Nothing you didn’t know, but for other aspiring players who seek the “up” elevator to better bridge.

2. There often comes a time during the play of a hand (medium to late, usually 8th, 9th or 10th trick) when both the declarer and the defense know almost everything about each other’s original hands.

3. Kit’s example is a great example, with only the declarer having to guess West’s specific distribution, eg starting with Jxx in hearts and KJ8 in clubs or the actual hand he did have, Jx in hearts and KJ8x in clubs. With the first holding, might not West have made an original TO dbl if he had held three hearts instead of two or perhaps, depending on style, offered 2NT with his 14 hcps.

A simple answer to both the above is yes and no. No doubt, if West had a third heart, being NV he would be much more likely to double immediately, but not so if he only had Jx since and of course, hearts would be the unbid major to which partner would prefer his response to be, if given a choice. However, “No” to the second question since either of the choices of venturing 2NT instead would be a toss-up whether he had 2 or 3 hearts.

Another point to consider is that in a very high level game West is always (assuming he is awake) going to drop the jack of clubs under the queen whether or not he had a little one, since he also is 100% sure that it would make absolutely no difference in the final result.

However, in the local duplicate, playing against random players (decent or not) there would be, at least IMO, almost no chance for West to jettison the jack of clubs unless it was alone. Advantage, good declarer vs. not as good defender, in fact giving a decided advantage to an up and coming defender operating under the bridge radar.

“Ain’t we got fun”?

And many thanks to you for setting this all up and for Gertrude Stein’s great bridge applicable quote, while on her death bed.

Finally (with the BWTA), yes, 3 clubs is a logical action by the responder to partner’s late TO dbl. However sometimes while holding s. xx, h. Axxxx, d. Axxxx c. x and NV some players will pass the first round and then make a TO dbl. once the opponents bid and raised spades.

However I strongly prefer to chance a simple 1 heart overcall immediately and not try and deftly walk between the raindrops, trying for perfection. Reason being, our game, at least in the competitive bidding area, is a huge distance away from anything close to perfection and, at least in what I think is my experience, starts and stops with “advantage aggression” and sleep in the streets as well as “tone deaf”, for those who meekly pass.

I do realize that when and if partner does bid 3 clubs after my belated TO double, I can then chirp 3 diamonds, getting a preference to 3 hearts. But what about when my partner doesn’t have enough to bid, but then decides to lead a club, another question which sadly gets the wrong answer.

“Just Saying”!