Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, September 28th, 2018

Crocodiles are easy; they try to kill and eat you. People are harder; sometimes they pretend to be your friend first.

Steve Irwin

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


In the first session of the Yokohama Open Pairs last February, this deal presented an interesting problem for both declarer and the defenders.

West’s heart lead let the defenders cash out that suit; playing standard signals, East could encourage with the 10 under the ace to simultaneously unblock the suit. It would be much easier on a low heart lead, but I prefer the top heart.

Dummy had to find two discards and let go a diamond and a club, while East pitched a suit-preference spade two. East’s accurate shift to a low club went to the king and ace.

Declarer Dawei Chen now ran four rounds of spades, East discarding the club eight and the club five, and West the diamond seven. Chen diagnosed that the diamond queen had to be guarded and offside, and that East had reduced to a four-card ending where he had all three diamonds and the club jack left. Chen then crossed to his diamond ace and led a sneaky low club from hand.

To defeat the contract, West had to rise with the club queen (the right play whether South or East had the jack) to exit with a diamond and ensure a diamond trick for his partner. When West failed to imitate the crocodile and swallow up partner’s jack, East had to overtake his partner’s club 10 and was endplayed to concede the rest.

Incidentally, for all of us inclined to cast the first stone and blame West, notice that East could have discarded the club jack at his previous turn to help partner get it right.

Responding one diamond here is not wrong, but my preference is to respond one spade with any hand where I do not intend to take a second call facing a minimum rebid from my partner. When I respond one diamond, I’m usually denying a major unless I have at least invitational values. So opener tends to rebid one no-trump over one diamond on any balanced hand (even with a four-card major in a 4-3-3-3 hand).


♠ Q 8 7 6
 J 3
 K J 6 4 2
♣ 7 6
South West North East
    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


Iain ClimieOctober 12th, 2018 at 2:30 pm

Hi Bobby,

With the spades breaking 3-3 hasn’t declarer got 4S, 2D and 1C for a safe +90? OK, I know it is pairs, the world’s most perverse form of scoring, but should declarer really be going that hard for the overtrick? Alternatively, is it that West just holds the contract to +90 instead of 120 by finding the crocodile coup? Still, even at teams, it is worth making the defence work to stop the occasional overtrick.



Iain ClimieOctober 12th, 2018 at 2:55 pm

OK, I accept that Point-A-Board is effectively teams scored as two tables at pairs, so someone might disagree with my assessment above

Dan SimkoOctober 12th, 2018 at 3:38 pm

Iain, I agree that the contract cannot be defeated after the spades split, even with the low club lead. So I guessed that North invited with 2NT and South declined. Then the story is logical.

Iain ClimieOctober 12th, 2018 at 3:46 pm

Hi Dan,

Certainly possible, although pushy especially at pairs. I forget who said “All those who learned their bridge at college / university will recall the value of going plus at pairs”. I was also amused by the Steve Irwin quote – an entertainingly madcap Australian naturalist and conservationist with a reputation for taking almost insane risks with dangerous wildlife like Komodo Dragons. Ironically he died when not seeming to do anything very silly – an alarmed stingray somehow managed to sting him in the heart.


bobbywolffOctober 13th, 2018 at 1:01 am

Hi Iain & Dan,

No doubt the declarer can easily take seven tricks for his contract, once he finds the spades 3-3.

But, since this was pairs, and likely a better than average field, it is not unusual to take some risks in order to make an overtrick (or sometimes, even more than one).

However, our text should have mentioned the above, and not expect all readers to feel the same way. Thanks for questioning why and one excuse we could use (not that we should) is that while reporting real hands it will often place the reader both in the role of declarer and, or, sometimes one of the defenders to try and replicate, particularly at crunch time, what he or she would do.

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