Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, January 14th, 2019

He who receives a benefit with gratitude repays the first installment on his debt.


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


As bidding methods develop, it has become customary for new-suit responses to a two-club opener to promise good suits, so the response of two diamonds becomes a mark-time action. Players tend to avoid bidding two no-trump with a balanced hand, or they reserve the call for a different hand type altogether.

Today, though, South hogged the no-trump, and when he was unable to raise clubs directly, his partner closed his eyes and jumped to a contract he hoped South could make. This seems premature to me, since if South had held the doubleton club queen, there easily could have been 13 tricks on top. It would have cost nothing to bid four clubs, giving South the chance to cue-bid a second-round control.

When West led the spade 10 against the no-trump slam, South instinctively ducked in dummy, realizing too late that not only were the hearts now blocked, but the spades were too! He tried to recover by cashing his heart and spade winners then playing three rounds of clubs. However, when East was able to win and shift to diamonds, declarer had to play for his only chance of putting up the queen, so he finished an ignominious two down.

Had declarer paused for thought when it was necessary, he would have put up dummy’s ace at trick one, then unblocked his heart winners. Now come the clubs, and when they break 3-2, declarer can clear the suit.

The spade king represents the entry to the two heart winners, with the diamond ace still in place to reach the long clubs.

The spades may not be splitting for declarer, but it still seems right to go active by leading a top diamond rather than a relatively passive heart. Anytime your partner has diamond length or one of the top three diamonds, this is a sensible lead. Moreover, if the diamond ace-king are to your right, the lead doesn’t cost a trick.


♠ K 10 7 6
 9 8 6 2
 Q J 2
♣ J 2
South West North East
      1 NT
Pass 2 Pass 2 ♠
Pass 3 NT All 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Bill CubleyJanuary 28th, 2019 at 2:58 pm


Thanks for not naming me as the declarer! šŸ˜‰

Declarer must pause and think how the contract will make. Clubs being 3-2 is a solid 68% chance. The opening lead means at least look at your opponents marked leads. If they play leading the 9 or 10 promises either no higher honor or two higher honors than this is an easy win the ace because the finesse will work.

It is easy to see there are only 5 club tricks when they break. So there are no overtricks. The hand would be so easy to play in 6 Clubs.

Rumor has it I can see better now that the cataracts are gone!

Iain ClimieJanuary 28th, 2019 at 3:45 pm

Hi Bobby,

S J Simon’s comment form Why You Lose at Bridge says it all. More contracts are wrecked at T1 than at any other stage.

Hi Bill,

Glad they’ve gone but don’t tell anybody; then you can reasonably pretend to have missed a card or two during a session.



Bobby WolffJanuary 28th, 2019 at 4:12 pm

Hi Bill,

Wouldn’t think of naming you as declarer, since among other things, you are not singled out as a lucky good card holder.

Here, if we get by trick one and by following Simon’s age old advice, “take care at trick one” 6C is only a better contract than 6NT if a diamond is led where we will have more successful options available, especially when playing the hand from North.

Bob LiptonJanuary 28th, 2019 at 4:18 pm

I believe I would win the first trick in dummy with the Ace, cash HAK and duck th first diamond. That would open several lines of play.

Of course, an alert East who wins the first diamond would return a low spade to force an early choice on me, but not every player defends as if they can see all fifty-two cards.


Bobby WolffJanuary 28th, 2019 at 4:28 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt that this hand is a poster child hand for, take time at trick one or else come equipped with “cataract type excuses” to only just help lessening the pain.

However, when playing a slam, the flag is always waving, often indicating, beware of the always dangerous and devious Dame Fortune cooking dinner to which being extra careful is a necessary precaution.

In truth 6 clubs is a much better contract than 6NT since, with a diamond lead and played by South, the declarer becomes dependent on who has the king unless the diamonds turn out 3-3 and the spade finesse works or some kind of diamond, spade and club squeeze which does have a reasonable chance of working.

Bobby WolffJanuary 28th, 2019 at 8:15 pm

Hi Bob,

While playing either 6 clubs or 6 NT I need to remind you that losing a trick to rectify the count (or just to develop enough tricks for contract) applies only for 6NT since a 6 club contract will always have an inescapable club loser.

Also, both the best and the fastest way to climb the ladder of success in bridge is to play against players who, if able, will always furnish the most challenging defense.

Not necessarily the most fun, but rather the path to choose for quicker success.

Easy to sometimes carelessly overlook a crucial factor so you needn’t be chagrined.

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