Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, March 25th, 2019

Finally I am becoming stupider no more.

Paul Erdos (suggested epitaph for himself)

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


When North raises his partner’s spades, South does not want to commit the hand to four spades without contemplating three no-trump first. He bids three clubs in the hope that his partner can bid three no-trump, then raises himself to four spades when North signs off. It would be too hard to land on the head of a pin and pass three spades.

The defenders have no reason to do anything but lead three rounds of diamonds. Cover up the East-West cards and decide how you would play the hand as South.

It certainly looks as if you can play on clubs via a finesse or perhaps try to duck a club to West, and force a favorable lead from him. However, even if the club king is offside, which you expect from the fact that West made a simple overcall rather than a weak jump, you have excellent chances for 10 tricks, as long as you are careful.

You ruff the third diamond and play the ace and king of trumps, planning to eliminate hearts and throw West in with the fourth diamond if trumps break. When they do not, you ruff out the heart and play the spade queen. If West comes down to just one diamond and three clubs, you endplay him with the fourth diamond, pitching a club from hand. If he keeps two diamonds and two clubs, you play the ace and another club, and your hand is high.

The defense can prevail, but only if East ruffs the second round of diamonds to play clubs — and who would do that?

You do have an unbid suit to lead, diamonds, but your partner failed to overcall, so you would need a bit of luck to be able to set that suit up for three tricks. I think there is more of a future in spades. Since your left-hand opponent did not raise the suit and his partner did not try to extract support from him, there is a decent chance of finding your partner with length here. I’d lead a low spade, not an intermediate, for sure.


♠ Q 10 9 3
 A 10
 6 4 3 2
♣ 6 4 2
South West North East
  1 ♣ Pass 1 ♠
Pass 3 ♣ 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


David WarheitApril 8th, 2019 at 9:21 am

What E would ruff the second D? My partner, that’s who. He’d have to because I”d lead the D5 at trick 2.

Iain ClimieApril 8th, 2019 at 10:00 am

HI Bobby,

I like David’s defence but West isn’t guaranteed to have the CK. You know what would give West (say) x QJx AK108xx Jxx when the column line goes horribly wrong if West comes down to 2C. Perhaps if West turns up with the minor heart honours, the club finesse is worth a second thought after the SQ is played.



bobbywolffApril 8th, 2019 at 10:43 am

Hi David,

No doubt your play will force partner to make the winning play, rather than have him have to rise to that occasion.

But how about if he held: s. KJ, h, 109865 d. Q c. Q9873 leaving declarer with s. A86542 h. KQJ d. J9, c. A10. True East may have made a responsive double over 2 spades with his hand, but he might not or instead, South may have then passed 3 spades but we will never know.

While I am not condemning, nor even questioning your low diamond lead at trick 2, but by leading the high diamond perhaps slowly (please take that reference as ethically mocking myself), you now assume the cat bird position of never having to be the cause of defensive failure on this hand, since it allows partner to be a hero and ruff and/or, if dealt my carefully contrived East hand, also will allow partner not to ruff, singling out partner, not you, to have made the fatal mistake.

My advice is simply great for a bridge post-mortem but definitely not so, for finding ways to win more often.

I think your play is correct, but bridge, always being the master, may play a dirty trick on your best intentions. If in doubt, talk it over with our good friend, Jim2.

bobbywolffApril 8th, 2019 at 11:11 am

Hi Iain,

Still another country heard from as our posts, as often happens, crossed in the mail. However, I couldn’t wait to state that oft heard retort, which in this case is, as to particulars, right on point, calling 4 spades, 4 spades.

Yes, your doubt arises concerning declarer missguessing the end club holding to which we all must agree, but normally East wouldn’t have the very few spade holdings which might make a difference in whether he ruffs or not. The only other one, not mentioned until now might be declarer holding: s. KJxxxxx, h. KQJ, d. Jx, c. K, but, if so, I think he would pass 3 spades.

Bob LiptonApril 8th, 2019 at 12:28 pm

This is all due to the program that gives players the sheets with all the hands and the contracts that that can be made; it’s the 2.8% vise squeeze that works, rather than the 87% combination of double-finesse and single-finesse! How foolish of me not to see it, even though I pulled off a vice squeeze once in my life…by accident, intending to cash out for making a contract at IMP pairs.

Bob Lipton

bobbywolffApril 8th, 2019 at 3:04 pm

Hi Bob,

In spite of all these turn away fancy names for producing enough tricks our goal is to reduce those scary names to common sense and both doable and why.

While sometimes taking a period of time for most to understand why the extra trick occurs, it is not rocket science only a form of numeracy specific to cards which does the job.

Also, in order to be above average in bridge one does not have to get that far, only instead to go in that direction and regard it as possible, not just magic.

From there the limits are self determined, but once these concepts are understood, and they, like many other challenges, once learned, never forgotten.

Thanks for your interest in joining us. Take your time, ask questions and what is going to stop you from being the best player in whatever group or bridge club you attend?