Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, April 12th, 2019

Where there is charity and wisdom there is neither fear nor ignorance.

Saint Francis of Assisi

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

*Forcing diamond raise


Bridge writers occasionally introduce a deal as taking place in a local competition or in a knock-out match; this seems to be a way to add a touch of verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative. Be that as it may, today’s deal really did crop up in a knockout match, I swear on the bones of Saint Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalism.

Both declarers missed the point of this deal — though one earned a consolation prize for envisioning the problem, even if he didn’t quite put the defenders under maximum pressure.

Each South reached slam after North had forced in diamonds then invited slam in four no-trump. In one room, South won the club lead in dummy and played a diamond to the jack, and now lost two diamonds and a spade.

In the other room, declarer won the heart lead and passed the spade jack. East thoughtfully ducked, confident declarer had four spades from his partner’s low spot-card on that trick.

Now declarer safety-played the diamonds by laying down the king, trying to protect against a 4-1 diamond break, and eventually lost a diamond and a spade. If East had taken his spade king, South might have guessed to start diamonds by playing the ace, after which he could have finessed against East’s remaining spots. (Without the diamond seven, leading low to the jack on the first round is the right play for no losers.)

But would East have ducked the first spade if declarer had first led low to the queen? I doubt it!

You may hate this hand and regret that you responded, but now is not the time to breach discipline by passing out a forcing bid. Give support to three diamonds and hope that you can come to a stop in game in spades, hearts, diamonds or no-trump. What partner does next should help you decide?


♠ K 8 7
 Q J 6 5
 10 8 5 2
♣ 4 3
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 Pass 2 ♠ 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


Iain ClimieApril 26th, 2019 at 10:07 am

HI Bobby,

I don’t think South’s hand on BWTA is o bad – 4 card support for partner’s first suit (OK it might only be 3 if he had say a 4-3-3-3 19 or bad 20 count) and Kxx in the 2nd, while the HQJ are together not split e.g. HQxxx and CJx. It would be a different story if I’d dredged up 1H on 10xx K9xxxx x xxxx when I might be tempted to pass 2S, although partner’s almost always bid 3D when I dredge up a bid on such rubbish.



A.V.Ramana RaoApril 26th, 2019 at 11:37 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
But it is not understandble why the first declarer did not cash diamond A before leading to J . Now once diamond Q falls on A , the slam comes home unless west dropped Q from doubleton Q 10 , but then west deserves his success ( assuming spade K is still with east)

Bobby WolffApril 26th, 2019 at 6:36 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt, after partner has shown a really good GF hand, possessing 4 diamonds in partner’s first suit is an enormous difference in being relatively secure that, after reaching the best final contract, 3NT, 5 or even 6 diamonds, or even 4 spades if partner is 5-6 in the pointed suits will be the winning contract.

On your other example with only one king, but having a six card suit, would only be wrong to pass 2 spades if partner had belated heart support (3 or 4). Therefore it is definitely a valid choice between passing 2 spades instead of originally passing 1 diamond but now rebidding 3 hearts to leave it open just in case partner was bidding his distribution out in order to find the best trump suit. I think it close to 50-50 but understand that if partner was then going to support hearts he will be angry that you did not boldly keep it going.

Such decisions often decide winning and losing, but as to what to do, I’ll leave it up to others to make that difficult choice.

Thanks for your wise comment.

Bobby WolffApril 26th, 2019 at 6:45 pm


I’ll temper your positive by simply stating that the answer depends on which opponent is more likely to have the singleton queen of diamonds. Leading low to hand will give declarer a better chance at a valid safety play in diamonds just in case the spade finesse works.

Perhaps the correct final answer is to allow the player who did it right to give his opinion. Even though perhaps anti-percentage if he is right give him the glory as well as the victory also. Most of us do not like to do that waiting to pounce on him if we deem he took the lesser percentage play, but that is ego speaking even though good bridge is also promoted.