Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, April 18th, 2019

The world of the future will be an ever more demanding struggle against the limitations of our intelligence.

Norbert Wiener

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


Is your money on declarer or the defense in today’s contract of four hearts? It looks as if the duplication in the minor suits makes declarer’s task very hard, but if the defenders are to survive, they will need to be very careful.

Declarer receives a top spade lead against four hearts. He ducks, wins the spade continuation and draws trumps in three rounds, then cashes the diamond ace and king and ruffs a spade before leading a third round of diamonds. West must be careful to have preserved a small diamond (perhaps by pitching his small spade on the third trump) so that East can win the third diamond, or the defense is over.

After East does win the third round of diamonds, he must next lead a club, or declarer can ruff the plain suit in hand, pitching a club; then South should guess clubs. However, if East leads the club ace, he reduces his side’s potential club winners to one.

All of this means that East must shift to a low club, and now declarer (who needs West to have the club queen) has a choice of plays. Putting in the eight makes the contract by force if East started with the nine of clubs. The other play, of putting up the jack, will work out if West covers that card with the queen, but it is fatal if West remembers to duck — easier said than done!

The bottom line is that the contract should be defeated on best defense. But as one of my cynical partners was wont to say, what are the chances of that happening?

The Law of Total Tricks may tell you that when you have four trumps facing an overcall, you should commit to the three-level. But its promulgator, Larry Cohen, also warns that you should take into account negative features like bad trump distribution and defense on the sides. This hand has too many soft values on defense for a pre-emptive raise. Simply raise to two spades, then stay silent unless re-invited to the party.


♠ 7 6 5 4
 J 4
 J 8 5
♣ A 6 5 2
South West North East
  1 ♣ 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitMay 2nd, 2019 at 11:31 am

I think S should rebid 3NT instead of 4H, in case N has a very balanced hand, which he does. I think 3NT has a slightly better chance and in fact should make on these cards (since W shows up with SKQJ, play him for CQ rather than CA).

Iain ClimieMay 2nd, 2019 at 11:37 am

Hi Bobby,

If West doubles 1H (I don’t think he should, but maybe I’m getting over-cautious), and East wins the 3rd diamond then plays a spade giving a ruff and discard, then South may misguess the clubs, and reasonably assume West has the CA. One minor point, though – why 3 rounds of trumps on the hand as shown? If they are 3-1, though, then could the play vary?

I take David’s point on 9 tricks being easier than 10



Bobby WolffMay 2nd, 2019 at 2:14 pm

Hi David,

While I understand both your specific motivation and, of course, the reason for it, I doubt, at any bridge level, while holding a combined 9 major suit card holding, will a final contract of 3NT be a result except by a 1NT, 2NT raise (overbid) and then a NT game acceptance by South.

Also, yes on the 26 cards distributed the way they are for the declaring side, 3NT may or may not be the better contract (First I would open South with 1NT instead of 1 heart while playing a normal 15-17 1NT opening. However with a 4-3-3-3, 8 count I would likely pass with North, unless at pairs or IMPs I thought I needed a very good board to compete for winning.

None of the above is meant to take away from your vivid and often excellent judgment, but obviously the defensive cards can be easily arranged to make 4 hearts the much better contract. (spades being 5-3 with that lead, or East having the queen of clubs, especially only Qx and that suit being led. However I, too, give a nod to NT when as mentioned above would start off with a 1NT opening and very close to just raising NT (not searching for hearts) with North.

Bobby WolffMay 2nd, 2019 at 2:36 pm

Hi Iain,

While, at least most, would not conisider doubling 1 heart, even NV vs. Vul, but having few values without even a singleton heart, but like many hands, even just one tournament session consisting of 26 or so, might very well cause declarer to go wrong while playing the contract, but as I am sure you agree, indeed the time to pick to do it has to then be also the time it will be to deceive which together makes for a low percentage opportunity to consistently do what is best for your own partnership.

If instead, you are great at selecting those somewhat rare opportunities, I will hope you can be Jim2’s regular partner in order to offset his TOCM TM and at the very least, then finishing with strong average scores, proving even TOCM can be at the very least, partially cured.

Besides, concerning today’s hand and card play, why are we concentrating on bidding when the superior play and defense is vitally needed?

However it is no doubt of great interest whenever either you or David speak up and give your always well considered alternate opinions.

To that, I hope neither of you ever stop.