Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, April 26th, 2019

Everything happens to everybody sooner or later if there is time enough.

George Bernard Shaw

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


In today’s deal, you may want to take West’s cards. Cover up declarer’s hand and your partner’s to see if you can find the critical play to break an apparently cold contract.

With a heart lead looking very unattractive against three no-trump, West elects to lead the diamond three to the five, nine and queen. (Incidentally, the play to this first trick marks declarer with either the eight or 10, plus surely the ace.) South leads a low heart from his hand, and West allows dummy’s queen to take the trick.

South now plays two more rounds of hearts, and you win the third heart cheaply to shift to a low club, more in hope than in expectation. Dummy wins the ace and returns a second club to South’s 10 and your jack.

It would seem that declarer is in excellent shape, since he surely has the diamond ace with an initial 0-5-3-5 shape. It looks as if he is about to set up hearts and finish with three heart tricks, four clubs and two diamonds, which all adds up to nine.

But in fact, you have reached the critical moment in the defense; only one play will set the game, and that is to cash the spade ace. What might declarer discard? If he lets go of a diamond, you exit with a diamond and can cash the king when in with your heart winner. If he pitches anything else, you cash your heart winner and exit with a club. You will collect the diamond king at trick 13 to beat the game.

Even though the opponents seem prepared to go quietly, it is worthwhile to invest a small amount to make their lives more difficult in case West plans to re-open the bidding. You should raise to three spades to force his next action to come at a more uncomfortable level. This may turn a plus score into a minus, but overall, the investment looks sound to me.


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


Bill CubleyMay 10th, 2019 at 1:34 pm

In keeping with the quote and the miracle defense, Barry Crane’s killer has been found.

jim2May 10th, 2019 at 2:20 pm

I confess that I prefer to avoid 3N with a void so, when this came up in the Mud Cup, I bide 4H over the late raise.

I received the same opening lead, and West ducked the 5H letting me win the QH. I ruffed the third club and simply came to hand with the AD, cashed AH, and played good clubs.

If West had risen with the KH and exited with a small trump, I would have seen the JH fall under the QH. I would probably have gone AC, KC, draw trump, and led a third club (hoping for 3-3 or a doubleton honor). In effect, West would have traded a second trump trick for a club.

We got a good board, but hardly a top. Perhaps many in LS also abhor 3N with voids.

bobbywolffMay 10th, 2019 at 2:26 pm

Hi Bill,

My guess is that he was a “hit man” since he needed money to support his costly drug habit with no ties to Barry. The rest of the story being somewhat bizarre involving “gin rummy”. Keep in mind that when that atrocity occurred 34 years ago, the well-evidenced suspect was surely a relatively young man.

Thanks for the “heads up” but, and since today’s quote referred to “everything”, this time including a particularly brutal senseless murder, better the quote, comparing it to Barry, is hopefully at least, a slight exaggeration.

bobbywolffMay 10th, 2019 at 2:55 pm

Hi Jim2,

While both your bidding judgment and execution (and after the earlier post up above I am hesitant to use that word) are superb you wound up with two more tricks than your counterpart who did opt to play 3NT with his spade void.

It also tends to prove that your place is likely starring in a service to bridge players who need to improve both their bidding and play, since no one (that I know) take more tricks than you and, of course, fewer mistakes than you make.

Added that to your well known and documented TOCM TM and it seems a slam dunk (almost literal) that you should be the foremost bridge teacher ever.

The only tiny questionable feature might mean that you need to permanently move to lower Slobovia where so many of these great hands are dealt or, at the very least, are already distributed with their duplicate boards.

All hail to those who have the determination to move and therefore serve.

One suggestion if you decide to move, it may be better for you to request that they increase their one annual weekly bridge tournament to fifty two.

jim2May 10th, 2019 at 3:12 pm

Well, to be fair, LS has two major tourneys: The Mud Cup and The Slush Cup.

One is in Spring and the other in Fall. (I confess that I can never remember which is which!)

As for this hand, not that whatever rare lucky/good judgement I may have displayed, it sufficed to net me only an average +.

Such are the burdens of TOCM ™

jim2May 10th, 2019 at 3:13 pm

“note” instead of “not” — sigh

Mircea1May 10th, 2019 at 4:00 pm

Hi Bobby,

Would have also bid 3NT with the South hand (assuming the same sequence up to it)? I’m trying to determine how to best bid hands like this hand. From my very limited experience, two suited hands are not worth that much in the absence of a solid fit if the secondary suit is not very good (requiring ruffs in dummy). Am I worrying too much?

Mircea1May 10th, 2019 at 4:01 pm

hi again, I meant “Would YOU have also bid 3NT…”, sry

bobbywolffMay 10th, 2019 at 10:22 pm

Hi Mircea1,

My opinion is that it is too close to call. Of course I strongly suspect that partner will have only a doubleton heart, but with a minimum and 3 little hearts he might only give a 3rd round preference. However he can now bid 4 hearts over 3NT, but, of course, not bid 3NT over 4 hearts.

That Ax in clubs, while also (because of the spots with South, 10 & 9) the club holding with partner is good for both NT and hearts, but known ruffs available in the short trump hand make me optimistic about suit play.

No doubt and normally, declaring NT is more often than not, significantly easier than suit play, but not necessarily the right choice. Sometimes in a NT game 9 tricks are relatively simple to develop and then score up, while suit play is often more complicated requiring more planning and also allowing, if possible, for an alternate line if one suit or the other appears to be more troublesome than expected.

It really doesn’t make much difference what contract you choose as long as you score it up (especially at IMPs or rubber, but not necessarily so at matchpoints).