Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 20th, 2019

There is nothing stable in the world; uproar’s your only music.

John Keats

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


I have been experimenting this year with a new category of themed deals. Every month I will run one week’s worth of deals with a common theme, generally during the play. This week’s deals all feature a problem for declarer or defense where the critical suit is missing both the queen and the jack.

Today’s deal is one fairly typical example of a sub-genre of the theme. Both North and South had a series of delicate decisions: South’s re-opening double looked clear, then North took an aggressive position, after which South was very close to driving to slam. Eventually he decided to respect his partner’s signoff. But make up your own mind how you would play five diamonds on a top club lead from West.

After that lead, South had a classic opportunity to take out insurance. In six diamonds, declarer would surely have played for either hearts or diamonds to break; but in five, he could virtually ensure his contract with a simple example of a safety play. By winning the club ace and leading a low diamond to East’s five and his own six, he could guarantee losing no more than one diamond and one spade. If West could win the first diamond, then declarer could guarantee being able to draw trumps and ruff the fourth heart safely in dummy, losing just one further trick in spades.

Admittedly, the lie of the cards was remarkably hostile, but not altogether unexpected given the initial pre-empt by West. And if you can guard against bad breaks, why not do so?

I wouldn’t say this hand is a no-brainer; one should never lead without thinking. But here you can reasonably assume that your left-hand opponent will put down a weak hand with three or four spades and relative shortness in diamonds. Declarer will be hoping to trump diamonds in dummy, so lead a low trump and be ready to continue the attack on that suit.


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


jim2June 3rd, 2019 at 11:53 am

Should South consider passing 3N?

bobbywolffJune 3rd, 2019 at 2:14 pm

Hi Jim2,

No, South should not just consider passing 3NT, he should just, do it.

When South was glorified in the column for taking the key safety play while playing the diamond game, he IMHO, should bite the bullet and pass his partner’s wide value response of 3NT (likely, in this case, anywhere between 7+ to 14) with two likely club stops.

True, 6 diamonds is far from a terrible contract, an even diamond or heart split would be enough but why should his partner have specifically the ace of clubs, the queen of hearts, and the king of spades, not to mention 4 card diamond support?

In my view, this hand was included to match the stated above bridge theme about declarer’s play while missing queens and jacks, not the usual banter, often present about bidding choices.

However, your always keen bridge mind, invariably will venture to other interesting bridge choices which are well worth discussing and, as usual, you found a pertinent one.

Especially when receiving your 4-0 break in trumps which has become almost certain at your table, but perhaps quite different if you choose to be conservative in the bidding.

A sub topic with this hand could be the value of opening a preemptive bid as dealer to make his or her opponents to have less room in the bidding, to basically have to guess their way to their final contract.

Bob LiptonJune 3rd, 2019 at 2:14 pm

After covering the D5 with the D6, cash the two top diamonds, then HA, HQ and the third heart towards the hand. If east ruffs air, you can throw dummy’s third spade on the HQ, and make an overtrick. Otherwise, he may have the pleasure of overruffing the carefully preserved D2 with the master trump!

jim2June 3rd, 2019 at 2:35 pm

Good – I would have probably passed. That’s why I asked.