Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

Ah what a dusty answer gets the soul
When hot for certainties in this our life!

George Meredith

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


When the opponents pre-empt, they put you on notice that the other suits may not be breaking.

In today’s auction, our declarer judged wisely to balance with a call of two no-trump, suggesting a fairly balanced hand with significant extra values. Sadly, he bid the hand much better than he played it. After a top diamond lead, it took him no time at all to go down in three no-trump because he had ignored the warning signs from the auction. He captured the opening lead and fired out the club ace, and now when clubs went pear-shaped on him, he could not recover. He did his best to set up clubs, but the defenders held him to two clubs, three hearts and two diamonds.

A far better line would have been to win the diamond lead and follow up with a low club from hand toward the nine. If clubs break 2-2 or 3-1, declarer has nine top tricks now. When they do not, East will win the first club and clear diamonds. Declarer can win, overtake the heart king to take one club finesse, then overtake the heart jack to repeat the process. You finish up with only two heart tricks and two diamond winners, but you also have five clubs, and that is enough for your contract.

You have invested one possible club winner and one possible heart trick, but the dividends are wholly worthwhile — even at matchpoints, you might still follow this line.

Just because your side has the lion’s share of high cards doesn’t mean that you need to declare the final contract or double the opponents. Here, nothing suggests that you can make a heart part-score or that you need to double two diamonds; your cards are no better than average for defense. Simply pass and try to go plus.


♠ 10 5 2
 9 6
 K 6 5 4
♣ A J 10 4
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 NT 2 Pass 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

1 Comment

bobbywolffJuly 3rd, 2019 at 2:54 pm

Hi Everyone,

In IMPs or rubber bridge, no doubt the best line is the safety play, if for no other reason, but to show off one’s experience and knowledge.

However in matchpoints, although the only difference would be with the clubs 4-0 or 2-2, not with 3-1, I would lean toward the ace, since most pairs, since 3NT is likely to be the contract at almost all tables, especially in a reasonably good field will choose the banging down of the ace (either from habit, lack of safety play knowledge, or just percentage choice, I think 2-2, in spite of West’s preempt, is considerably more likely than 4-0, but although possibly close (say 2 1/2/1), would have trouble reconciling that lack of playing for that downright awful 2-2 break later.

However, and if I put my money where my mouth is, I would breathe a sigh of relief if West followed to the first club and then privately rejoice when he followed to the second (and of course) would then seriously twitch when it was East who inappropriately showed out.

Where else can one get all those exciting back and forth emotions than at a bridge table?