Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 19th, 2019

Reason still keeps its throne, but it nods a little, that’s all.

George Farquhar

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


When South balances with one spade, West rebids his suit, then North makes a responsive double to show a good hand with spade tolerance. (Some would play this as penalty, but in hand-frequency terms, the other meaning makes much more sense.) After South shows his second suit, North reverts to three spades; South then raises himself to game.

West leads out his top hearts, declarer ruffing the second. There is no advantage to be gained in discarding a club loser instead, although it doesn’t hurt. Declarer’s first move is to unblock the spade king-queen; he then crosses to hand with a diamond and cashes the spade acejack, dummy matching West’s discards of a heart and a club.

If diamonds break or the jack falls doubleton, declarer is home, but West shows out on the third round, marking him with precisely a 2=6=2=3 distribution. However, all is not lost, as the final diamond winner brings West under pressure. In the three-card ending, if West comes down to a single heart, declarer puts him on lead with that suit and awaits a lead into his club tenace at trick 12. If West instead bares his club king (never a bad strategy in these positions), South calls for the club ace, and his club queen is the game-going trick.

South knows West holds the club king because if East had started with the red jacks and the club king, he would ‘probably’ have responded to the opening bid. Also, West would ‘really have ‘been’ (really) over (extend)bidding to ‘act’ (bid) twice with only a 10-count.

This auction calls for a heart lead. It is akin to a Lightner double, in which the double of a high-level contract calls for dummy’s first-bid suit. There is no reason not to lead the top of your doubleton. You could make a case for leading high from a three-card suit as well, but that is a bit of a digression.


♠ Q 7 5 4 2
 J 3
 10 8 3
♣ J 7 4
South West North East
Pass 1 Pass 1 NT
Pass 3 NT Dbl. 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


Iain ClimieSeptember 2nd, 2019 at 2:13 pm

Hi Bobby,

It’s unlikely to make a difference but should East play H10 then HJ at T1 and T2? After all, it can hardly make any difference given the lead and dummy’s 4 hearts, but why help to telegraph West’s exact shape by echoing?

Of course declarer should still get things right but, as you say, West could smoothly dump C, H, C pretending to be 2-5-2-4. Now the H for the endplay results in one off.



Bob LiptonSeptember 2nd, 2019 at 2:43 pm

Or east could play the Jack at trick 1, west could underlead his heart at round 2, and shift to a club. Lots of unlikely things things, since unless there’s a firm agreement in place, the Jack doesn’t promise the ten or a stiff, but could be the start of a doubleton count. Likewise, if south’s clubs are QTxx, he has no choice but to put in the ten.


bobbywolffSeptember 2nd, 2019 at 3:11 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt, especially on defense, when holding almost nothing of value, it should be a task of helping partner mask his distribution. However, attempting to do this is most difficult, usually because of the telltale bidding already known to a wily declarer.

Once West rebids hearts and ignored his other possible, but phantom 4 card suit, clubs, no matter what East tries to do, should not cause a decent declarer no never mind.

However your admonition should resonate, because on other hands to come, your suggestion could make a considerable difference, and if only one result will be changed for the better, it is worth it, if for no other reason that to solidify your own partnership.

Thanks for your tip.

bobbywolffSeptember 2nd, 2019 at 3:26 pm

Hi Bob,

Yes, on any one hand, even this one, your proposed magic on defense could make the difference.

However, one must be very careful to keep from having that difference a made contract instead of one destined to defeat, before your unfortunate hopeful intervention.

Sometimes that key defensive trick involves both members of a partnership needing to be like Mandrake the Magician in guessing where all the exact cards lay, which in turn is my attempt to basically, if faced with that dilemma, not try to produce it, but rather to only talk about the possibility.

That, of course, is a much happier ending when any drastic magic, which in truth, would not have succeeded.

However, thanks for informing all of us what could be done if only we played with transparent cards rather than the ones we are stuck with and it is sometimes relaxing to dream about what may happen, even if it may only do so, in the next life.

Iain ClimieSeptember 2nd, 2019 at 3:36 pm

Hi Bobby, Bob,

Double dummy, West leads a low heart at T1 and East fires back a club as Bob suggests. Then a very upset South holds his / her cards much closer to their chest.

Does this help, though, as now South can duck the club but now East has to play another heart; a 2nd club and South can win with the Ace and play a third one, losing 1H and 2C only.


bobbywolffSeptember 2nd, 2019 at 3:53 pm

Hi Iain,

Your parody reminds us of what is too often overlooked at the table. The prime defense is to tap the declarer to fewer trumps than are possessed by one of the defenders.

Sometimes our drifting minds forget the above, often because of the zeal of defending in an original but effective manner, but somehow are not resilient enough to go back and forth to victory.

The two big C’s rule: COUNTING and CONCENTRATION, all else, especially during the play, is secondary.