Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

In school they told me, “Practice makes perfect.” And then they told me, “Nobody’s perfect,so then I stopped practicing.

Steven Wright

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


Should North use Stayman here? His square shape suggests four hearts will rarely be much better than three no-trump, while the direct route to game gives less information away to the defenders.

In any event, when South arrives at three no-trump, West leads the club queen, giving South an eighth trick at once. An even diamond split or favorable layout in hearts will provide another, but South must beware of losing the lead, since the defenders may be able to cash four club tricks.

Instead, hoping West has not led from a six-card suit, declarer returns a club at trick two. Even if West can cash four tricks, this play is unlikely to lose and lets declarer test the red suits later on.

As West plays his clubs, dummy lets go a heart and a spade, declarer two hearts, and East two spades and a heart. West exits with a heart, and declarer guesses to take the ace rather than risking everything on the double finesse.

When declarer cashes three diamond tricks and West shows out, things might look bleak. But declarer returns to dummy with the spade king and takes the heart king, reducing everyone to two cards. With the sole guard in both spades and diamonds, East must pitch before declarer and let him score his ninth trick with either the diamond seven or spade nine.

Note: If declarer tests diamonds before exiting with a club, the defense can prevail — but only if West does not cash all his clubs to squeeze his partner.

Half the world believes in bidding suits up the line here. The rest — including me — believe that their partner either has no major (if they have less than invitational values) or that they will be good enough to bid their major over a rebid of one no-trump. This style is called Walsh, and the implication is that if you bid one heart now, you guarantee real clubs. So, I would bid one no-trump now.


♠ K 6 3
 A K 10 4
 Q 6 5
♣ 10 5 3
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 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


Iain ClimieSeptember 5th, 2019 at 9:14 am

Hi Bobby,

What if West doesn’t take the bait and plays either the H9 or SQ at T2? South throws him in again and maybe he cashes one more club (but not both) and then exits safely again. I suspect South will wind up a trick short, and West should ask himself why South is doing this.

I love the quote, from the same guy who came up with “You can’t have everything – where would you put it?” and “I was an only child – eventually”.



David WarheitSeptember 5th, 2019 at 9:55 am

S doesn’t need to squeeze E, E’s partner (W) has already squeezed him when he cashes the last C. E, having pitched 2 S on the last 2 C tricks can a) pitch another S, thus setting up a third S trick for declarer, b) pitch a D, thus setting up a fourth D trick for declarer, or c) pitch a H (which is what you say he pitched). Now declarer wins the HA, dropping the J, and then runs S & D and then finally finesses the H10, although it is just barely possible that E started with 4 S & HQJx. But all of this is irrelevant, as Iain has so rightly pointed out, since all W needs to do is not cash that last C, again as Iain has pointed out. All W has to do is ask himself why declarer led a C at trick 2, to which the answer is rather obvious.

Iain ClimieSeptember 5th, 2019 at 11:13 am

HI David,

Thanks for the vote of confidence!



JeffSSeptember 5th, 2019 at 2:03 pm

Hi Iain,

That guy would be Steven Wright. Got to see him perform live in Vancouver once. It was memorable to say the least. “It was the first time I was ever in love, and I learned a lot. Before that I’d never even thought about killing myself.”

JeffSSeptember 5th, 2019 at 2:05 pm

Oops, I missed the quote at the start of the article. It is way too early here.

Iain ClimieSeptember 5th, 2019 at 2:33 pm

Hi JeffS,

No worries and I agree with you – totally deadpan and macabre.


bobbywolffSeptember 5th, 2019 at 4:35 pm

Hi Iain, David and JeffS,

Yes, yes and probably not.

First, I had never heard of Steven Wright until we used his quote and then became impressed, not only with his clever repose but for his more than considerable wit. Next, after hearing about Iain’s and JeffS’s related experience he has risen to almost being a part of my (our, including you two) family (at least in fantasy).

No doubt, the unchallenged boldness of declarer leading a club right back should create much apprehension to West that declarer may know what he his doing, so BEWARE. While not really approving such a thing, perhaps if our hero, South, intelligently learned sleight of hand he could appear to have his low club fall out of his hand (at trick two) perhaps appearing to West that he had been given a significant break, instead of the hurtful fall from grace of, cashing the now good clubs and squeezing his side to death, a severe crime, but sometimes ever so tempting.

Perhaps the only other worthwhile tip I could provide is to suggest that if East had the QJx of hearts originally and was experienced enough to know what is eventually going to happen, should then throw both the small and jack of hearts away for his first two discards, trying to dissuade a perhaps naive declarer that he never possessed the queen also. Sometimes that ruse works while playing against amateur bridge psychologists causing them to eventually take a first round finesse since other less significant discards were certain to follow.

However, when the day is done, no doubt what was said here by you two and of course very succinctly, by David, should be a slam dunk to any experienced defender, especially when defending against a competent declarer.

However since what David Wright did hear, “nobody’s perfect” is likely true, so first stay alive and then continue to try any legal bridge way to succeed and immediately leading a club back at trick two is definitely legal, but the chicanery of having it drop out of one’s hand won’t fly in “Peoria” (likely understood by both David and JeffS, but possibly not by Iain), directly attributed to the Atlantic Ocean.

bobbywolffSeptember 5th, 2019 at 5:24 pm

Hi again,

After finally attempting to proofread my error prone post I feel embarrassed by my so-called effort.

First you two should have read you three, and then more importantly to the heart of the defense, the jack (or queen) of hearts should not be discarded, unless and until declarer has thrown two of his three hearts away.

Apologies and possibly more to follow.