Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, October 12th, 2019

The world’s a scene of changes; and to be Constant, in Nature were inconstancy.

Abraham Cowley

S North
None ♠ 8 5
 A 4 2
 A K J 8 5 2
♣ 5 4
West East
♠ Q 10 7 2
 K 10 3
 Q 7 6
♣ Q 10 3
♠ K J 9 6 4
 9 6 5
♣ 9 8 7 2
♠ A 3
 Q J 8 7
 9 4 3
♣ A K J 6
South West North East
1 NT Pass 3 NT All pass


The mathematical odds when missing four cards to the queen are to play for the drop, but the percentages are close enough that almost anything could influence the play.

In today’s deal, declarer opened a strong no-trump and was raised immediately to game since North had no reason to explore for any other contract. Life would have been easy on any lead but a spade, but when West led a fourth-highest spade two, declarer realized he needed to guess diamonds to have any realistic chance to make his game.

He started by leading the diamond nine and put up dummy’s king, then crossed to the club ace and led a diamond toward dummy. When West followed small, South paused to reassess the evidence.

West had led his long suit against three no-trump, and the spade two suggested he had only four cards in the suit. Was it likely that he had a doubleton or three hearts? South decided that if East had five spades and West four, with no longer suit on the side, West was more likely to have started with three diamonds than two. So declarer took the diamond finesse and came home with ten tricks.

It is hard to argue with success, so I won’t! I will say that, as declarer, you should not automatically assume that the opening leader is short in a critical suit just because he made the opening lead. After all, he has to have a long suit somewhere! If he is known to have five or six cards in the long suit, that is a horse of a different color.

A disciplined pass is in order. If you could raise to two hearts, you would, but competing to the three-level is too much with a weak no-trump hand and bad trumps. To bid three hearts, you would have to be slightly less balanced. You shouldn’t miss anything by passing, as partner will surely act again if he has extras. Give me ace-jack-fourth of hearts instead of the spade ace, and I might break discipline, I admit.


♠ A 3
 J 8 7 2
 9 4 3
♣ A K J 6
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 2 ♠

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


A.V.Ramana RaoOctober 26th, 2019 at 12:43 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
I Percieve that If South’s NT is 15-17 , perhaps North could have bid more methodically as there is chance of diamond slam missed and if south’s NT is 13-15 , North could bid 3NT. As may be seen there is no defence for five diamonds. Request your opinion

bobbywolffOctober 26th, 2019 at 3:39 pm


While you bring up an interesting feature of the bidding, methinks that without holding a short suit somewhere (singleton or of course void), North is better off with percentage to just gamble out 3NT.

While no one can either prove or disprove that theory, only experience is my guide. Most of all, if the NTer has the diamond queen or 4 small, he will likely be a prohibited favorite for 9 tricks while 11 at diamonds could be in jeopardy. No doubt, a diamond slam is much more likely than is 6NT, but as the column suggested about the color of the horse, it is different.

Also 5 diamonds is certainly not laydown with ruffing out the queen of clubs the winning option, but not just the straight finesse, assuming a spade is led.

However I and others, will appreciate your always intelligent and provocative bridge opinions, certainly including this one.

A.V.Ramana RaoOctober 26th, 2019 at 4:15 pm

I think on a spade lead , declarer goes down if he ruffs out Q of clubs as he does not have entry back to South hand. The play I had in mind is to win the lead and lead Q of hearts. If West covers , South can ruff out Q of clubs with J of heart entry. So West will not cover but declarer changes tack , leads diamond To A in North and comes to South hand with club. A and takes diamond finesse. If it loses, defense can cash one spade but now South can ruff out Q of clubs and if finesse wins, South has eleven tricks and had the heart finesse failed at trick two, South needs to guess diamonds and as the cards lay, declarer always makes the contract

A.V.Ramana RaoOctober 26th, 2019 at 4:18 pm

If West covers Q of hearts, declarer plays trumps top down and after East shows out on second round, ruffs out Q of clubs ( which I missed to mention in above)

jim2October 26th, 2019 at 4:20 pm

I am not sure East will lead a spade from that holding at 5D.

bobbywolffOctober 27th, 2019 at 1:51 am

Hi AVRR & Jim2,

All well and good, but in itself it varies from what I deemed to be the main topic, what to bid over a strong NT as his partner, while holding the North hand.

In truth, I have no illusions that a simple 3NT is the percentage action, but that is what I would bid, in the absence of a well woven bidding system after the common strong NT opening.

Furthermore, I suspect that when 3NT becomes the eventual final contract, that the faster a partnership gets there, will furnish a small edge to the declarer, if for no other reason that 3NT will tend to shut out 4th chair, if he in fact had enough to bid and helped direct his partner into leading the right suit.

IOW there seems to almost always be factors which tend to influence other good players, to either agree or not, heaven forbid, simply disagree.

That diversity of thinking is ever present in our chosen game and I wouldn’t ever suggest doing away with it.

Finally, yes Jim2, it would be next to impossible that East would start with a spade lead, if, in fact, he became the opening leader, but again we are combining questions and answers to which there normally would be no reason, except possibly while at a post-mortem about why we lost the last tournament when the opponents reached 5 diamonds and had no trouble making it.