Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, October 17th, 2019

What makes a problem a problem is not that a large amount of search is required for its solution, but that a large amount would be required if a requisite level of intelligence were not applied.— Allen Newell and Herbert

W North
Both ♠ K Q J 5
 Q 9 8 6 5
 9 6
♣ 10 4
West East
♠ 10 9 7 3
 4 3 2
♣ Q 9 8 7 5
♠ A 4 2
 A J 10
 J 8 7 4 2
♣ 3 2
♠ 8 6
 K 7
 A K Q 5 3
♣ A K J 6
South West North East
  Pass Pass Pass
2 NT Pass 3 ♣ Pass
3 Pass 3 ♠ * Pass
3 NT All pass    

*Four spades and longer hearts


South’s inelegant (if practical) two no-trump opening saw North show four spades and longer hearts, but South insisted on no-trump, which led to a challenging declarer-play problem for him.

Declarer won the club lead in dummy with the 10 and called for dummy’s spade king. When East let it hold, declarer started on diamonds, and the 5-1 break came as a huge blow.

Declarer now needed a third trick from the majors. He led the heart king from hand, but East was wide awake and, after winning the heart ace, returned the heart jack to kill the dummy. He won the next spade, cashed the heart 10, West throwing a spade, and exited in diamonds. West let go of his last spade, and the defense had to come to two more tricks.

Once West had showed out on the second diamond, South should have dislodged the spade ace before touching hearts. East would win the second spade and would probably return a diamond, but declarer would be in the driver’s seat. He would win and lay down the heart king, which East would have to duck, in order to prevent South from accessing dummy’s winning spade.

However, declarer could now counter by cashing the club aceking (East pitching a spade) and throwing East on lead with a diamond. After taking his diamond winners, East would have to lead around to a major-suit winner at trick 13. Note that in this line declarer would have to guess whether to pitch a spade winner or unguard hearts on the last diamond!

If you play forcing no-trump and constructive raises, you are allowed to make a simple raise to two hearts with a 10-count. But this hand feels too strong for that. It isn’t just the good trump and aces, it is also the side five-card suit and useful small doubleton. So treat this as a limit raise; bid a forcing no-trump, then jump to three hearts. If you don’t play forcing no-trump, maybe make a limit raise to three hearts.


♠ A 4 2
 A J 10
 J 8 7 4 2
♣ 3 2
South West North East
    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 ClimieOctober 31st, 2019 at 1:50 pm

Hi Bobby,

I think declarer is likely to get the end position right here; it would be very difficult for East to duck the HK holding A10 alone, and I would certainly expect him/her to think about it first. There again, the rule of restricted choice might appeal to declarer.



A.V.Ramana RaoOctober 31st, 2019 at 3:19 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
A tricky ( pun intended ) decision for declarer but perhaps he can get some insight by cashing top diamonds and observing West’s discards before cashing A and K of clubs

bobbywolffOctober 31st, 2019 at 3:31 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes and little doubt that a competent and experienced South could interpret both the up to then play and the opponent’s signalling method to rightly determine what to discard from dummy specifically at trick twelve, while defending this hand

One of the unseen and thus non-felt truisms at the high levels of declarer play, begins with the understanding that for the defense to offer its best, both partners need to accurately signal distributions when important (and this one qualifies at that in order for West to let East know to take the second spade if holding three of them).

When the times comes in our great game when one defensive partner strays from giving accurate count (when apparently necessary) and his partner then effortlessly picks up the false signal with best defense, I’ll be very impressed, since up to now, that has never happened for or to me, and likely never will, at least, in my longevity.

If, as time goes on, it does and I have arrived at my final resting place, I’ll immediately need to improve my game since to not, will render me penniless (assuming coin of the realm is needed), in no time at all.

bobbywolffOctober 31st, 2019 at 3:46 pm



You may, in spite of not just responding to my above plea, have allowed me to continue playing in that game (hopefully in the sky rather than the down elevator) because if formally or even just casually being barred, what in the world will I have to do for blissful enchantment?

Much thanks, AVRR, for the positive perspective.