Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 13, 2010

Dealer: East

Vul: None


8 7 4

A Q 6 5

8 6 5

7 5 4


Q 3 2

8 3

A K J 4 3

K 9 3



10 9 7 4 2

10 9 2

J 10 8 6


A K J 10 9 6


Q 7

A Q 2


South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass
4 All Pass    

Opening Lead: K

“My occupation in my solitary pilgrimages was to recall every yard of the old road as I went along it, and to haunt the old spots, of which I never tired.”

— Charles Dickens

How should you play four spades after West leads three rounds of diamonds?

A key play comes at the third trick. You must ruff the third diamond with the trump nine, retaining the six as a way to reach dummy. Now it looks natural to go after trumps by leading out the top winners. If the queen of trump falls under the ace and king, you will make an overtrick by unblocking the heart king and jack, crossing to dummy with the trump eight, and throwing your two clubs on the ace and queen of hearts.

However, if you play this way today, you will go down. You cannot take your four heart winners, because of the lack of entries to dummy, so the defenders will make a trump, two diamonds and a club. The safest way to overcome this layout is to lead the trump 10 at trick four. If West plays low, you will make six trumps, three hearts (overtaking the second round) and the club ace. If instead West takes the 10 with the queen, you will win his return, unblock your top hearts from hand, and draw trumps ending in dummy. You will make five trumps, four hearts and the club ace.

Incidentally, this plan would also work when trumps are 4-0, as long as East has the club king. You can overtake your heart jack at the appropriate moment and subsequently finesse in clubs.


South Holds:

8 7 4
A Q 6 5
8 6 5
7 5 4


South West North East
  2 Dbl. Pass
2 Pass 4 Pass
ANSWER: When you responded two hearts, you showed a hand in the range 0-8 HCP. Facing that, your partner made a strong slam-try. Now, in context, you do have pretty good trumps. You should jump to five hearts, suggesting decent hearts but not much else, and let partner make the final decision.


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 2010. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitNovember 27th, 2010 at 9:54 am

A very slightly better line of play, after ruffing the 3d diamond with the nine, is to cash one high spade. If the queen falls, cash one more spade & the king-jack of hearts & then cross to dummy in spades, making 5. Even if someone ruffs the first or second heart, you will still make 4. If trumps are 4-0, proceed as you indicate, making 4 if, as you say, East has the club king, but whoever has the 4 spades must also have at least 3 hearts. If spades are not 4-0, cash the king-jack of hearts and now lead the ten of spades. This line obviously gains when the queen is singleton, albeit only an overtrick, but it also gains when the player with the queen of spades has all 7 hearts and his partner has at least two spades.

bobbywolffNovember 27th, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Hi David,

Thanks for adding your expert analysis. However, a possible key distribution is if East has all four spades. Then if declarer cashes the ace first, East (RHO) will have an answer to whatever declarer now does, but if the Jack of spades is offered first East (depending on the heart distribution) would need to take it or lose it.

All of this (or at least most of it only once again proves what a great game we have the good fortune of playing).

Your move?