Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 9th, 2012

No woman can be a beauty without a fortune.

George Farquhar

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


In today's deal North's jump to five hearts showed good trumps and nothing else to say — just what South needed to hear. Declarer was lucky enough to receive a diamond lead against his slam, and therefore was in a position almost to ensure his contract.

South took the diamond queen lead with his king, drew trumps in three rounds ending in dummy, then cashed the ace and king of spades. Bad news: the 5-1 break meant that he could no longer take more than 11 tricks.

If declarer had received a club lead against his contract of six hearts, playing spades from the top would have been fine, since the defenders had established a winner and would be in a position to cash it as soon as they obtained the lead. So declarer would have needed to get the spades going without losing a trick to make his slam. (Declarer cannot afford spades to break worse than 4-2 — unless the jack is singleton — because two club discards are needed in dummy so that South’s second club can be ruffed.)

But after the diamond lead, once trumps are found to be 3-2, there is a cast-iron play for the slam. Win the third round of trumps in dummy, then run the spade 10. The spade jack is the only trick lost. Declarer can win the return, unblock spades, then run spades. Now dummy’s club losers vanish on the spades, and a club can then be ruffed in dummy.

On this sort of auction declarer still has not guaranteed real clubs — he might have four hearts in a square hand, for example. Lead a club as your best chance to set up a suit for your side. You could guess by trying a red suit, but it is easier to lead what is front of your face.


♠ 10 6
 Q 6 2
 Q 7 5
♣ K 9 6 4 2
South West North East
Pass 1♠ Pass 1 NT
Pass 3 NT 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 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJuly 23rd, 2012 at 9:24 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

It strikes me that running the S10 is even a fairly good idea at pairs, except on a club lead. The contract is ideal, you’ve avoided the danger lead and the play works against Jxxx and Jx onside when bashing out top spades doesn’t work so well. Jxx onside makes no difference and Jxx offside is no so good – here cashing honours gives the overtrick. The S8 with south rather changes things of course.

I wouldn’t let your good lady see that quote, though!


Iain Climie

jim2July 23rd, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Farquhar notwithstanding, fortune is in the assessment of the beholder.

Iain ClimieJuly 23rd, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Hi Jim2,

I’ve got 3 teenage daughters so that assessment involves my bank balance. I wanted more female company during my 20’s so I can’t complain even if I meant something different. Hubris wins again!


Iain Climie

jim2July 23rd, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Ian –

I would say that you are a very fortunate man!


Iain ClimieJuly 23rd, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Hi Jim2,

Many thanks and certainly true at intervals between sometimes and usually. My master plan to get them all to play bridge hasn’t worked though – none do so.


bobby wolffJuly 23rd, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Hi Iain and Jim2,

Right on all counts and I do not mean Dracula nor Monte Cristo.

Iain, while you’ve gone 0 for 3 in bridge, I’ve gone 0 for 2, but in the USA’s national pastime, baseball, both batting average percentages are the same, 0%.

While I never actively thought of your superior match point play, I will, after reading your analysis, grudgingly agree, but hold my breath (and be satisfied with Jx or Jxx onside as well as Jxxx or singleton and doubleton J offside, which would, of course, be break even) since I do think that most pairs (even in a decent club duplicate) would reach the heart slam and then miss your sure-fire solution.

Also, I explained to my beautiful wife, Judy, that George Farquhar was referring to me as the fortune. My comment passed the litmus test, but probably just barely. Perhaps he really meant “being fortunate”.

Iain ClimieJuly 23rd, 2012 at 3:28 pm

I occasionally find the pre-emptive apology to be a useful convention, and not just at bridge. Cynics do suggest it may be less than completely sincere of course.