Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 10th, 2012

There is no escape by the river,
There is no flight left by the fen;
We are compassed about by the shiver
Of the night of their marching men.

Richard Hovey

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

*Short diamonds with a raise to at least four hearts


How should you play your heart game when West leads the diamond queen to dummy's ace?

If you can force the defenders to open up spades for you, you hold your losers in that suit to one. To that end, you should aim to eliminate the red suits and exit in clubs. Suppose you cross to a trump at trick two, ruff your remaining diamond, and play ace and another club. Today East could win the second club with the jack, play a spade to the queen, win the third club with the king, and send another spade through. That would be one down.

To prevent East from gaining the lead twice in clubs, you must make the first club lead from dummy, intending to insert the club 10. If West (who cannot attack spades effectively) wins and returns a club, you will win with the ace and exit in clubs, forcing the defenders to play spades or concede a ruff-sluff.

What if East plays the club jack on the first round? You win with the club ace, cross to a trump, and lead toward your club 10. If East ducks, you will play the club 10 to duck the trick into the safe hand. Suppose instead that East rises with the club king and switches to a spade, West winning with the queen. West can now cash the club queen but must then lead into your spade tenace. The contract is safe unless East happens to hold all three missing club honors.

In situations of this sort, one tends to look for the lead least likely to cost a trick. The stand-out choice is the heart nine, since it is as likely to hit partner's suit as anything else, but also — by virtue of being a lead from a sequence — it is relatively safe.


♠ K 10 2
 9 8 4
 Q 8 7 4 2
♣ Q 2
South West North East
1 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


Patrick CheuDecember 24th, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Hi Bobby, the play of a club towards the ten of clubs, is it, what bridge writers call partial elimination, and as you pointed out cannot succeed if east has KQJ of clubs.Maybe the hand should be headed ‘The Tale of the Ten of Clubs’.Merry Christmas-Patrick.

Iain ClimieDecember 24th, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Hi Patrick & Mr. Wolff,

Don’t be too pessimistic – even if East has CKQJ you are still OK if he / she also has at least one spade honour. It really isn’t your day if you play as suggested and still go off.

bobbywolffDecember 25th, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Hi Patrick and Iain,

Yes Patrick, the Ten of Clubs should get some recognition, especially in the mind and pen of the great Hungarian bridge writer, Robert Darvas, for his role in this hand. However, if East does have the KQJ of clubs and West both the King Queen of spades the role should be renamed “the curse of the ten of clubs” joining, I believe, the Scots naming the Nine of Diamonds the curse of Scotland.

The possible reasons for such an unattractive reference is somewhat widely unknown, but possibly having to do with the Massacre of Glencoe in 1692 (the order being signed on the back of that card) or the nine lozenges that formed the arms of the Earl of Stair for his connection with that event and the union with England in 1707.

Iain, perhaps your closer location will shed a light on this, so that Patrick and I can get better scores on our next UK history exam, not to mention all the bridge classes emerging all over the world (except in my sadly desolate school organized, bridge teaching homeland).

Iain ClimieDecember 25th, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

The general view on the D9 being the curse of Scotland is that, following the battle of Culloden, the Duke of Cumberland (aka Butcher Cumberland, who commanded the British army against Bonnie Prince Charlie’s forces) wrote an order on the back of that card specifying that Highland forces were to be hunted down and killed after the battle. It was a bloodbath that has fuelled Scots Nationalists ever since, although there were Scots troops in the British forces as well.


Iain Climie

bobbywolffDecember 25th, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Thanks, Iain.

And now we know. You are our abacus, since we can always count on you!