Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 6th, 2013

Impossible shall be our hope;
And Love shall only have his scope
To join with Fancy now and then.

Sir John Suckling

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


While you cannot make a grand slam missing the ace of trumps, I have taken 13 tricks (admittedly in game) on a hand where somebody revoked before taking their trump ace. However, making a slam while missing the ace and king of trumps is rare, but not unheard of.

In today’s six spades, if dummy’s trumps were weaker (with the queen but without the jack), South could lead the queen in the hope that East would naively cover when holding a doubleton king. That would achieve the desired honor crash. But no East would consider covering with the king when dummy has a Q-J combination.

When this deal came up at the table, Ken Barbour of Arizona found himself as declarer in what seemed a hopeless slam after his opponents had effectively crowded the bidding and forced him to guess at the six-level.

Barbour spotted a chance, however, when he ruffed the opening heart lead in dummy and led club winners, trying to look like a man with diamond losers to discard. When he led the third round of clubs, East obligingly ruffed with the spade four. South overruffed and led a trump, bringing about a satisfying clang as the ace and king of trumps fell together.

East should have seen through this. It was virtually inconceivable that South held a losing singleton diamond, the only position in which an immediate low ruff would be essential. But it cost South nothing to try, and he was rewarded for his effort.

There is no reason to lead anything but hearts here. It feels right to lead the eight (suggesting a weak suit) to avoid any accident if declarer has a singleton heart honor. Incidentally, if looking for a swing, you might have doubled here – you’d hope to score two or three tricks in your hand and partner should come through with something.


♠ K 8
 8 6 5 4
 A 9 7 2
♣ Q 3 2
South West North East
Pass 1 1 1♠
2 2♠ 4 4♠
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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitMay 20th, 2013 at 10:29 am

“The difficult is done at once, the impossible takes a little longer.” -Charles Alexandre de Calonne (1734-1802), French Finance Minister.

Iain ClimieMay 20th, 2013 at 10:51 am

Hi Bobby, David,

As long as partner can take the attempts at being cheered up (what’s done is done) I hope that I’d have risen t the occasion as West – sorry partner., I nearly led the SK as I thought it was dead under the 4H bidder and it might have cut ruffs. OK it is a bit of a white lie, but the new improved version of myself tries to recover matters when (not if) things go wrong.

The old grumpy version would have not been so tolerant – verbals (at best) would have arrived, possibly with a statement that I’d have thrown furniture if it wasn’t an unfair risk to the opponents. Tantrums don’t help, though, although it took me years to accept this.

I still haven’t managed to persuade one partner of this who explodes in all directions when things go wrong, although he is self-critical too. I keep telling him not to waste the energy but it doesn’t seem to get through. One pair of lady opponents on Saturday at a rare outing into à non-club session said kindly that I was the first opponent (out of 4 pairs playing 7 bd matches) who seemed to enjoy the game. I can’t imagine why they waited until my partner had left the table. Any helpful general advice here – apart from counting to 10 first and not saying what you feel?



Bobby WolffMay 20th, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Hi David,

Now we all know where that wonderful quote came from. It is doubtful, upon reaching a certain age, that almost all of us have not seen and either performed or fallen victim to such a thing.

But between the two extremes, having benefited rather than fallen under the bus, shall we say, leaves us with quite a different feeling about its value.

Bobby WolffMay 20th, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, being compassionate with what will always turn out to be a bereaved partner, after ruffing the 3rd club low and then after being overruffed as a prelude to partner’s king falling together with your ace may set off some true negative emotions.

However, in addition to an opponent making you look ridiculous, it may send you, the defender back to the drawing board in order to count the hand. Yes, ruffing low is the right play if declarer is 5-3-3-2 with the king of spades, and without the ace of diamonds, allowing partner to trump the next club with his theoretical singleton small trump.

But is that a more likely hand than the one he held? As long as East went through that process and then wrongly decided it was, no hard feelings should be held. However that would leave declarer with Kxxxx, Axx, Kxx, xx, since if he held Kxxxxx, Axx, Kx, xx, there is nothing to be gained by not ruffing with the ace the first time.

Methinks the hand he held: 10xxxx, Axx, AKx, xx is the more likely one, since the useless king of diamonds, although totally insignificant in the play, was not so in the declarer’s determination to bid the slam and what about partner having an extra ace for his NV preempt?

“Ah, Watson, there’s the rub! All the evidence needs to be weighed, before the proverbial guillotine falls”.

However, a mistake of that nature only serves to make someone angrier when he realizes that he was lazy in his analysis.

Iain ClimieMay 20th, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Is the innocent defender (after partner has confessed the sin of not thinking) then entitled to use an exchange from BBC TV’s Blackadder series? Blackadder (to the useless, dim and smelly Baldrick) “What goes come here, Baldrick, then OW?”. “Dunno Mr. B” is the reply. “Come here Baldrick….”

Wrong, of course, but still tempting on occasion.

Bobby WolffMay 20th, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, tempting, but Dunno.

Perhaps that ID (innocent defender), should ask, “Baldrick, when did you attempt to learn how to play bridge? I know it was today, but what time today”?

Bill CubleyMay 20th, 2013 at 3:59 pm

That was easy. I was in yet another bad slam 2 weeks ago. I had 11 trump missing KX. So I dropped the offside stiff king of hearts, This was a distraction to the opponents.

I then solved the issue of how to get rid of a losing diamond by running hearts until a spade was pitched. Took 4 spades and pitched a losing diamond.

Never did find out why the leader holding D QJT led a club. His partner held the D AK. Got a decent STAC result.

Never let them see you sweat. Make them think you are going for an overtrick rather than being in the wrong contract.

Iain ClimieMay 20th, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Hi again Bobby,

To quote Clarksburg, “That’s a keeper!”.

Many thanks,


PS Third series I think if anyone wants to look it up.