Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, November 8th, 2013

If I'd observed all the rules, I'd never have got anywhere.

Marilyn Monroe

North North
Neither ♠ A K
 A J 8 5 3
 A K Q J
♣ J 3
West East
♠ Q 10 8 4
 Q 6
 10 4
♣ K 10 7 4 2
♠ 7 3
 K 10 7 4 2
 6 5
♣ A 9 6 5
♠ J 9 6 5 2
 9 8 7 3 2
♣ Q 8
South West North East
2♣ Pass
2 Pass 2 Pass
2♠ Pass 3 Pass
5 All pass    


One of the big no-no's of defense is to give declarer a ruff and discard, but when you know there are no more defensive tricks outside of trumps, it is often the most challenging play.

In today’s deal, West was not hard-pressed to start with a low club to East’s ace, and a club came back to the king. Now suppose West gets off lead with a “safe” spade. Declarer wins in dummy, draws trump, cashes the other top spade, then plays the heart ace and ruffs a heart. Declarer can crossruff spades and hearts until eventually all declarer has in hand is a good trump and a good spade, so the game rolls in.

At first glance it doesn’t look as if there is anything the defense can do, but look at what happens if West continues with a third club at trick three. Let us first suppose that declarer ruffs in dummy, discarding a spade from hand. It is relatively clear to see that this line will not succeed, because there are no longer enough trumps in dummy to ruff both spades. (If declarer does not draw trump, it will not be long before West scores his diamond 10.)

The alternative is for declarer to discard a heart from dummy and ruff in hand. But this does not work either, because although he has enough trumps in dummy to ruff the spades good, he will not have a trump left in hand for the entry to the established spade.

Where you have huge support for your partner, showing that should take precedence over limiting your hand by defining your high cards. So here I would jump to four hearts, a splinter bid promising short hearts and spade support. With only four trumps, I might refrain from making a slam-try.


♠ J 9 6 5 2
 9 8 7 3 2
♣ Q 8
South West North East
2♣ Pass
2 Pass 2♠ 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


pod12@msn.comNovember 22nd, 2013 at 2:08 pm

HBJ : Hi there…..just wanted to say that from the defence’s point of view, giving declarer a ruff and discard is often be fatal. Except of course when declarer cannot benefit by it.
In a sense a third club benefits the defence far more by allowing partner to pitch a spade. This forces declarer to play out two rounds of trumps. This in turns restricts him to 10 tricks ( 2D, 2S, 5 ruffs and the heart Ace ).
The hand is cruel in that the 2 five card suits offer no prospect of ruffing finesses, East does have a doubleton spade, and South is at risk of being overtrumped by West.
All in all bridge can be a cruel game at times.

bobby wolffNovember 22nd, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Hi HBJ (aka pod 12),

Yes, exactly, but cruelty to one (in this case declarer) is nothing short of brilliance to another. This hand merely proves what a positive mental exercise bridge can sometimes be.

True, one can be a very good and socially acceptable player of note without including the “bridge smarts” necessary in order to execute this defensive coup at trick 3.

However, the realization of the upside bridge has to offer potential world class players, should and would be the hook to offer bridge in schools, if only to develop numerate analysis in those who have the talent.

It is precisely bridge lovers like yourself, who constantly cite the positives and, if you will, also sometimes cruel blows, to either the declarer or the defense in order for all of us to recognize the extreme challenges it sometimes presents.

Thanks much for your continued loyalty to our great game. Without bridge lovers like yourself we have little chance to continue to make playing bridge well enough known to steadily move up in stature and gain the respect it deserves.