Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, March 3rd, 2014

It matters not how a man dies, but how he lives. The act of dying is not of importance; it lasts so short a time.

Dr. Samuel Johnson

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


Whenever you play a small slam with no top losers but only 11 winners, one of your first thoughts will be to construct an endplay to force an opponent to give you a 12th trick. Sometimes the idea is to build a trick from the intermediates, rather than just going for an endplay.

Here, South plays in six hearts after a transfer auction in which North’s excellent trumps and aces argue for driving to slam. When the diamond 10 is led to the ace, declarer should cash two high trumps, then strip off the diamonds. Next he leads the spade two to the ace, then advances the spade nine from dummy, planning to play low if East does the same.

Should West win the trick, he is endplayed to give you two tricks in spades or to lead a club into your tenace. If East covers your spade nine with his jack, you win the trick and plan to ruff a spade in dummy, hoping to bring down the spade queen, as would happen here.

If the spade queen does not put in an appearance on the third round of the suit, you will come back to hand in trumps and lead the fourth spade, planning to discard a club from dummy if West produces the master spade. At that point the defense would be endplayed to lead clubs or give you a ruff-sluff. Finally, if all else fails, you can take the club finesse.

Declarer surely rates to have quite a lot of shape but not much in high cards, given his failure to act over one club. It seems unlikely that a trump lead will allow you to prevent a crossruff, and since your heart queen might allow you to overruff declarer in spades, I'd settle for the club lead as least likely to cost a trick.


♠ 7 5
 Q 8
 Q 10 9 5 4
♣ K 10 6 2
South West North East
1♣ Pass
1 Dbl. Pass 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMarch 17th, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Hi Bobby,

A similar way of maximising chances can be seen if south had a club more and a spade less. Draw trumps, eliminate diamonds and cash SAK then lead a 3rd spade shedding a club from table if west plays the Q. If not, ruff the spade, club to ace, heart to table and then another club giving the extra chance of west having CKx as well as east holding the CK.



bobby wolffMarch 17th, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Hi Iain,

Right you are, plus another combination when East has H8x in spades and covers with his honor on the 2nd spade from dummy, but then is subject, (because of declarer holding the 107 in spades) for him to execute a loser on loser which, with that holding present would be successful if declarer then led the 10 from his hand, but, of course it would have to be guessed to play it that way which would lose if East had the QJx in spades or. of course QJ8x but in that case nothing would work and a winning club finesse would need to be relied upon.

From the above, one can learn of the playing judgment at the table of why that aspect is so critical when top players play each other, similar to the final table competition at the supreme poker championships. From my experience there is always, at least some evidence as to what is the most likely card combination present, but guessing it is usually as difficult as the calibre of the challenging competition.

BryanMarch 17th, 2014 at 5:03 pm

if you suspect that West has the guarded K Club and east has 4 to the QJ in Spades, how would that change your plan?

jim2March 17th, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Bryan –

I am not Our Host but, if declarer “knew” also that East had a singleton club or West only a doubleton club, then the hand would be cold double-dummy by endplaying East in spades or West in clubs, respectively.

Failing that, declarer would (I believe) play as per the column and be left hoping that East would follow to the club lead with the four or deuce.

bobby wolffMarch 17th, 2014 at 11:26 pm

Hi Bryan.

I’m not sure what you mean or your emphasis when you say that you suspect that East has QJxx and West the guarded (meaning more than 2) King of clubs.

The play of this hand is indeed a difficult decision, but not so unlikely that one winning line might not exist. There are combinations in spades, as I previously mentioned involving the 8 being third in one hand or the other where it can be “smothered” in bridge terms in order to develop the slam going trick in the form of a loser on loser.

All any of us can do is play it to best advantage, which in my definition, is that basically to determine the percentages, but always keeping in mind the mounting evidence, starting with the bidding (including silence), continuing through the choice of opening lead and the tempo of the opponents following suit with particular attention to, if discarding, how long it takes a defender to decide on what card to play, and then choosing what to do, and with many of my former partners I, if anything, encouraged them, to follow their judgment, even if it meant taking an anti-percentage view. That, to me, is the highest form of compliment, without saying a single word, I, or anyone else, can expect of them and, of course, when the tables are turned, they of me.

BTW, the very toughest opponents often give false reads to good declarers, a practice I have never thought to be either unethical or close since everyone knows big brother (declarer) is watching and listening, so there is absolutely nothing wrong in what could be called herky-jerky tempo, as long as nothing considered ridiculously misleading is practiced.

bobby wolffMarch 17th, 2014 at 11:40 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks for rendering a practical approach which would often be the line chosen, since I can think of no real means by which we can rely on the location of key cards or specific distributions, while declaring this exact hand.