Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, June 9th, 2014

Remember me when I am dead
And simplify me when I’m dead.

Keith Douglas

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


Against four spades West had a comfortable lead of the diamond king, and declarer saw things in a simple light. He won the lead, drew trump ending in dummy, then led a heart to the king and ace. When the hearts split badly, all he could do was grumble at his bad luck; but he had missed a far better line for the contract.

Declarer started well when he won the diamond ace at the first trick. The last thing he wanted to do was allow the defenders a chance to shift to trumps. To eke out 10 tricks, South should realize what he needs to do is insure two tricks for his side in hearts. If East holds the ace, or if the suit breaks evenly, this will be simplicity itself. But the possibility that West held the heart ace together with a bad break in that suit, must be considered.

In such an eventuality, declarer’s 10th trick can come only from a fourth-round ruff in dummy. Therefore, correct technique is to lead hearts at once before touching trump. However, if (as they should) the opponents shift to trump, the spade queen should be retained in dummy to allow a safe ruff of the fourth heart.

By the way, do you think West was blameless here? A good case can be made for passing up the lead of the diamond sequence, and kicking off with a trump instead. Then declarer would have been sunk.

Dummy is going to put down a three-suited hand with either a 1-4-4-4 pattern, or with a spade void and five diamonds. Whenever you are defending on a deal where one player rates to be three-suited, a trump lead will work out reasonably well. This hand is no exception.


♠ Q 9 6 4 3
 J 9 7
 A 8 3
♣ J 4
South West North East
1 Pass 1♠
Pass 2♣ Pass 2
Pass 3 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


Bob KiblerJune 23rd, 2014 at 10:34 am

I don’t think West’s opening trump lead defeats the contract.
Can’t West eventually be thrown in with his diamond honors
to lead into declarer’s hearts?

Iain ClimieJune 23rd, 2014 at 10:55 am

Hi Bob,

I think if that happens, west can just exit with a small heart to east,’s 10 although clearly your idea could work if declarer held that card. If west sucks the HK, though, declarer may get complacent and draw a round or two of trumps, especially at pairs, to reduce the risk of a heart ruff. Then west lads trumps after winning later heart tricks.



Bobby WolffJune 23rd, 2014 at 11:28 am

Hi Bob & Iain,

Thanks to both of you for Bob first, bringing up an alternate line of play and then, most importantly, Iain, a winning counter to it, with a down one result.

Also Iain, your suggestion of West ducking the king of hearts could get the job done, particularly at pairs where overtricks are cherished, but sometimes the play of the king of hearts does not include the queen, risking to West that considerable embarrassment, especially if declarer held the club queen instead.

As usual, the game itself is the winner, often creating numerate puzzles, the answers to which vary, depending on card location, timing, cunning and overall strategy.

Table up, and damned be he who first cries, “enough” (please excuse).

ClarksburgJune 23rd, 2014 at 9:18 pm

” Table up” , huh.
Is that the gender-neutral bridge equivalent of the currently common expression “Man up” ?

Bobby WolffJune 23rd, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

No, not really but (at least in my remembrance) of a common British bridge expression made famous by the noted English bridge writer, SJ Simon and for all I know, used throughout that country when encouraging a foursome to sit down and start play.

Perhaps, because of Mrs. Gugenheim it could not be referred to as “Man up” but this is where I leave the building in relating the history of new common clever expressions.

Bob KiblerJune 23rd, 2014 at 11:23 pm

Sorry, I just don’t see how the defense can prevail on a trump
lead. If West wins the first heart and returns a heart to East,
declarer will ruff a heart high. If West ducks the first heart
(looks best to me, but maybe not — still not good enough)
the endplay succeeds.

jim2June 23rd, 2014 at 11:52 pm

Bob Kibler –

The play of the hand is a battle over the fate of declarer’s fourth heart.

If the defense begins with a trump opening lead and leads trump at every opportunity after that, then declarer’s fourth heart will lose to West’s Jack or nine. Thus, declarer will lose three hearts and a diamond.

If the defense does not lead trump three times, then Declarer’s fourth heart will be ruffed with the Queen of spades.

Bob KiblerJune 24th, 2014 at 12:55 am

Sorry, that analysis too is incomplete. Declarer ruffs a club
and leads heart 2; if W ducks to East’s 10, E. has no spade
to lead. If W wins heart J and leads a spade, S wins in hand,
leads last trump (W must discard diamond) and endplays W
with a diamond.

jim2June 24th, 2014 at 1:35 am

West wins the JH and leads a trump.

South plays as you say, putting West in with a diamond.

West’s hearts are A9 and South’s are Q7. South has lost two heart tricks and there are no trump on the Board. How is West endplayed in hearts?

jim2June 24th, 2014 at 1:48 am

Hmmm, I may have the sequence wrong. Has West played the AH? If so, you may be right, that West has the 94 left to declarer’s Q7.

Nicely done.

Bobby WolffJune 24th, 2014 at 5:58 am

Hi all,

If the play goes that way I would suggest that West (and perhaps his partner East also) should hold their cards up since almost all cards have to be exactly that way for the heart end play to work, including the three highest diamonds.

Maybe there is a new strain of TOCM tm going around which, being so powerful, it allows declarer to be able to will the opponent’s 26 (or almost) cards to be where he wants them to be.

One fine day Jim2 will be the recipient of such a gift and all of us who have suffered along with him can suddenly smile, before the alarm goes off and unfortunately, we wake up.

PeteJune 24th, 2014 at 7:11 am

Hi Bobby,
You say that a good case could be made for leading a trump. Could you please explain that logic. Thanks.

Iain ClimieJune 24th, 2014 at 8:36 am

Hi Bob (Kibler),

My apologies for underestimating your analysis – interesting stuff!


Bobby WolffJune 24th, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Hi Pete,

When the opponent’s have found a late suit fit in the bidding and therefore signifying at least one hand with a very short suit (singleton or void in spades) in the about to be tabled dummy opposite (in this case) declarer’s longest suit (spades) the hand is likely to be a cross ruff (making his trumps separately), thus it often is best to lead a trump (even though it sometimes threatens to lose a trick in the suit itself), but because of declarer’s need to magnify his trump winners, that possible defensive lost trump trick comes back later, plus the advantage sought of limiting his ruffing potential (often, when declarer needs to give up the lead, a 2nd trump can be timely continued by the defense).

Pete, also never forget the disadvantage of leading something else, where the defense has to play 1st and 3rd to the opening lead, (instead of later, when declarer is forced to lead and the defense is able to play 2nd and 4th), sometimes limiting the defensive ability to make maximum use in the other suit chosen as the opening lead.

Yes, the basics of our game are sometimes lost in the shuffle, the most obvious, at least to me, is the sometimes disadvantage of the original lead, especially in a suit contract, rather than in NT when usually the main objective is to establish the long suit of the defense, but not so when defending with a known trump suit.

Hopefully, though the above can be somewhat confusing to many, it will make sense to those experienced enough to remember hands which illustrate the above in spades (so to speak, or whatever suit was key) at least in that hand.