Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Charlotte, having seen his body
Borne before her on a shutter,
Like a well-conducted person
Went on cutting bread and butter.

William Thackeray

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


In today's deal from the Bermuda Bowl semifinals in Bali, John Kranyak for USA-I declared four hearts. West led the spade queen and declarer won in dummy and played the club jack next. East took the ace, and instead of playing a spade to ensure the defeat of the contract, exited with the club two. Declarer ruffed and ran the heart jack to East's queen. The diamond return went to dummy's jack and declarer unblocked the heart ace, played a spade to the jack, followed by the heart 10. East won, but declarer could claime the balance — he had his 10 tricks.

In the other room Claudio Nunes took the spade lead, cashed the heart ace, then continued with a second round. East took the king and switched to a diamond. East was now threatening to underlead his clubs and get a diamond ruff. However, declarer won the diamond with dummy’s queen, played a spade to the jack, overtook the spade 10 with the king, and played the spade six, on which he discarded the club six from his hand – a classic example of the Scissors Coup. With the link to his partner cut off, East could now take only his master trump.

At double-dummy, though, an initial diamond lead defeats the contract. Declarer does best to win, cashes the major-suit aces, then continues with three more spades, throwing the club as before. East can win the spade and force declarer with clubs at every turn to establish a third trump trick.

Any action that the doubler takes now shows extra values. Specifically, a rebid of one no-trump in this auction shows a balanced 18-20, since you would already have overcalled one no-trump with 15-17 and would have passed now with a balanced 13-14 count. While your diamond honors are well placed, that is not enough reason to upgrade the hand to a call of two no-trump, so the bid of one no-trump looks perfect.


♠ A K 6 4
 A 4
 A Q J
♣ J 7 4 3
South West North East
Pass Pass 1
Dbl. Pass 1 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


Howard Bigot-JohnsonOctober 30th, 2014 at 12:04 pm

HBJ : I would have regarded the lead of the spade queen as a gift, despite the risk of it being a singleton. So up with the SK in dummy.
Playing hearts to be 3-2 and the inevitable loss of two losers in trumps, I would not be disappointed to find east with 4 to the KQ , after playing Ace and another heart straightaway. East being marked with 5 spades
At trick four I would enter hand with the jack of spades to play another heart. East is forced to take it and will no doubt put partner in with a club. The inevitable switch to diamonds will take place forcing the successful finesse. Then over to dummy with the spade 10 to remove East’s final trump, and the option of taking another diamond finesse.
Declarer making 3S, 3D , and 4 easy hearts, or 4S, 2D and 4H.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonOctober 30th, 2014 at 12:12 pm

HBJ : Sorry correction. My play assumes East does not return a diamond at trick 4, but if he does then the scissors coup is essential play to keep west of lead.
For me why wouldn’t East try to capture two club tricks first not knowing that declarer has 3 small diamonds ?

David WarheitOctober 30th, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Howard is correct, except that he has North as declarer & South, instead of East, leading to trick four. Correctly stated, after East wins trick three with the HQ, East exits with a diamond, threatening to put his partner in with a club to give him (East) a diamond ruff. So South cashes the SJ & SK & leads a fourth spade, discarding his losing club. East wins & forces declarer, presumably with a fifth spade. Declarer ruffs, loses a heart, ruffs the club return, draws trump, and wins the last two tricks with a diamond finesse.

Double dummy, there is an even better line of play. South wins the opening lead with the SA. He now cashes the HA and then cashes the SJ & S10, finesses diamonds & cashes the SK, discarding his losing club. Now he leads a second round of trumps & only has to lose tricks to the HK & HQ. Making five!

Iain ClimieOctober 30th, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Hi Folks,

What happens if the defence just keeps bashing away with clubs from T1? South is likely to lead the SJ at some stage, which won’t help



Bobby WolffOctober 30th, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Hi HBJ, David, & Iain,

Variations on a tough declarer’s hand, where both good things (queen of spades singleton onside, diamond finesse working, shortness in spades with shortness in trumps, no spade continuation at trick 3) And bad things, (shortness in spades, shortness in diamonds, bad trump break with no singleton honor) occur forcing declarer to roll with the punches to succeed.

Both do, each in different ways and leaving it up to others (like the three of you) to properly analyze.

Such are the glories of high-level bridge where every player (well almost) participating at this level shining his talent for all to see. Even not returning a spade at trick three (likely thinking his partner to not have two singletons), but rather his singleton diamond, at the first table, somewhat understandable, tempting East to go astray possibly thinking declarer is 1-7-2-3 or 1-7-3-2 and therefore cramping back and forth entries.

While watching physical sports, usually all back and forth factors are visible for all to see. Not so in bridge where then analysis, goes to the windmills of the mind, instead of the body.

Iain ClimieOctober 30th, 2014 at 4:46 pm

One extra thought on today’s handr – would anyone have considered bidding 4N over 4H on the second round, especially at favourable vulnerability? It may seem rash but North doesn’t have to be that strong. Is it more or less sound than south’s 3H bid?


Jane AOctober 30th, 2014 at 5:11 pm

For those of us who would not open three hearts first seat with that measly hand, I have another question. Assume north opens 2NT in third seat with his nice 19. Should south then Texas transfer to four hearts? The singleton club makes the south hand somewhat better facing a 2NT open. Even if west makes some type of preemptive call in diamonds, north can still bid NT, opening the door for the same end result. With east on lead, whatever is lead helps declarer.

North then plays the hand, which also seems best.

Bobby WolffOctober 30th, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Hi Iain,

You touch on a subject which indeed, could get somewhat controversial.

Of course, West would certainly consider such a later entrance into the bidding with his reasonable 6-5 distribution and being NV, although the opponents were also NV. Obviously, if his vote was Yea he would venture 4NT which in this case is universally played as 2 suits, usually both minors since with all three unbids (perhaps a weak 5-4-4) he would belatedly double.

However, if after examining the auction after the late intervention with partner preferring 5 clubs, the penalty would be severe in spite of catching partner with even more than some might expect.

Bridge, being the unique game that it is, and from the West position would have much preferred to have caught length in one of the minors with partner and not much defense with his KQxx in hearts very bad in almost every way.

Bridge is, as always, the master, and to think otherwise will only antagonize the bridge gods into action. BTW, Jim2, did you ever make such a bid as 4NT and instead of that East, catch partner with both minor suit aces and length in at least one of them?

Bobby WolffOctober 30th, 2014 at 5:39 pm

Hi Jane A,

Even though what all you say is true (or, at least, close) your vivid imagination perhaps is a little strong. I think South over North’s opening 2NT should only venture 3 diamonds (heart transfer) and rely on partner to jump to 4 hearts with the hand necessary to make it.

However, I, too, am only guessing and also have to rely on positive bridge gods, who are, for whatever reason, and at least on this hand, rooting for me.

As an afterthought, while I, believe it or not, seldom expect for partner to lay down an anywhere near perfect dummy for me, I do believe in early (usually 1st or 2nd to speak) preemption, before the other side’s military has its weapons in place.

It always seems to have worked pretty well for me, but do concede that feel might be illusory
and only result because of my overall optimism.

Thanks for entering the discussion with all us big rough talking men. No coward, you!