Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Scenery is fine — but human nature is finer.

John Keats

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


It’s hard to imagine not getting to three no-trump on this deal from the Dallas spring national tournament. Typically, after North had shown the red suits South got to play the no-trump game, leaving West an awkward opening lead. Let’s say he leads the heart seven. Declarer wins the heart queen, East encouraging, then plays a diamond to the queen, on which East if using the Smith Echo can play low to suggest that he is happy for his partner to make the obvious shift.

Now declarer leads a low spade from hand, and to defeat the contract, East must win the first or second spade and shift to the club queen – a play that was rarely found, although world champion Ricco van Prooijen of the Netherlands did exactly that.

But say West hops up with the spade ace at trick three to play another heart, forcing declarer to win and run his diamonds.

The last diamond forces West (who has one spade, two hearts and three clubs left) to reduce to five cards, and whatever he does is fatal. If he pitches his spade, he is endplayed with the heart ace and another heart to lead clubs for declarer. If West throws a heart, declarer can cash two heart tricks. And if West lets go of a club, declarer plays a spade, unblocking the queen when East wins the king. Now the defenders can only take two club tricks, whatever they or declarer do, so dummy takes a spade and a heart at the end.

With such shortage in diamonds, you would assume your LHO is about to repeat his diamonds. It feels right to get involved as soon as you can do so, by introducing your club suit now. Yes, you would rather have a better suit, but as a passed hand your partner ought not to play you for the earth.


♠ Q J 7 4
 9 8
♣ K 9 7 5 4 2
South West North East
Pass 1 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2March 31st, 2015 at 1:17 pm

This was a lucky hand for us back in last year’s Slush Cup.

Partner could not resist bidding out his pattern and that left me quite unceremoniously in four spades.

West had had his scientific ears on during the auction, and sniffed out pard’s club shortness and potential ruffs in the short trump hand and proudly went AS, 6S. East took the KS and finished eliminating North’s trump.

I drew the last trump and West went ash white when I played the QD he had KNOWN his partner had held.

Bill CubleyMarch 31st, 2015 at 1:28 pm

I was expecting an Irish declarer not a Dutch declarer. But the play is the thing as someone wrote.

bobby wolffMarch 31st, 2015 at 4:32 pm

Hi Jim2,

Who said “We get too soon old and too late smart?”

Just one of the problems in leading trumps (on a consistent basis) is that by doing so, the defense often (and IMO usually) deeds control of the hand to the hated opponents.

Such was the case authored by your Slush Cup
adversaries. But then I realized you must have been referring to your twin brother, Jim1 since with you (or your partner) involved the precious diamond queen would never be found among your 26 allowed ducats. Instead you held: s. QJ74, h. 98, d. 3, c. AJ10542 and decided on 4 spades rather than 3NT. Of course, after that decision, TOCM TM caused the Q fourth in diamonds to be offside and whatever the distribution needed to be, to not get home with 10 tricks from there.

And sadly to think how much better a bridge player you are than your dear twin, but no one will ever know that by your results.

bobby wolffMarch 31st, 2015 at 4:50 pm

Hi Bill,

Your keen discussion about different nationalities being declarer, reminded me of the old Irish song which went, “McGinney is dead but McGarry don’t know it, McGarry is dead but McGinney don’t know it, they are both in the bed, the very same bed, and neither one knows that the other is dead”.

So much for that elusive diamond queen since neither one knew that the other didn’t have it.

However the Dutch are much too hardheaded for one of them not to demand it.

And, “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king” in which I always assumed that Shakespeare was talking about a bridge game, even in the late 1500’s.

Joe1March 31st, 2015 at 7:37 pm

Why doesn’t south run hearts and diamonds, w needs to keep a heart, and the black suit discard hurts him. A rookie strategy if you have n-1 run them and see.

jim2March 31st, 2015 at 9:13 pm

If I had done that, West would have been 3-3-4-3 and East 3-4-3-3.