Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, April 3rd, 2015

In life we have to size up the chances and calculate the possible risks and our ability to deal with them and then make our plans accordingly.

Freya North

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


While the world junior championships were being played in Bali in 1995, a tournament to celebrate Indonesia’s 50th anniversary was being run simultaneously. Today’s problem meant the difference between qualifying for the finals or going home, so it turned out to be an expensive slip for South.

South handled his very powerful hand sensibly enough in the auction, but North might have passed three spades, reasoning that the club king was not likely to be pulling its full weight. Indeed, the final contract looks next to impossible, even after the lead of the diamond ace.

However, at trick two, after a lot of thought, West switched to the club ace, then played the heart nine, to East’s queen and declarer’s ace. What next? The line chosen at the table by declarer was to draw four rounds of trump and try the heart 10, but East ducked that and declarer had no chance now. He had to lose one further trick in each red suit.

Can you spot the winning line? It is not so bizarre; West’s auction and opening lead suggest he has seven clubs and the bare diamond ace. You need to win the first heart and play West to be 4-1-1-7. You can test the theory by playing three top trump, and then throwing West in by leading your low trump, to force him to play a club for you. Now you have an entry to dummy to take the diamond finesse, and eventually a second parking place for your losing hearts.

Unless you have specifically agreed to the contrary, a new suit here is natural and forcing, so you cannot pass. One option is to rebid three hearts (which I would do with better heart intermediates) but as it is, I think it is better to temporize with a call of three diamonds. That might be what partner needs to hear to bid no-trump, or it might allow him to suggest heart tolerance.


♠ 7 2
 K Q 8 7 5 2
 Q 9 8
♣ 10 6
South West North East
2 Pass 3♣ 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


David WarheitApril 17th, 2015 at 9:15 am

Switch the S2 and S4 and W has a chance for a brilliancy by hanging on to the 2 as S draws trump so that he (W) can’t be thrown in. Yes, this is a fairly well-known play, but it still would be a brilliancy.

Bobby WolffApril 17th, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Hi David,

Yes, no doubt!

And in order to do so, I will suggest two stages to follow:

1. While declarer is studying his options, usually at least a small break (30 seconds to a minute), you, West, should be studying counter defenses. His study, in important IMP events, is more often than not concerning making his contract rather than overtrick(s) (which, even if so, are still worth challenging).

2. In your scenario, and holding the 10652 of spades, instead of the 10654, should start with following suit with the 4 and then the 5 instead of what will become the precious 2.
Then, when your partner follows suit twice, you will certainly, because of the bidding, realize that declarer still has the queen and jack to go with his small one. Thus and finally, when declarer leads another high one, even if you haven’t figured out the whole plan, it is simply good technique to “toss” the 10 away on the third lead of the suit on the theory that what might be good (and in this case critical) for the declarer to throw you in, you simply will not allow it.

What is good for the enemy will NEVER also be good for your side.

As an aside and while watching important matches between very good players, you will see plays like that made effortlessly (or almost) by the best ones, merely showing the good technique to which I refer.

This one, in some respects, though spectacular because of your review and inspiration, should be figured out by West in advance, but the above may help an inexperienced aspiring player to do the analysis he will learn later to do and why, as the play conspires.

In early stages of climbing the bridge ladder to higher ground, some of the learning looks steeper than it is, but can anyone even begin to doubt that competitive world wide bridge, as we know it, is the ultimate mind sports challenge?

Thank you, David, for introducing the subject.