Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 5th, 2015

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

G. B. Shaw

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

* Two of the five-key cards but no trump queen


Today’s deal came up in a Grand National Qualifier, and was submitted anonymously by one of the defenders, who didn’t want to embarrass the unlucky declarer.

In one room North-South had stayed out of slam. They took 11 tricks on an unexciting line by simply cashing off the top spades, a couple of diamonds, all the hearts and then playing a third trump. West got off play with the fourth heart, and the defenders collected a club at the end.

In the other room, North-South reached slam on the auction shown. After a diamond lead the correct approach for declarer is to win the ace and take both top trumps to find the bad news. Now a heart to dummy for a diamond ruff allows declarer to cash two more top hearts, then ruff another diamond.

If West overruffs he will have to lead a club away from the king, so he discards, and he must pitch a club not the 13th heart. Declarer now takes the club finesse and ruffs dummy’s fourth diamond, forcing West to make a second and fatal play.

He has three choices: He can overruff and be endplayed to lead clubs or give a ruff-sluff. He can pitch a heart, and then be endplayed with a trump to lead clubs; or he can pitch clubs and bare his club king, letting declarer cash two club winners. This last option is best, though, as declarer might misread the ending by playing West for an original 3=3=2=5 pattern.

What should you expect your partner to have? Not just clubs! He’d open three clubs or bid two clubs over one spade. All passed hands jumps facing opening bids or overcalls can’t be natural and weak – you’d do something else at either your first or second turn. I’d advocate playing this jump as spade fit (typically four-card support) and a decent club suit; so now a jump to four spades must be right.


♠ A K J 6 3 2
 K 4 2
♣ J 6 3
South West North East
  Pass Pass 1
1 ♠ Dbl. 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


Peter PengJune 19th, 2015 at 11:22 pm

hi Mr. Wolf

On a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being the easiest, how hard was that hand?

bobby wolffJune 19th, 2015 at 11:40 pm

Hi Peter,

Great question and I hope my answer rings true in your mind.

When very good plays very good, the lines are quickly drawn and West becomes aware that his job is to confuse declarer as to how many clubs he started with. The endplay becomes 100% the problem, but only a very good West could discard down to the singleton King (keeping the 4th heart) and then when the declarer senses a different ending, West will produce the 13th heart for the setting trick.
In other words both directions have about an even chance as long as both sides know what is at stake. When West is somewhat inexperienced he will always keep Kxx and discard the 4th heart (assuming he has it being dealt to him), setting himself up for a sure loss. Most West’s fit in that category (perhaps 80%, even in a decent field) so a good declarer has an enormous edge.

However the ending becomes very intense when great players are trying to win that day.

Since declarer is always the one making the choice he is the side to bet, but only barely against a term which is used much too casually, a world class player.

Of course if East has the 4th heart he should NEVER even consider discarding it, but the fact that he might have it (perhaps around 50%) is another edge to declarer.

To good players this hand is about a 1 1/2, which simply means that in all cases it is coming down to an ending which may need to be guessed.

DO NOT GET ME WRONG! This is an advanced situation which only a very small percent of the many bridge players will even begin to understand, but for the kind of players you are alluding to, it is expert bridge 101, a beginning course in high-level bridge.

Herreman BobSeptember 2nd, 2015 at 2:13 pm

Easy or not….
It is cool !