Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, January 11th, 2016

Everything that is beautiful and noble is the product of reason and calculation.

Charles Baudelaire

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

*16+, any shape


This week’s deals all come from last year’s NEC tournament in Yokohama.

This deal came up in the semifinals both declarers reached three no-trump here. Where David Bakhshi was declarer as North, he won East’s spade lead and played a diamond to the 10. West won his king to press on with spades, but declarer covered the nine and his spade intermediates now meant that he had nine top tricks, with a free heart finesse as his try for a 10th winner.

In the other room after a strong club and Stayman sequence, Andrey Gromov, South, ducked the club lead, won the next and led a diamond to the 10 and king. When he won the third club, he knew he needed to establish a spade trick, and he needed the ace to be offside, or the defenders would cash out the clubs.

A spade to the king scored, and now when he cashed a top heart and played two more rounds of diamonds he had squeezed East down to two spades and two hearts. He chose to finesse in hearts, letting East win and return a heart, leaving dummy with two losers for down one.

Had declarer led a spade to the jack, queen and ace in the four-card ending, he would have ensured the contract (unless East had failed to overcall a strong club when holding A J 10 6 2 of spades). East’s four last cards had to be the bare spade ace and three hearts, or two spades and two hearts. Either way, leading a spade would earn declarer the ninth trick from the subsequent forced heart play.

The auction sounds as if declarer has a singleton spade and dummy a chunky five-card spade suit or longer, probably with little outside or it will be hard to beat this contract. My best guess would be to lead the spade nine, hoping to put partner in for a lead through declarer’s diamond king.


♠ 9 8 7 6
 6 2
 A J 7 4
♣ J 6 2
South West North East
      2 ♣
Pass 2 Pass 2
Pass 2 ♠ Pass 3 ♣
Pass 3 ♠ Pass 3 NT
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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Jane AJanuary 25th, 2016 at 4:23 pm

Is it more important to work on the diamond suit right away in the hopes to score three tricks than it is to knock out the spade ace first? This time, it is, but I also wondered why declarer played a low diamond to the ten. Is it better to play the ace and then a small diamond since he is missing the king, the jack and the nine? It works this time, but if Jim2 were playing the hand we all know what would happen, right?

Thanks in advance.

bobby wolffJanuary 25th, 2016 at 5:37 pm

Hi Jane A,

The diamonds are one of those card combinations which are very close in choosing the best percentage way to play them.

Because of that, if given time in earlier play, it becomes a better “guess” if other lengths and high cards are known before attacking that suit. The only “tangible” evidence supports your claim that ace and one is slightly better since KJ in one hand as against the other is the key difference and while that fact is identical your line of the ace will satisfy when the KJ is doubleton in either hand while the line both declarers took in “real life” may not, at least early enough to plan ahead.

We did not emphasize your important point when it was reported, only because we thought it more visible to realize that West will most likely have another key spade card to match his jack after East’s choice of opening lead allowing the ninth trick to just appear.

Thanks for reminding all readers the best way to play the diamonds and do not worry about Jim2 since being very “lucky” in love, to match the common American proverb, “Unlucky in cards, lucky in love”, seems to accompany his dread bridge disease.

Bill CubleyJanuary 26th, 2016 at 1:50 am

David Bahkshi plays well. The next generation also plays well. Daughter Jasmine won the Under 19 Championship in England playing with her stepbrother, Liam. Can’t wait for the family team to form.

bobby wolffJanuary 26th, 2016 at 5:53 am

Hi Bill,

Better get ready for you to accept the role of interim coach, but only if offered.

Poor Jasmine, already almost 19 and no doubt, pursuing bridge. Oh well, Liam better play well, or be prepared to sit on the bench.

stickersJanuary 28th, 2016 at 8:56 pm

It’s nearly impossible to fid knowledgeable peple on this
topic, but yoou seeem like youu kknow what you’re talking about!