Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Thomas Gray

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

*A weak hand


Would you prefer to defend or declare four hearts on this deal from the Gold Coast pairs in Brisbane last year?

At one table South reached four hearts doubled, on an auction where East had opened an extremely aggressive weak-two bid in spades. West led out two top clubs. Declarer ruffed, drew trump in two rounds, then ruffed a spade in dummy and tried a diamond to the king, being more hurt than surprised when it lost.

Sue Ingham displayed superior technique when declaring four hearts on the defense of two rounds of clubs. She ruffed, drew just one round of trump, and then played ace-king and a third spade. What happened at most tables was that West took the opportunity to ruff in – and found himself endplayed. He could exit with the club queen, when declarer would ruff, ruff a spade to dummy, and cash the club jack to pitch a diamond. Or he could lead the diamond ace, when declarer would claim the rest.

You may ask what would happen if West doesn’t ruff in? Declarer can ruff in dummy, ruff a club to hand, lead his last spade, and now West must ruff in with the heart jack. Declarer discards the last club from dummy, and the defense is again stymied. If West doesn’t ruff in, declarer scores the second spade ruff and surrenders two diamond tricks but no more. He makes 10 tricks either way.

The winning defense, found by Ross Harper, was to shift to spades at trick two. Now declarer can no longer find a way home.

In competition I think responder’s suit rebid should not be forcing, since he had a cuebid available to show extras. But I think you have just enough to raise to three hearts, invitational. If you were confident partner was weak, passing would certainly be reasonable.


♠ 5 3
 J 4
 A Q J 3
♣ A K Q 8 4
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 1 ♠
2 Pass 2 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


T GatesMarch 8th, 2016 at 4:25 pm

As a novice, I hope I am permitted to ask why the lead of a spade at trick two would defeat the contract. If Sue was going to lead them anyway, with a plan to ruff on the board, how does the aforementioned lead change the outcome. Thanks, TG

Iain ClimieMarch 8th, 2016 at 9:44 pm

Hi TG,

I hope you’ll excuse me answering the question instead of our host, but the advantage of the spade switch is that West still has a safe exit. South plays SAK then another spade, so west tuffs high and exits with a trump (or a high club) eventually making 2D plus one club and one trump. So south cashes 1 trump and plays SAK then x, west still has a safe exit with a high club after taking the HJ. If south draws 2 trumps, she has an extra spade loser.

Can I suggest something which I hope doesn’t sound too patronising or obvious, though. Get a pack of cards and play through the deal and the different possibilities. It is a bit like playing through chess combinations or even whole games with a set rather than trying to do it with just a diagram and the moves. You’ll soon be able to dispense with such props but they do help at first.

If I’ve missed anything, Bobby will flag it as politely as ever – his tolerance and encouragement for all standards are peerless.



Bob BordenMarch 8th, 2016 at 9:46 pm

West can also lead a trump at trick 2 (as long as he doesn’t lead the jack)

Bobby WolffMarch 9th, 2016 at 1:34 am

Hi “T”,

With Iain at the ready, he makes easy my task, wins bridge a fan, and always brightens the site.

As Iain suggested, both playing as declarer and defending with a partner, playing the cards instead of looking at the diagram, often creates a rhythm, the melody of bridge.

Briefly, the goal of the declarer is to stop that defensive music, making every effort to place them between a rock and a hard place. Here once West leads the king of clubs he is heading toward depriving himself of future “get out of jail free’ cards. However since the specific timing of this hand has to do with the declarer being able to force West once he ruffs in with the jack of trumps, he is now out of safe exit cards, making the key to make that happen leading one round of high trumps before attempting to ruff a spade in dummy.

Every hand in bridge has different elements to the play, both declarer and defense. Add to that the bidding, which needs to be on target, and the game unfolds into a dapple of light to ward off the darkness.

It is a relatively slow learning process and takes a great determination to stick with it, but those who do, while possessing certain numerate talents, find a competitive joy which is difficult to duplicate.

However the early sledding, with most, requires patience and many questions usually asked of the mentor by the mentee.

This site can be helpful as it is full of bridge lovers with developed talent.

Since I may be overloading your imagination, let’s leave it here and wait till you begin to get in the flow of understanding what happens.

Bobby WolffMarch 9th, 2016 at 1:41 am

Hi Bob,

Yes, a low trump get out at trick two allows you to ruff with the jack and then have a high club to get off lead safely without setting declarer up with the contract making trick.

Could we name that play a “bass ackward” maneuver or should it be named a Borden coup?

Bob BordenMarch 9th, 2016 at 11:51 am


As much as I would love having anything in bridge name for me,
I think I’ll go for bass ackward.

T GatesMarch 9th, 2016 at 4:11 pm

Thanks to Lain and Bobby. I see your points. TG