Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

Once you can see, touch and feel your objective, all you have to do is pull back and put all your strength behind it, and you’ll hit your target every time.

Bruce Jenner

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


Imagine that you are declaring four hearts on the lead of the diamond jack. You are playing either teams or rubber bridge, where succeeding in your contract is of paramount importance, and the possibility of making an overtrick is of far less significance.

You win the diamond ace, and have to decide what your target is in terms of winners and losers. A simple but unlucky line would be to take a spade finesse. It would lose, back would come the club jack, and you can kiss all hopes of making your contract goodbye, as the cards lie. That would be a little unlucky – since you only went down because of two finesses lost.

Let’s regroup. Maybe it is better to go to dummy with the trump king, take your spade discard, and try a club finesse. Alas for you, West wins and leads three more rounds of clubs, promoting the heart 10 into the setting trick.

What looks best to me is lead a low club from hand at trick two. When West wins and shifts to a spade, you take the ace and discard a spade on the diamond king, then persist in leading clubs. You cannot be prevented from ruffing the fourth club high in dummy, one way or another since East, the man with three trump, has no entry to lead the third round of hearts.

Playing a spade to the ace at trick two in order to grab the discard, then working on clubs, will also work. However, you expose yourself to slightly more jeopardy of a trump promotion if you do this.

If the opponents had not raised to two hearts you might well have jumped to two spades, but in competition it doesn’t seem to me that you have enough to take this balanced hand (including a heart king of dubious worth) beyond the two-level. You’d expect partner to advance with real extras; if he doesn’t have those extras, you surely won’t make game.


♠ A 9 8 3
 K 8 6
 K 6 2
♣ 7 5 3
South West North East
  1 Dbl. 2

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 22nd, 2016 at 5:24 pm

Be assured that I am trying to learn something here. I have two questions: 1. Why should it be assumed West would shift to a spade at trick 3 when clubs are so inviting? 2. Why would East not overtake West’s spade and return clubs since he would now be void and South cannot afford to put up the king?

bobbywolffMarch 22nd, 2016 at 5:45 pm

Hi “T”,

Yes, if declarer led a small club out of his hand East, might indeed overtake with his jack and lead one back, but then on the 4th club led, declarer would make use of his critical king of trumps in dummy to hold his total losers to three, contract made.

This whole hand seems to turn on making use of the king of trumps as the contract making trick instead of only one falling with others on three trump leads.

Likely a new chapter learned under the title of “tricks with trumps”.

jim2March 22nd, 2016 at 6:36 pm

It is one of those hands where high cards distract from the best line.

That is, replace all the black face cards with spots, and the winning line is much clearer.

I would note that an opening trump lead could make the hand tougher to judge.

David WarheitMarch 22nd, 2016 at 6:49 pm

You note that leading a S at trick 2 also works, but runs a slightly greater chance of opponents working a trump promotion. Yes, but of course, in that line, S would lead the SQ at trick 2, on which W might either cover or make a tell-tale hesitation, making that line better against certain opponents. Tough call, but I’d probably go for the alternate line unless, of course, I was playing against you. Note that this line of play might even work if S didn’t have the SJ. Just think of the beating W would take from his partner if he held the SK but not the SJ and after hesitating failed to cover the Q!

bobbywolffMarch 22nd, 2016 at 11:34 pm

Hi Jim2 & David,

Between the two of you much of the romance of bridge is covered. Jim2’s comment about surplus high cards acting as a barrier to finding the right line rather than the opposite, and David’s right-on suggestion about confronting West with the queen of spades, just in case he had relaxed himself too much and one way or the other actually covers it or, equally, gives it away with his halting tempo.

Perhaps, hopefully a few, will eventually agree with me that in order to be in the running for bridge world sensational, in addition to technically sound and psychologically potent, one has to be in control of his faculties, mainly his concentration level, every moment he is competing against others his ilk.

Add that to the experience at the top and one begins to ‘feel” the qualities needed for success.

Sadly and probably not worth mentioning, but when some much less worthy than others actually climb the hill to victory by dirty, filthy, obvious to many, cheating, it is small wonder that sheer hatred occurs toward those total miscreants who masquerade as winners, but in reality belong in bridge jail forevermore.