Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, April 30th, 2016

What I want is men who will support me when I am in the wrong.

Lord Melbourne

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


The original journalist who reported this deal was Dick Cummings of Australia.

He focused on it as a beautiful defensive hand, but there may be an even more subtle point in the play for declarer.

At the table, South was at the helm in four spades. The opening lead was the heart nine to the 10, followed by the heart ace. Since East had a choice of high hearts to lead, his selection of the very largest was designed to suggest a preference for the higher of the unbid suits, namely he liked diamonds more than clubs.

South ruffed the second heart with the spade jack, and West made the second thoughtful play for the defense when he discarded. Rather than cross to dummy to tackle trumps from the board, declarer concealed the position in the minors by playing the trump ace, followed by the 10. West won his spade queen, and switched accurately to a diamond. Now a third heart by East forced declarer to ruff with his last intermediate spade, which promoted the trump eight to the setting trick.

Very nicely defended but both South at the table and Cummings in his report had missed the point that declarer should have discarded a diamond at trick two.

This play is extremely unlikely to cost a trick, but it has the effect of cutting communications between the defenders’ hands. When West wins the spade queen, he can no longer reach his partner for the play of the third heart.

You might pass, hoping the opponents stop in three spades. In reality, though, the opponents are about to bid (and will be favorites to make) four spades. But if you can persuade your partner to lead a diamond, you might well beat this contract. The best way to do so is to bid four diamonds now, meaning this as a heart fit with lead-directing values in diamonds. As a passed hand, this must show heart fit.


♠ 4 3
 J 8 5 2
 K Q J 7
♣ K 7 3
South West North East
Pass Pass 3 Dbl.

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


Iain ClimieMay 14th, 2016 at 11:35 am

Hi Bobby,

Changing the hand slightly, give East SA alone and west S10xx although the bidding would differ. Obviously declarer will cross to table to lead a spade when he gets in to lead a spade but the same loser on loser play is possible at T2 unless east cashes the DA first. I wonder how many loser on loser plays succeed because the defence mistime things – any thoughts here?



bobby wolffMay 14th, 2016 at 12:47 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, additional thoughts.

1. No doubt your subtle change regarding farsighted defense involving loser on loser plays is right on, since in more than one way a loser on loser play can benefit the declarer, similar to ducking in NT in order to keep the trouble suit from being run when the declarer must still give up the lead before manufacturing enough tricks to make the contract, by then keeping the danger hand off lead to run his now set up suit.

2. However by tweaking the declarer hand by giving W all the other high enough clubs and having South hold: s. AQJ10xxxx, h. x, d. void c. 10854 causing him to rejoice when East then attempts to cash the ace of diamonds, well intended, but a tad less successful.

3. Where is Jim2 when we need him? What frustration for him to never to, like the credit card add, “leave home without it”.

T GatesMay 14th, 2016 at 3:06 pm

Very helpful and instructive for me today. But my question has to do with declarer’s play on trumps: would not the 9 have been just as good as the jack, thereby preserving the dominant trump?

bobby wolffMay 14th, 2016 at 5:22 pm

Hi T,

Since the 9 and the jack of trumps are equal since that same hand holds the ten, it only becomes a tactical exercise of trying to always play the card most likely to give those worthy opponents the wrong inference.

OTOH, when trying to inform partner, it is almost always proper technique to play the card he is most likely to then determine where other cards in that suit might be located.

All the above could be headed by the title of, Bridge Common Sense.

Most of the time there then is more of a negative inference rather than positive. For example when a defender plays the queen third hand, it is usually (almost always) a denial of the jack, and thus may or may not have the king.

Of course, bridge being the game it is, sometimes requires variance usually when it is not necessary for partner to make any future decisions the task then changes to hoped for maximum deception to one’s opponents.

If the above is somewhat confusing do not be surprised, but only remember when you first learned this bridge tendency. The future learning will be much smoother and fit in nicely when the game itself starts to get less complicated–any minute now.

jim2May 14th, 2016 at 8:32 pm


I stopped making opening lead side suit aces “to get a look at the dummy” about the fourth time I saw a marriage on that same board as declarer ruffed small, chuckling as s/he did so.

Peter PengMay 15th, 2016 at 3:24 am

hi Bobby

sorry so late…

is that a scissors coup? and if not, what are the differences?

thank you for your attention

bobby wolffMay 15th, 2016 at 3:24 pm

Hi Jim2,

Obviously the only time to do such a thing is when it is right and above all necessary, to defeat the contract.

And to make matters worse, your bridge destiny has become programmed to be the “whipping boy” for all times when it matters.

No doubt the chuckling by s/he becomes the hardest to endure. However to compensate you will be forever admired and literally loved by all the “loser” clubs throughout the entire land, as well, of course, as everyone on our and your site.

bobby wolffMay 15th, 2016 at 3:28 pm

Hi Peter,

Yes, of course, discarding the diamond would be a classic example of a “scissors coup” (“strategically discarding a loser on a loser in order to interrupt the opponents communication thus denying them an extra trick”).

MelisaMay 18th, 2016 at 6:00 pm

Great info. Lucky me I found your website by accident (stumbleupon).
I’ve saved it forr later!