Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, October 15th, 2016

We are left alone with our day, and the time is short,
And History to the defeated May say Alas but cannot help nor pardon.

W. H. Auden

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

*Spades and a minor


In Chennai last year this deal helped Poland defeat Sweden in the Bermuda Bowl finals. In one room the Swedish West was doubled in three spades. He ruffed the diamond lead in dummy, to run the spade queen successfully. Then the heart three went round to North’s queen. A switch to the club jack ensured a penalty of 800.

To limit the damage, Frederick Wrang had to make three notrump here. He took East’s spade queen with the king and played the diamond nine. West put up the ace, and when East pitched a discouraging club, West switched to the heart seven, for the two, jack and ace.

Declarer played back the spade six, letting West win the ace to return the spade nine, declarer winning with the jack as East pitched the heart three. Now what?

At the table South cashed the top clubs, then ‘exited’ with the spade five. Not so fast… West astutely ducked the trick, to avoid being endplayed. When declarer tried the club 10, East won, cashed the heart king and exited with a club. Declarer had to surrender trick 13 for down one.

After taking the spade jack declarer needed first to play the club 10. East must duck or afford declarer an entry to dummy. So now declarer cashes a top club, then plays his last spade. Again West cannot afford to win, but declarer next plays a heart to the queen and king. He can later endplay East in hearts, forcing a club return into his tenace for the ninth trick.

With no fit, and not much in the way of extras, you have no reason to go any higher than you currently are. Partner is as likely to have diamond as club length, so there is no real guarantee of any source of tricks anywhere. Simply pass one notrump, and hope to go plus there.


♠ K J 6 5
 A 10 6 5
♣ A K 10 9
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 NT 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


Iain ClimieOctober 29th, 2016 at 9:10 am

HI Bobby,

A minor point but which spade should declarer play from dummy at T1 and, if he plays small, should East play the 8 or the Queen?



bobby wolffOctober 29th, 2016 at 2:19 pm

Hi Iain,

Not such a minor point. First of all it is about a major suit and the higher one at that and then still it may be a major factor in the number of tricks which are gleaned.

Fourth best leads are popular with good reason, 1. The rule of eleven, 2. Years of tradition have developed, at least some skill in handling.

What if partner’s spade holding began with AJ but had no 9, then, at least in theory the queen might drive the king wherein the 8 would only force the 9, causing less flexibility in taking immediate tricks on defense, not to mention your loving partner having no way to then know who owns that lady or, of course how many. A “slow eight” might be considered unethical and who could make such a play without careful thought.

However, the above is only to throw up a “red herring” (something used to divert attention) since I think on balance, but lack the intelligence (and time) to prove it, the 8 (while staring at the 10 in dummy) just “feels” right.

What says you? and by having asked that, does not require a totally learned reply.

Finally, for the reasons and thus logic, imagined above, I think the low spade is clearly right for declarer to play from dummy at trick 1.

Iain ClimieOctober 29th, 2016 at 3:45 pm

High Bobby,

I think there would be a fair bit of agonized squirming from myself here, although dummy holding the 3 means that I can then place declarer with 4 spades. Even then, though g,ive partner a plausible KJ742 and declarer gets a second spade straight away whereas playing the queen (ducked) and a second spade may leave him with only one trick. If South has SAJ9x though (having played a low spade at T1), the Queen costs a clear trick. Maybe much depends on how disciplined partner’s 2 suited bids are – if they contain decent suits (or at least the anchor major is agreed as decent quality) then I’m happier playing the Queen. If any old rubbish, the 8 looks better.

I also suspect that TOCM would give West SAQ if I played low from dummy at T1 as declarer, so I’d miss out on an extra cheap trick early on. Interesting hand, though, even if declarer’s card reading is (on paper) much easier than against silent opponents.


bobby wolffOctober 31st, 2016 at 3:19 pm

Hi Iain,

As usual, you have basically, shall we say, covered the waterfront in this tedious (meaning no real correct answer), replete with back and forth real bridge life examples.