Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, November 11th, 2016

Deign on the passing world to turn thine eyes,
And pause a while from learning to be wise.

Samuel Johnson

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


Today’s hand, from the Dyspeptics Club, failed because declarer did not pause for sufficient thought at trick one.

South picked up his usual powerhouse and found himself in three no-trump a moment later. West led the spade four, to the six, seven and nine. Declarer followed up with the heart king, then continued the suit. When the jack failed to drop, he could see no serious alternatives to pressing on with developing that suit. A fourth heart let East in, and the spade through declarer’s tenace saw the game consigned to the dustbin.

After the event North was less than impressed: can you see why? As North commented, South should have risen with dummy’s spade 10 at trick one. If it holds, you are in the hand you need to be in to try for a safety play in hearts. Since declarer needs only four heart tricks for his contract, and overtricks are essentially unimportant at this form of scoring, making the contract is the paramount consideration.

When dummy’s 10 holds, South knows that West holds the missing spade honors, so East is the danger hand and needs to be kept off lead. At trick two, best is to play a low heart from dummy, and if East follows low, insert the eight. West wins, but no return from that side of the table can harm him.

South can win the return in hand, cash the heart king, and when both defenders follow, enter dummy in diamonds to enjoy the heart suit.

In general, there is a simple rule as to how to invite game with a balanced 10-count facing a 12-14 hand. This is akin to (the humorous magazine) Punch’s advice to a young man about to get married. “Don’t!”. One could similarly argue that no balanced 10-count is really worth an invitation. With a maximum of 24 HCP and no great source of tricks, passing is the disciplined action here.


♠ 10 8 6
 A Q 10 6 2
 A 5 3
♣ 5 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
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


GinnyNovember 25th, 2016 at 10:56 pm

Hi Bobby,

A couple of questions:
What does East play on the first trick if North plays the ten?
If the heart ten takes the trick and a club is lead back and the heart king shows that the ten of hearts was singleton, how to best attack the rest of the hand?

Bobby WolffNovember 25th, 2016 at 11:50 pm

Hi Ginny,

Both good questions, but sort of "tales from the crypt" in sadness.

Your answer to query one is, if playing normal count signals (high even, low odd), then East should play the seven, since the deuce would show either one or three while the seven could be one, two or four.

The answer to question two might be "under an assumed name" but giving it the old college try I would cash the Ace King of diamonds and then the Ace King of clubs in hope that West was originally dealt either 5-1-2-5 , 6-1-2-4 , 6-1-4-2, or 5-1-3-4 and of course, by his tempo (discards on the high three hearts) decide on what minor has the best chance for him to have mis-discarded leaving him vulnerable to be thrown in with the suit that only West had been left to protect, causing him to eventually have to lead spades from his hand giving you trick # nine, namely, the king of spades.

While not likely, every very good player has brought home hands like these ("Sicker dogs than that have gotten well") through poor discarding by a defender (sometimes even both).

And for more bridge philosophy, your question leads to the discussion of numeracy, wherein I will officially state that any declarer who does not keep up with the distribution of both defenders while declaring, thus visualizing what to do at the death, has a distance to go before he could ever think of himself (or herself) a good player, much less one better than that.

Yes, it is a challenge, but if one loves the great mental stimulation bridge always creates, then getting there from here is easier than one thinks (unless he is allergic to numbers).

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