Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

More brain O Lord more brain! Or we shall mar
Utterly this fair garden we might win.

George Meredith

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


Today’s deal saw both North and South have close decisions as to whether to go on to slam. However, both judged well, since the duplication in spade length meant that although the final five-level contract was a good one, there was no guaranteed route to 11 tricks.

You might consider just looking at the North and South hands to appreciate declarer’s problem, before reviewing all 52 cards.

At the table declarer won the spade lead, drew trump and played the diamond king and a diamond to the jack. East won her queen and switched to the heart jack. Declarer played the queen, West covered with the king and now declarer had to go down, since he could not avoid two further heart losers.

Can you see where declarer went wrong (without the benefit of peeking at the opponents’ cards)? It was correct to play on diamonds before hearts. South really does not have any easy way to endplay the defenders unless the heart king is right – in which case he will always make at least 11 tricks.

But what South should have done was play low from hand on the heart jack, and win in dummy. Now he can cash his diamonds, to strip off all the side suits bar hearts. Declarer next plays a low heart to his queen. He still succeeds if East has the king, but he also succeeds when, as here, West originally held king-doubleton of hearts. West can win his king, but now has to give a ruff-and-discard.

Plenty of people will look no further than their high cards and will open one notrump. At least your singleton is an ace, but I’m not happy with this action when I have such a suit-oriented hand. I prefer opening one diamond, planning to rebid two hearts over one spade. An alternate plan is to rebid two clubs, intending to bid on over a sign-off in diamonds with a naturalish call of two hearts.


♠ A
 A 7 6 2
 A J 9 6
♣ K J 10 5
South West North East

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


jim2November 29th, 2016 at 1:02 pm

I would have played today’s hand similarly in approach but differently in timing.

Specifically, I would have assumed West’s vul preempt to show a seven card suit (more likely 8 than 6, and almost certainly NOT four hearts). Thus, I would have set about learning what the other six cards were.

I would have won the opening lead and drawn trump, discovering West had two clubs, leaving four cards unaccounted for.

Next, I would cash the two top diamonds, hoping for the QD to drop. When West followed suit to both rounds, the hand is cold. Now, AH and a heart to the Queen. If West held his majesty, he would be endplayed as in the column. If East won the KH, he could cash the QD but that would be the end of the defense.

Note that if West did begin 7-1-Qxx-2, letting the column diamond finesse win, then the hand still makes with my line, as the QH will always win a trick.

Bobby WolffNovember 29th, 2016 at 2:30 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks for suggesting a similar line to the line taken in the column.

Wouldn’t they, in essence, result the same, with the only difference being an overtrick, if, in fact, the queen of diamonds was third in the West hand or rather doubleton in the East.

In the latter case West would then have, based on the distributional assumption, have started with a singleton heart.

Is there another potential actual layout, consistent with the bidding and opening lead, to which I have missed, other than West eschewing his spade lead to choose his singleton heart?

Finally, at least to me, what about West having a singleton 10 of diamonds and perhaps three hearts including the KJ or even without the jack, allowing declarer to guess the diamond 10 singleton (although not discounting the possibility of it being led if it was such)? If indeed that combination (or close) is present a good declarer needs to be able to guess the ending to succeed.

Or for that matter, West starting with only six or more likely, eight spades, strange, but possible.

jim2November 29th, 2016 at 2:47 pm

The lines diverge only after West plays on the second diamond. Thus West cannot hold the singleton 10D.

jim2November 29th, 2016 at 2:49 pm

If West shows out on second diamond, we need the KH onside and then set up the long heart for a diamond pitch.

Bobby WolffNovember 29th, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Hi Jim2,

Of course, but I guess I was referring to a low diamond from declarer, not the king, toward dummy to begin. Not saying that it is right, only that it could be.