Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Once lost, Jupiter himself cannot bring back opportunity.


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


**limit raise in spades with four


The following deal from the final of last year’s Gold Coast Pairs tournament produced both a good story and a missed chance.

Playing five diamonds, on the lead of ace and another spade, Liam Milne found the best way to put pressure on his opponents. Having trumped the second spade he crossed to dummy with a diamond and led a club towards his hand.

At his table East split his club honors. So Milne won and drew a second trump, then led a second club towards his hand. At the table East went up with his remaining honor and when his partner’s jack fell, declarer had the discard he needed. Incidentally, had West discarded the heart jack on the second trump, East might have worked out to duck the second club.

Against the same contract Barbara Travis (who had shown 5-5 in the majors) led the spade ace and shifted to the club jack, giving South the chance to be a hero.

The winning line is to take the club ace, lead a trump to dummy to ruff a spade, then repeat the process. Having stripped the spades you take the heart ace and king,

Now you lead a club from dummy, and when East wins the trick he is endplayed. If he plays a spade, declarer ruffs in one hand and pitches the losing heart from the other hand. If he leads a club whether it is a high or low one, declarer can set up a club winner and cross to hand with a trump to take the rest.

You have far too good a hand to pass. While repeating diamonds is possible, it feels better to ask partner to describe his hand by cuebidding three spades. You would plan to raise a call in either minor or to pass a bid of three no-trump.


♠ 10 7 2
 K 5 3
 K J 10 9 4
♣ 8 7
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Dbl. Pass
2 Pass 3 ♣ 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Bobby WolffMarch 11th, 2017 at 5:21 pm

Hi Everyone,

Just a preliminary comment concerning a general thought, after gaining experience in bridge, hopefully on the elevator up toward competitive excellence:

1. When the conditions are right, such as on this hand, when after ruffing the 2nd spade at trick two, planning the hoped for best road to allowing your worthy opponents (much more “palookas”) to make a contract giving mistake.

2. Leading only one trump to dummy in order to lead clubs, possibly creating a “sticky” situations to opponents, who, at that point, have to guess what to do (split honors or not). Then after the trap is set (and perhaps the bait taken) going back to dummy to lead a 2nd club.

3. The “risk” is very slight, not only apparent from the hands, making the chances of West being void in clubs almost 100% nil.

The above, in the absence of intense bridge schooling, almost completely non-existent in the Western Hemisphere, is hardly ever practiced, below the very top levels and yet there are many hands, particularly as declarer, but even sometimes as a defender, in order to create extra chances for success, and, indeed, perhaps, on this hand, almost the only way to bring home an otherwise virtually impossible contract (perhaps KQJ tripleton club in one defensive hand).

Bobby WolffMarch 11th, 2017 at 5:26 pm

Hi again,

After re-examining the excellent club spots between the two NS hands, there are, of course, other combination for success, while passing the first club to West and then ruffing out certain combinations involving the other two major honors.

Mea culpa for not spotting that opportunity earlier.

Patrick CheuMarch 11th, 2017 at 11:37 pm

Hi Bobby,Your analysis of this hand shows how difficult defense can be..most Easts would surely split their club honours on the first club,but how many would duck the second club?!If West were to discard a low heart on the second trump..would that be any clearer as to where the JC might be?Declarer seems to have the upper hand here,unless East shows great foresight and play West for JC? Maybe easier to find if 55 majors shown on the other hand..and the play has gone likewise..regards~Patrick.

Bobby WolffMarch 12th, 2017 at 2:21 am

Hi Patrick,
Thanks for the confirmation of what was intended by me as only for declarer to search for ways to make the defense, in certain cases, be required to guess rather than just defend as if it was only a walk in the park.
Obviously, the defense may (and no doubt will) guess correctly frequently, but mission is accomplished whether or not they do or not.
Yes, bridge can be a war at times, but to compete less fiercely is not only wimpy, but to not do so, should be considered a serious error by those who decline. Similar to those who concede tricks rather than play on and hope for a defensive error.
Winning is where one finds it, and putting pressure on those worthy (or even not so) opponents is one of the more important weapons a competent declarer possesses.
Finally, from a pragmatic standpoint, I do not think attempting to signal the jack of clubs is likely to work, since the play often goes at too rapid a pace for many to keep up with.
No doubt a good declarer has a built-in tempo advantage over the lesser informed defense on many hands, and although that advantage can sometimes be salvaged or, at least, materially reduced, it nevertheless exists.

Patrick CheuMarch 12th, 2017 at 7:54 am

Hi Bobby,As you said after As and Jc switch,there was a winning line of play for South and the chance to be a hero…maybe West could be a hero the paradoxical play of the 2c instead of the Jc?East will now surely duck the second club after declarer’s elimination play..regards~Patrick.

Bobby WolffMarch 12th, 2017 at 3:17 pm

Hi Patrick,

Yes, when and if declarer leads a low club toward dummy, it seems right to duck since obviously declarer passed up a chance to go to dummy in trump and lead toward his hand.

Perhaps the old, oft repeated, remembrance of the Trojan Horse episode, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” should apply to all nationalities, particularly at the bridge table.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed. True enough and should be carefully noted and acted upon, especially when bridge titans lock horns.

Patrick CheuMarch 12th, 2017 at 5:49 pm

Hi Bobby,West,after Ace of spades lead could have switched to the two of clubs(instead of JC as played) and if declarer takes East QC with the Ace and followed the line in your analysis of eliminating spades and two rounds of hearts ending in dummy and now a second club from which case East will most likely duck and the defense will prevail..sorry if I wasn’t clear earlier.

Bobby WolffMarch 12th, 2017 at 6:37 pm

Hi Patrick,

Yes indeed, a low club lead from J2, while very unusual, because of the normal likelihood of fooling partner at least as much as the opponents, might be possible since a heart shift does not “feel ” right while holding 5 to the J10.

Therefore clubs become the “key” suit on defense and leading low will, at the very least, tend to confuse the declarer, and, in this case, will probably succeed.

Here is just one of the times in which numeracy, in the form of reading card combinations all centered around the “13” number, come in handy and tend to make our very difficult game less so, for those who are blessed with intuitive correct arithmetical solutions.