Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, March 6th, 2017

I can see clearly now the rain is gone, I can see all obstacles in my way.

Jimmy Cliff

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


In today’s hand South’s hand is best described by an immediate jump to three no-trump, suggesting a balanced game-force with a balanced 13-15 points. When North moves on, he is suggesting a balanced 18-19 count. South would be prepared to offer clubs as a trump suit if he had four but not here, and his controls suggest moving directly to the no-trump slam.

The defenders make the natural, but helpful, heart lead. However, despite being gifted the solution to locating the heart queen, the contract is by no means cold. How should declarer play the hand to best advantage?

Good technique here is to win the opening lead in hand and lay down the club ace, just in case East has a singleton honor, then lead a club, planning to duck an honor from West or to cover a small card. By giving up your loser at once, it makes the rest of the hand much easier to play.

You can now win the heart return and cash the third heart, then all the spades. You next test clubs and find out who began with the club length. In the process of delaying the diamond guess, you get a very full picture of the major suit distributions, since one defender or the other will show out in each suit.

Here, you will find West has five hearts, precisely two spades, and can be counted for four clubs. So cash the diamond ace and queen, and in the two-card ending, finesse against the jack with confidence.

When deciding between an active and passive lead you should ask yourself if you think your cards lie well or badly for the opponents, and if they sound like they are stretching. Here there is no suggestion that the opponents are especially limited, and spades and diamonds do not appear to be lying so badly. All of that suggests going active on lead, with a small heart not a club.


♠ J 10 4
 K 9 3
 Q 4
♣ J 8 6 3 2
South West North East
  1 Pass 1 ♠
Pass 3 ♠ Pass 4 ♠
All 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


Iain ClimieMarch 20th, 2017 at 9:22 am

Hi Bobby,

East could have some fun here holding (say) CQJ108. He drops the C10 under the CA and then, if South leads another club and West doesn’t split his honours (he can’t) South may decide that east has CQ10, J10 or QJ10 so cashes the King on which East drops the Queen. Now it is seemingly safe to return to hand and play another club, rather than risking West having 4 diamonds and 4 clubs or East having CQJ0 and DJ9xx. After all this, the D then prove to be 3-3.



David WarheitMarch 20th, 2017 at 11:20 am

Iain: Good question, but when E plays the C10, he could have J10, Q10, QJ10, or QJ10x, all of which are very much more likely than 10 singleton. So, instead of playing CK on the second C trick, S should play a low C from dummy. He still might go wrong, but he will eventually have a lot more information at the critical point. Note that even if E holds singleton C10, the chances have risen substantially that he has at least 4D.

Iain ClimieMarch 20th, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Hi David,

Good point but I have a terrible feeling that West has QJ873 and if I duck the second club (playing the 6 instead of the 9), partner will say something “helpful” even though 4-2 is far more likely than 5-1. Fair point about diamonds, and declarer should cash two of them before taking any plunge.

TOCM will give West xx 98x Jxx QJ87x or similar of course; sadly I realised the other day that my run of poor recent results have been less TOCM and more rubbish bidding and play though.



Bobby WolffMarch 20th, 2017 at 2:32 pm

Hi Iain & David,

The rest of us have been treated to a good lesson on how to manage defensive deception (sort of) and, quite importantly, how the best way to turn it to advantage or, at the very least, to not fall for it.

IOW, do not usually rely on worthy opponents order of cards (when deception, as it should be, is in the air), but rather, when another more straightforward road is still in the offing.

Yes, Dame Fortune can be perplexing, if not downright mean, in her dealing. However there is something wholesome in always maintaining a legitimate line to get there from here, rather than to chance succumbing to a clever ruse, disdaining what can lay before one’s nose.

Yes, there are legitimate exceptions, but my only advice is that before embarking on such a plan, always remember that you have a partner and often teammates to account for your judgment. And any bridge team is always subject to a composite judgment of its parts, so do not be thought of as someone who can be manipulated by clever opponents.

However the above advice is likely only for the ears of teams who always expect to win, and is not meant to take the individuality away from an adventurist player not taking his result to heart and thus playing for fun, but not seriously.

Yes, there are brilliancy prizes given at tournaments, but I, for one, if chosen to be a judge, would never award that prize unless I thought the orchestration resulted in playing that hand to best advantage, even if it achieved the goal. Finally, brilliance, for only its effect, is not enough, if there was a less chancy and thus, percentage choice.

Bobby WolffMarch 20th, 2017 at 3:52 pm

Hi Iain,

Obviously we had a “crossed on the internet” moment

Tournament bridge, when only experienced in a local club or at a regular game, is adventurous enough on its own, but when one adds an international touch and while involving Grade “A” players, it becomes even more newsworthy, both to the average player, but chiefly because what usually happens is mind worthy.

The types of false cards, to which you speak, are definitely not often done in less than first class games, so there is little likelihood a more or less “average player” will have much to say.

However, this site discusses most all phases of our worthwhile pastime, with the good news that all who merely read, but do not contribute, may benefit from what other roosters, in our barnyard, are doing.

No doubt, our game has many reasons for it to become addictive, and hail to that feature, but we never should lose sight that all levels do, from time to time, show an interest in what we are posting.

Thanks to you Iain, and all of our regulars, who take time out of their day to add worthwhile lustre (and believe me, those contributions are important).

“Little by little we can do great things” and by doing so, I owe all contributors a giant “Thank You”.

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