Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 31st, 2017

The person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore.

Dale Carnegie

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


This may seem like a ‘Heads you win, tails you win’ hand, but it is often easy to overlook sure-trick lines. Will you fall into the trap?

When West overcalled one spade over South’s one heart opener, North judged that a negative double was his best way to compete. East made a pre-emptive jump raise and South competed to four diamonds, allowing North to convert to four hearts.

South knew that his partner rated to hold only a doubleton heart, since North would have raised his partner directly with three hearts. But he had no reason to overrule his partner.

When South ruffed away the spade king at trick one, he could see the real risk of his being forced. His next move was to cash the diamond ace and king, then exit with a third diamond, taken by West with the queen as East pitched a club. West persisted with a second spade, ruffed by South again, which left East with the long trump. South could not draw trump now, but he had a neat alternative approach, thanks to dummy’s heart spots.

After ruffing the second spade, he trumped one of his established diamonds in dummy. Then he returned to hand with the club ace, ruffed his last diamond, and still had three trump tricks in hand to bring his total to 10 tricks.

Incidentally, if West had returned a trump at trick five, declarer would have drawn trump, then cashed the long diamonds and club ace, to come to 10 tricks a different way.

Your partner’s three heart call suggests length there, so your hand should fit your partner well. Your ace in the side suit is bound to be useful, and your fourth trump and useful doubleton in hearts should be enough to jump to four spades. You may have a minimum in high cards, but not all minimums are created equal.


♠ 8 7 4 2
 Q 10
 A 8 6
♣ J 10 5 3
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♠ 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


David WarheitApril 14th, 2017 at 9:44 am

Two comments: 1. EW have a good save in 4S, only down 2. Even if for some reason it is down 3, it is still a good save. Do you think they should have taken the save?

2. Initially I thought that S should have corrected 4H to 5D since he is virtually certain on the bidding that N has 3 diamonds and where the winning line is much easier to see. But then I realized that if you change the N hand to give him the DQ instead of the HQ he is quite unlikely to make 5D, even if the H finesse succeeds.

jim2April 14th, 2017 at 11:48 am

Why did declarer delay playing the AC?

That is, once the third diamond is led and the (second) spade return ruffed, is there any technical reason not to cash the AC right then? (instead of letting defenders get a chance to pitch more clubs on the fourth diamond before trying to cash the AC) After all, once the AC survives, declarer has all top trumps for the cross ruff.

The play could go as in column:

– spade ruff +1
– AD +2
– KD +3
– xD -1 (East pitches first club)
– second spade ruff +4

but now

– AC +5 (before either defender can pitch again)
– fourth diamond ruffed with 10H +6
– third spade ruff +7
– fifth diamond ruffed with QH +8

and declarer still has two top trump.

Bobby WolffApril 14th, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Hi David,

Obviously you are correct in your assessment of 4 spades being a good save, with, of course, this vulnerability and the declarer spotting the winning line of play against the forcing defense available.

But how about if North had not provided the magic Q and especially the 10 of hearts that were necessary to make the heart game? From both my and probably your agreement with the defensive bidding, EW’s distribution did not warrant more than they offered. No singletons in either hand, but good enough spades to stand a 4-0 break with no overruff available for North who was well positioned to get one if it was available. Add that to that same spade break which enabled NS to score up his game by not having a loser.

Finally, in the early days of the development of The Aces and during the critique of the many weekend long matches we consistently played, many hands discussed the whys and why not saves that were taken or not, but sooner than one may think that type of discussion stopped dead in its tracks, when all the players and coaches realized that bridge is a game which, especially result wise, simply would not lend itself, to any intelligent discussion of always doing the right thing either offensively or defensively since only Dame Fortune, when dealing the cards, could be privy to results and she, being the devil she obviously was, did not respond to questions about exact cards and where they were going to be located. IOW, if the ten of hearts would have been located in either East’s hand, or for that matter with South, and North having a too low one instead, the necessary line of play for success, would have vanished., EW plus, instead of minus 620.

Add to that the bidding on that hand, which, at least to me, was, to quote baby bear, “just about right”, the above hand merely representing bridge the way it is, unpredictable, but often very challenging, a combination which most will agree, make it the best mind game, along with chess, ever invented.

Bobby WolffApril 14th, 2017 at 2:24 pm

Hi Jim2,

No doubt your suggestion merely corroborates the bridge teaching manuals for declarer, when side suit tricks should be cashed as quickly as possible before a strict and final cross ruff ensues, preventing a defender from discarding all of one’s suit of the side aces (and possibly, on other hands, kings).

While that lesson is important to know and exercise regularly, this hand doesn’t lend itself (considering the overall bidding) to be subject to disaster by not so doing, but nevertheless your advice is still applicable and certainly worthy of note for lesser experienced would be great players to have in their quiver for the future.

Finally mea culpa for overlooking mentioning it, although it is possible that this column had already used up its maximum in space and thus became a lesser of evils for my team not to follow through. Also, always keep in mind that you (and a select few others) are always there, to patrol the bridge streets for truth in accuracy, though no doubt, fewer readers get to be set straight on technique.

As always, thanks for writing.

jim2April 15th, 2017 at 1:24 am

Hence my use of the word “technical.”