Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 8th, 2017

Always leave them laughing when you say goodbye.

George M. Cohan

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


Today’s deal comes from Larry Cohen’s excellent new teaching book, on declarer play at no-trump (details at https://www. larry-teaches-declarer-play-atno-trump).

In three no-trump you have eight top tricks — the ace-king in every suit – so it would be disappointing not to find a ninth somewhere, wouldn’t it? You put up the spade 10 at trick one, but East covers with the jack. When you hold up, East continues with the spade nine, West playing the spade two. Which red suit will you work on?

It looks normal to try the longer suit, diamonds, first. That is fine, but the normal technique of ducking the first round of the suit is not taking advantage of all of your chances. If you duck a diamond, the defense will clear spades. Now, when diamonds break four-one, there is no time to switch to a Plan B. Instead, start diamonds by taking the ace and king. (You could make the case for leading low towards dummy, trying to pick up a singleton queen, jack or 10 in West – it being more likely that that player is short in diamonds than East).

If an honor appears, you lead low back to your hand, intending to insert the seven. And, for the record, if the diamond seven and six where switched you could never pick up any four-card diamond holding in East, so you would start by leading the king from hand.

When you discover the four-one break, you have time to switch your attention to hearts. The three-three break there sees you home.

You should ask your opponent about the double – but the normal meaning for it is that West has a solid major. Your partner should redouble with a stopper in both majors, so there is something to be said for being cautious and retreating to four diamonds. If you have fallen victim to a con-trick, you will at least know never to trust that opponent again.


♠ 10 3
 K 8 4
 A 9 8 5 4
♣ K 3 2
South West North East
    1 NT Pass
3 NT Dbl. Pass 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


Bruce karlsonJune 22nd, 2017 at 3:11 pm

The formula for this problem is the same as many others: find a plan, count tricks and too often omitted, see if there is a better one. Essentially, think, then make oneself take another 15 seconds to think again.

Iain ClimieJune 22nd, 2017 at 10:00 pm

Hi Bobby,

Interesting that cashing DAK feels more like a beginner’s play than ducking yet is actually right. Funny old game bridge.


Bobby WolffJune 23rd, 2017 at 10:57 pm

Hi Bruce & Iain,

Together you two cover the bases (here I go again with substituting baseball) with the mindset needed to climb up the bridge ladder to a new platform.

Bruce describes the correct mindset with a not so casual reference to “double” checking before dipping your toes (swimming). Iain then philosophizes by slowly discussing how proper technique hurdles (track & field) beginners to good and then sometimes necessary, back to beginners which scores the goal (soccer, basketball and hockey).

Oh well, we have to touch down sooner or later.

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