Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.

Noel Coward

S North
None ♠ K 9 4 3
 Q 10 7
 8 5 4
♣ K 7 3
West East
♠ 7 2
 A 5 4
 K Q J 7 6
♣ Q 8 4
♠ 8
 K 9 8 6 3 2
 10 3
♣ J 10 9 5
♠ A Q J 10 6 5
 A 9 2
♣ A 6 2
South West North East
1 ♠ 2 2 ♠ Pass
4 ♠ All pass    


When North makes a simple spade raise, South cannot tell if game will have good play, but he must bid it anyway. You are favorite to make four spades facing a maximum or the right minimum – or if the defenders don’t find the best lead. It pays to be aggressive here, giving away as little as possible in the process.

However, the combination of the duplication of shape and wasted values in dummy means South has his work cut out today to bring home the game. On balance, it looks right to duck the first diamond to disrupt the opponents’ communication. But South must win the next diamond, and then does best to lead a trump to dummy.

South’s cunning plan is to lead a low heart from dummy at the fourth trick, trying to build a heart trick for an eventual club discard. This can be done if East has both top hearts; or if the top hearts are split, so long as it is West who wins the first trick in that suit.

If South led the first heart from his own hand, West would allow East to win the first heart. The effect of leading the first heart from the dummy, instead of from hand, is to persuade East to play low. Indeed, only an idiot or a genius will rise with the king here, won’t they?

When his ruse succeeds, declarer will eventually be able to lead the heart queen through East and ruff out the heart king. This establishes a home for the slow club loser, and the game comes home.

You are faced with a set of ugly alternatives. A panel might vote for all the four minimum actions in clubs, diamonds, hearts or no-trump. I think my diamond honors persuade me to repeat the suit, even though it technically shows six. But I can easily see how bids in any of the other suits might work. A call of one no-trump does not thrill me, however!


♠ 7 2
 A 5 4
 K Q J 7 6
♣ Q 8 4
South West North East
1 1 ♠ Dbl. 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 WarheitJuly 11th, 2017 at 9:32 am

Win the second D, draw trump and lead the HJ. W can win and cash a D, but you can ruff out the HK, then cash H10 to pitch losing C. Or E can win, but he has no more D, so he leads a C. Win the K & lead a H, discarding losing D. W wins, but you eventually discard your losing C on H10. In short, you always make 4S.

jim2July 11th, 2017 at 11:14 am

If I ducked the first diamond, TOCM ™ would ensure the W-E hands were:

x ——— xx
Axx —— Kxxxxxx
KQJxxx — 10
xxx —— QJ10x

And the first four tricks would go:

1) KD – ducked
2) QD – ruffed
3) AH
4) JD – ruffed

Bobby WolffJuly 11th, 2017 at 1:13 pm

Hi David and Jim2,

In the short space required above , you two together, have explained everything which needs to be said and not left out anything important.

Therefore and whatever, the job of all range of declarers, from world class to novice, is to select one or the other line which he or she gleans is the most likely one to work.

To do so (and, at least to me, this type of decision, simply put, totally involving success or failure, is the difference maker when great or potentially so, players are discussed. The player who consistently takes the winning line contrasting to one who is less successful, even though their other bridge talents would be considered on a more or less par with one another, will win far more often than the other..

In this specific case, let us examine the evidence, each declarer is to now, privy. West overcalled 2 diamonds, however since he was not vulnerable, only a very conservative player sitting West, would require 6 rather than 5 diamonds to venture forth. Next, it is likely that the heart honors are split since West did not start out with one. However, on the location of the ace and the king, if East had the ace and by this time declarer has already planned his ruse (leading a low heart to his jack hoping East will not rise, he needs to hope that West has the ace and East the king, otherwise it would be too optimistic to expect that East would not rise with the ace foiling declarer’s hopes of landing his contract.

Declarer would then have to decide if East is good enough to rise with an unsupported king, (having no jack) when a low heart is led from dummy. If he is of top class, believe me, especially if given time to consider, he will do exactly that, and without working up a sweat.

Therefore the tempo at trick one when East was following suit to the initial diamond lead by his partner becomes critical. No doubt the better the East player the less success will accrue to the declarer in this determination.

Strangely and an emotional twist, if East is not actively ethical he will prefer his partner to know that he has two instead of one and by cleverly taking advantage of difficult rules to enforce he, by his deviousness, will have enabled declarer to more likely find the potentially winning line.

Furthermore, for not so ethical defenders, this hand is perfect for bridge justice, since partners who hitch in 3rd position to illegally inform the opening leader will then have to literally rise to the occasion by playing the king of hearts initially when a heart is then led from the dummy.

In a vacuum, since East is marked with one heart honor, it is of little value, with only that information available to duck the first diamond. However the psychological factors involved ascend to extreme importance because of the specifics involved.

Summing up and using my values (which are not officially always agreed upon) as to what is ethical and what may be borderline or less., I see no ethical restrictions for declarer to win the first diamond and swiftly leadi a spade to dummy and a heart off of dummy, not giving East the time he may need to rise with the king (assuming he has that card instead of the ace). Others may say, he should not be allowed to so-called unduly fast play (and BTW how should that be defined, if in fact it is) since that behavior may be thought to be by some, unethical.

While I do not agree, (although arguable), others may think so, or at least claim so, with the TD and later with the committee. Besides I think playing the king of hearts in 2nd seat on this hand should be an easier play to make than other less experienced players may think. If declarer had the singleton ace of hearts or even ace and one, he may lead it before advancing a trump to dummy,.

For players on the up elevator in bridge or even those who only want to be, please study this relativel situation carefully, before turning attention along with partner, to what conventions to play and long discussions about what is to me, far lesser subjects, assuming consistent winning, the goal.

I do appreciate both Jim2 and David getting the discussion to the key issue (eg, setting the table) so that we can all concentrate on the common denominator of what really matters, success or failure.