Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.
What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.

Henry David Thoreau

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



Today’s deal demonstrates how to have your cake and eat it too. When playing teams you want to ensure making your contract if you can, or defeating it if humanly possible. Overtricks and undertricks are the lifeblood of the pairs game, but basically irrelevant at teams.

So let’s look at a pairs deal, where you declare four hearts on the defense of three rounds of spades, ruffed in hand. Your target is to make as many tricks as possible, while not going down if you can avoid it.

If you play hearts from the top and find the 4-1 break, there is nothing you can do to recover, against competent defense. West will ruff the third round of clubs, then exit with the heart jack, if declarer has drawn only two rounds of trump, or exit in spades if declarer drew three rounds of trump.

So what can declarer do to sidestep this outcome? You could play ace and a low heart, giving up a trump trick to settle for 10 winners. But if hearts break, you would then have sacrificed a trick for nothing.

A better line, which combines safety with excellent chances for 11 winners, is to cash one heart, then cross to dummy with a club to lead a second round of trump. When East discards, you put in the 10, and can claim the rest after West wins the jack. If East follows to the second trump, win the king, and unless West shows out, you have the rest. If West discards, try to cross to a top club to finesse in trumps.

This isn’t the right place to tell you which form of transfers to use over one no-trump. However, whatever scheme you have in place you should transfer to diamonds, since your hand is useless in no-trump and you want to keep the opponents out. Transfers do NOT promise values — just suit length.


♠ 9 3 2
 10 9 7 6 4 2
♣ 8 7 2
South West North East
    1 NT 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