Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

The demand was for constant action; if you stopped to think, you were lost.

Raymond Chandler

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


Whatever action East takes here, South should compete as far as three hearts. The defense leads three rounds of diamonds, trying to kill declarer’s discard. The third diamond will get ruffed and over-ruffed, and now South needs to try to hold the black suit losers to two. Since East is likely to have the club ace, it seems right to lead a low club from dummy to the queen. Then he draws trumps, leading high hearts from hand, before advancing his second club. Declarer covers West’s card with his nine, and East takes his 10 and gets out with a top spade. Win or duck? Pause for reflection before committing yourself.

You have two chances for the contract, but simplest is to try to ruff out the club ace, which works if East has only three clubs.

What if he does not? Then East would have begun with six diamonds, and four clubs. Given that he is also known to hold two hearts, East can’t have more than one spade in that scenario, can he? Therefore you should let the spade king hold the trick. What can East do? If he gives you a ruff-sluff, it lets you pitch one of your spade losers. Meanwhile, if he plays a club, be it high or low, it will let you use the club king as a discard for your spade loser.

Had you won the spade ace, then whether you led a high or low club from dummy, or a spade, you would not be able to avoid two further spade losers.

The general rule about how high to raise partner in competition is that you can afford to be preempted by one level but not two. Since you planned to raise to two hearts, you can afford to bid three hearts now. Passing (planning to raise hearts the next time – if there is one) would understate your heart support.


♠ A 9 3
 K Q 4 3
 J 5
♣ K 9 4 2
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 2 ♠

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


jim2August 23rd, 2017 at 11:31 am

Unless I am mistaken, the situation when the KS is led is:



———- K(x)
———- 976
———- A(x)


And the question is which “x” does East hold, as all the other cards are known.

If I am correct, then ducking the spade has the even greater merit of being a 100% play. That is, if East does indeed have the spade “x” and leads it next, then the club ace MUST be bare and winning the second spade and ruffing a club wins. If the missing black “x” is a club (as in the column hand) then East is endplayed as in the text.

bobby wolffAugust 23rd, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, you have mentally recreated the 6 card ending, which by simple (not so by those who are not willing, nor too often, in their opinion, able, to accomplish) counting the defensive hands. Without which, they will always be limited by a glass ceiling, which, in turn, will deprive them of rising to a level of the game, wherein the “real” beauty and majesty of our beautiful game becomes something really special.

Your description,, on this actual declarer’s hand, could be properly used in a bridge teaching classroom, to represent a 100% example of success by a thorough declarer, regardless of whether East held any singleton spade honor (NS had both the ten and the nine) or of course if East had a companion spade, then his ace of clubs would be ruffed out, since then he would only have started with three of them, since all eight of his red cards have already been proven.

Simple basic arithmetic, learned as a school child, but, oh so difficult, if not learned, never to be forgotten, as an aspiring bridge player.

Thanks for your accurate description of this simple, but right-on example, of what becomes necessary for all hopeful players to be enabled to execute on a consistent basis.

Iain ClimieAugust 23rd, 2017 at 4:31 pm

HI Bobby, Jim2,

There is a possible Mollo Rueful Rabbit story here; the cards were sticky, and West, despite having started with CA10x / A8x or similar had the CA hidden until late on so accidentally ducked both clubs. East exited with the SK as you describe, South ducked and East then played a club. South discarded a spade loser and RR was getting ready to dump a spade but HH asked “No clubs partner?” getting “No, oh hold on a moment, terribly sorry partner I’ve completely messed up…” Of course the end result is the same as if West had taken the first club but declarer’s blood pressure and ability to think straight have now been completely wrecked.



Iain ClimieAugust 23rd, 2017 at 4:33 pm

Actually no, as there is an extra discard; Oh well, it was the thought that counted (or not in this case).

jim2August 23rd, 2017 at 4:36 pm

Good thought! Here, though, the bidding placed some spade cards in the West hand. Thus, based on East’s second bid, the AC pretty much has to be in that hand.

bobby wolffAugust 23rd, 2017 at 5:36 pm

Hideous Hog speaking:

“Thought, what thought? Certainly not ever from this table. More like a Mollo coaster”.

Iain ClimieAugust 23rd, 2017 at 7:26 pm

Thanks Bobby, Jim2,

I’ve had the sort of day where pushing the door marked “Pull” was one of my more successful moments! I’m not playing bridge tonight as black/red colour blindness would be a near certainty.


bobby wolffAugust 23rd, 2017 at 7:41 pm

Hi Iain,

Not all bad for that to happen since that color blindness for everyone might result in lesser racism. Except for your expected partner, who might then suspect you to play all hands in NT.

And who can forget the long ago commercial, “Push, pull, click, click!” which had to do with “Eversharp” pen and pencils.

AviAugust 24th, 2017 at 9:01 am


In regards to your first comment, perhaps I’m missing something, but I’m not sure that this is 100%

would E not overcall 1D simply holding KQ, xx, AKxxxx, xxx?
theoretically, W has room for Axxx club.

jim2August 24th, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Avi –

The hand you noted would indeed be a sound overcall. I do not believe, however, it to be particularly attractive for a second bid in a live auction facing a passing partner. (Minus 300 is worse than giving up a part score and, if the opponents have a game, you could be minus 500)

Theoretically, players can bid anything, of course. (Those that psyche take that to the limit.) If East has that hand, then ducking is still as good as anything.

bobby wolffAugust 24th, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Hi Avi & Jim2,

Also Avi, if East had the hand you suggest, West would hold s. Jxxxx, h. xx, d. xx, c. AJ10x and would at least be tempted to bid one spade the first round of bidding, especially when being non-vulnerable. I know I would do that deed, although others may well not.

My point is not to take sides in your question, but rather to call to attention, the varied tasks of a high level declarer in determining lines of play, eg. consider the dog which did not bark (or maybe didn’t even hitch), before deciding on Jim2’s judgment.

Certainly not an automatic function which any aspiring bridge player is just born with, but one which, I dare say, will be part of every top player’s repertoire, if you wanna be a winner.