Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 21st, 2017

Most people are on the world, not in it – having no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them – undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate.

John Muir

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


Today’s deal represents a slight variation of a hand that came up in the quarterfinals of the junior world championships. The Polish team who were spearheaded by Michal Klukowski and Justyna Zmuda won the junior title. (They have been playing regularly for the open and women’s teams respectively, for the last few years). This deal resulted in a big swing for their team.

To focus on the problem look just at the auction, together with the West and North cards. You lead a heart against six diamonds, won in dummy. Declarer now plays the diamond king, which goes to the nine and declarer’s six. Plan the defense. When you have decided, look at the full deal.

If you duck the first trump, what should declarer do? He has two sensible approaches: one is to take the diamond nine at face value and play to ruff out clubs – which would be necessary if both minors break badly. But if declarer does that, then if the cards lie as in the diagram East ruffs the second club, and defeats the slam. If you win the diamond ace, declarer cannot go wrong.

(For the record: in real life the diamond nine was singleton with East holding 4-7-1-1 shape. When the diamond nine appeared, West ducked, and declarer correctly went after clubs at trick three, successfully ruffing out the suit. Had he played a second trump himself, the defense would have played a third trump and forced declarer to guess clubs.)

You could simply lead spades, the suit you have bid and raised, but it feels more important to me to try to get hearts going at once. If playing third and low I would lead the four, if playing fourth highest a high spot may be hard to read, so I would lead the two.


♠ K 10 8 5
 9 6 4 2
 8 5
♣ Q 5 4
South West North East
  1 ♣ Dbl. 1
1 ♠ 2 2 ♠ 3
All 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


jim2September 4th, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Maybe when the KD holds, declarer should play the AC.

If the QC drops singleton, revert to trump. At the least, it might force West to find the 10C falsecard when the 10C looks like it could be an important card. If the 10C does appear, then believe the 4-7-1-1. If instead the 2/3 is played, maybe continue trump.

Bobby WolffSeptember 4th, 2017 at 1:48 pm

Hi Jim2,

No doubt your advice is psychologically correct, and would apply to the average game.

However, especially after this dummy is exposed, and in a match up of the best players around, (possibly worldwide), the declarer can be sure (or almost) that the defense is going to try and mislead.

One of the beauties of our beautiful game is that at a very high level (and when North lays down his dummy), both opponents, will defend, knowing full well what declarer may fear, and therefore falsecard, if necessary, to try their best to, at the very least, cause him to go wrong. Yes, there will, at times, be double cross and sometimes, double, double cross, but my advice for declarer is to just take the best percentage play available and not react to the specific cards he sees played, knowing full well that the opponents also know what is involved, and will not go down without a struggle.

In a regular game with only mere mortals playing,, all the above flies out the window with the actual defense to be better believed and trusted. Such is life at the top of the bridge ladder as opposed to not, and only the declarer himself needs to be aware of what to expect.

Of course, a very fast thinking declarer, which is true in almost 100% of the highest level games, will choose to play the first few cards quite quickly since the declarer is usually in charge of the tempo.

The result is only a reminder that bridge, being the sensational game it is, requires total concentration at all times, since none of the players can guess beforehand when it is necessary to turn concentration off or on since no “duck” (Years ago, Groucho Marx, with his famous TV quiz show, “You Bet Your Life”) comes down from the ceiling to remind them when this is time for heroic play.

Thanks for allowing this aspect of our great game to be discussed.

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