Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

The robbed that smiles steals something from the thief.

William Shakespeare

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


The origin of a bridge deal is often shrouded in mystery, but today’s has a curious pedigree. I had seen a variation of this theme as a puzzle, and sharpened it up into a more challenging problem.

Last year, I was amused to find that the puzzle I had enjoyed had been borrowed wholesale from George Coffin, one of the earliest of puzzle constructors. Coffin was not a competent player himself, which made his ability to identify and classify new bridge themes all the more remarkable. It does make me wonder how many of my articles have resurfaced elsewhere…

If the diamond three is led against three no-trump, declarer must not play the jack, but must play low from dummy and take the 10 with the ace. Since he has to let the defenders in twice with their two black aces, he must take insurance against the defenders being able both to set up and run the diamonds. By temporarily preserving the diamond jack, he will gain a critical tempo if it should be East who gets on lead first.

As it happens, West has both the critical aces. But when he gets in with one and leads a second diamond, now is the right moment to finesse. East can win the queen but is unable to continue the suit, so declarer gains his tempo after all. If East had a diamond left, the suit would divide 4-3, and declarer would still survive.

Curiously, should North declare three no-trump on a heart lead, he must refrain from putting in dummy’s jack, for exactly the same reason.

This doesn’t feel like a hand on which it is sensible to play for penalty. Your weak diamond spots may not stop declarer scoring all his trumps in hand. But you have to bid, and even if you don’t have a classical diamond control you do have enough length in the suit to make the practical call of one no-trump. That gets your values across nicely to partner.


♠ A 4
 Q 9 3
 9 7 5 3 2
♣ A 8 5
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ 1

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