Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 18th, 2017

To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.

Oscar Wilde

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


In today’s deal, North does not have nearly enough to bid over a three-heart pre-empt to his right. He would likely not act even if he were in balancing seat. But when his partner shows spades, he can bid four hearts on his next turn to suggest a maximum pass with spade support. South is not interested in slam, of course, so four spades becomes the final contract. Before you read through the play, you might speculate how you can hold your club losers to one.

After the lead of the heart king, declarer must win the ace and now is faced with the possibility of four losers, even before he plays a trump and discovers the remarkably bad break. Paradoxically, though, he now has a real expectation that he can endplay West not once, but twice.

He must hope West began with specifically 3=7=2=1 shape. So he takes the diamond ace and king, then the club ace and spade ace. Now declarer must exit with the heart jack. (If he exited with a trump, West would win and exit with a low heart!)

West wins, cashes the spade queen, but then must play a heart. Declarer discards a club from dummy and a diamond from hand. A fourth round of hearts sees declarer throw a second club from dummy and ruff in hand. He takes the last three tricks on a crossruff, while losing two heart tricks. Who would have guessed that you could hold your club losers not just to one, but to zero?

The knee-jerk reaction here is to transfer to spades and offer a choice of games. That is simple but not best, in my opinion. With such weak spades and these values in your short suits, do you really want partner to play a 5-3 major suit fit? I think not. Use Stayman and rebid three no-trump if no spade fit comes to light.


♠ 8 6 5 4 2
 A 3
 K 9 2
♣ A 7 6
South West North East
  Pass 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


Patrick CheuDecember 2nd, 2017 at 8:14 pm

Hi Bobby,To be given a slim chance of playing a low Heart to declarer’s Jx or 9x if the latter does not play the cards in the right order..might be a rare occurrence given the high standard of play these days..that’s another reason why we love playing this game right!? regards~Patrick.

Matt SokolaDecember 2nd, 2017 at 8:33 pm

This is a real beauty: a heart is lead, you refuse to ruff with a spade but discard one diamond and one club.

In a nutshell, declarer gives up one trick so he can discard two losers and still enforce an additional ruff/discard. In a nutshell, give up one trick to eliminate 3 losers, That is an incredible barter !

Thanks for showing us this…

Bobby WolffDecember 3rd, 2017 at 2:04 am

Hi Patrick,

No doubt, this hand and other brilliance is common to our great game. However if we wait for the twin brother of this hand to occur, indeed it may not arrive until the next century.

However, the concept of having (or forcing) our worthy opponents to help us, is more varied than many of us may think.

This hand should appear in a bridge curriculum under “problem solving”, if only to remind all aspiring bridge experts of what can be done.

Thanks for always recognizing the hidden mysteries which makes playing good bridge so challenging. I, for one, and my bet, many others, enjoy your wise countenance.

In other words we miss it when you don’t write.

Bobby WolffDecember 3rd, 2017 at 2:15 am

Hi Matt,

Yes, this column’s theme is indeed unique, though fairly regular endplays, when you throw in an opponent, who then has to give away a trick he normally might get, are more common.

Realistically, and even with a lifetime career of playing bridge, one probably will never be dealt any hand very similar, but nevertheless the theme is worth learning.

The hope for all of us is just in case, a miracle happens and “there it is”, we should be ready to positively accept that challenge.

Thanks for your kind words and come back and visit us again when you think you have time.