Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.

Winston Churchill

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


On this deal from the 1998 Life Master Pairs, there were two fine plays: one by a defender, and one by a declarer. Let’s start with the defense.

Against four spades, Jeff Aker as West led the heart jack to declarer’s queen. South played a diamond to the ace and East’s 10, then drew two rounds of trumps. Now came three top clubs, throwing a heart from dummy, followed by a low diamond from hand. Aker rose with the king, swallowing up his partner’s queen, a Crocodile Coup. He cashed his diamond, then played a heart to his partner’s ace for down one. Declarer’s line required a defensive error or a seriously blocked diamond suit, but could he have done better?

At another table, Susan Wexler also declared four spades, on the lead of the heart jack. She won her queen and advanced a low diamond, ducking in dummy when West followed small. She won the club return, took her diamond ace, then cashed the top trumps and her two club winners, to throw a heart from dummy. Now when she exited with the heart king, both declarer and dummy had only spades and diamonds left, and East was on lead with only hearts and clubs to lead. Regardless of what he did, declarer could ruff the return in dummy and throw away her losing diamond from hand.

This is an incomplete elimination. The defenders have a winning diamond and a trump left, with declarer needing to find West rather than East with both key cards.

You have more than enough to accept the invitation to game, but here your diamonds are good enough to look for slam in diamonds if that is what partner has in mind. Bid four diamonds to let partner decide whether to go on past game. If he signs off, respect his decision.


♠ 10 6 2
 K 5 4
 A 9 7 4 3
♣ J 7
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
2 Pass 3 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


angelo romanoJanuary 7th, 2018 at 12:47 am

“The defenders have a winning diamond and a trump left, with declarer needing to find West rather than East with both key cards” AND the small diamond to duck. I think it’s more likely to play for spade QJx in East, ruffing in dummy the third winning club as a reenter

jim2January 7th, 2018 at 12:26 pm

Wellll, there is a tad more there.

First, West might have QJ spades doubleton. This increases the column line overall probability of success.

Second, declarer does not have to choose the line until after West follows to the first diamond. Thus, if West does NOT play the 5D, declarer can still shift to the line you suggest. This makes the third element of your line not a probability factor.

bobbywolffJanuary 8th, 2018 at 10:31 pm

Hi Angelo & Jim2,

Welcome to the world of determining the better percentage line, particularly so, when there are human elements involved which need probability analysis,

Following through with the above paragraph, I do not feel myself drawn into judging the overall result, even considering the unlikely possibility, that I did not overlook a factor.

However, as for pleasure derived from the process, I place it just below the fun that overwhelms me, when I visit the dentist, which by coincidence, I did this morning.