Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, February 3rd, 2018

If it were not for the presents, an elopement would be preferable.

George Ade

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


In today’s deal, East had a chance to prevent declarer from executing a neat maneuver in the trump suit. Put yourself in his shoes and see if you can do any better than he did.

On the heart king lead against two spades, declarer ducks, then wins the heart jack with the ace to lead a low club to the jack and king. West takes his heart queen — and you pitch the diamond seven to encourage. Back comes the diamond eight, so you win the king. What next?

At the table, East returned a spade. South won and cashed the second top trump before leading a club to the ace and ruffing a club. What was West to do? She could not over-ruff, or South would have had enough entries to dummy to be able to set up the long club. So she discarded a diamond, and now declarer trumped a diamond and ruffed out the clubs. Again, if West over-ruffed, dummy would be high, so she discarded a heart. But now South could lead a diamond at trick 12 and score the spade 10 in dummy for the eighth winner.

There was just one chance for the defense, but it was a fairly hard one to spot: Rather than leading a trump, East had to return the club queen at trick six, smothering the 10 and locking declarer in dummy. Declarer can try to ruff a club to hand, but now West can over-ruff and return a diamond. That leaves declarer unable to ruff out the clubs without losing another trump trick to West.

Are you going to land on the head of a pin and stop in three hearts by inviting game, or are you going to drive to game and hope your partner can make it? Here, your ruffing value rates to be pulling its full weight; unless partner has queen-third or queen-doubleton of clubs, it is hard to imagine game not having a chance. So I would bid four hearts and let partner figure out how to bring it home.


♠ A K 7 5
 9 8 6
 Q J 9 2
♣ J 10
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
1 ♠ Pass 2 Pass

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


A.V.Ramana RaoFebruary 17th, 2018 at 10:56 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
While East should have worked out the defense based on bidding– south can have either doubleton or three carded club suit depending on whether west had six card or five card heart suit. So east can confidently return Q of clubs as if south had doubleton club his second card would be either nine or ten( ten most probably based on earlier play) and if he had three card club suit the contract is set straight away as west can get a club ruff. So east should have returned club Q when he is in with diamond A. However I think South flubbed his chance to make the contract. He should have played a spade to his A at third trick, cash second high spade and advance club J. If west covers, dummy wins and returns club which east wins. Now east can cash diamond A and if he returns a club, south pitches heart(!) and has tempo to develop eight tricks. East obviously cannot return a diamond. And If west does not cover club J, east wins and can cash diamond A but the play transposes to the line described in the text. ( This line would fail only if east has the third spade instead of west)

Bobby WolffFebruary 17th, 2018 at 2:23 pm


While game and slam contracts usually, because of their greater importance in the winning and losing, get the attention of bridge analysts, part scores most times offer more variety, therefore more complicated, and often in tournament bridge matches decide a close match.

Without going so far to disagree with your line of play, since it appears sound, I think my choice as declarer would be to duck the first heart, win the second and then lead a diamond from dummy. If East has the diamond ace (even without the king) he might be quite tempted to rise, and with it may allow declarer a much easier road to at least 8 tricks in spades. If East does duck, then probably the nine would be the right choice from declarer with the idea of ruffing diamonds in dummy (after a cross ruff is set up).

Of course, at trick three it is difficult to impossible to predict (anywhere near) the specific lie of the other three suits except to expect a fairly even distribution, because of the lack of further bidding competition (with each side having about the same number of hcps) but, as it often does, spades out bidding hearts.

My above choice of leading a diamond at trick 3 is only based on what “feels” more fluid than declarer’s choice of a low club from dummy, plus, of course, the pressure it might put on East.

As always, thanks for taking the time to dig deep with your overall opinion, accenting, as would the column, of leading the queen of clubs, a play an inexperienced player, as East would likely not even consider, much less choose. Finally and an additional clue would be the unlikely possibility of West having a 6th heart, since with six and a very limited strength hand (South’s opener, about as light as it gets), he might have made a NV defensive jump overcall, instead of a simple 1 heart bid.

Finally, because of the many different specific layouts, it is difficult to pinpoint, as a reflection on teaching, exactly what to do, since it almost always coincides with what one’s theoretical worthy opponents are also doing.

Therefore the above paragraph only emphasizes, while on defense, try and figure, based on the bidding and the play by both sides up to then, what the original holdings of both unseen hands figure to be. Without doing that successfully, it makes an already difficult game, that much more so. However everyone should be determined to do as well as he or she can do, and many will be surprised by their positive results, as more and more experience is gleaned.