Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 16th, 2018

O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.

Psalm 39:13

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


In the finals of the NEC trophy between Hackett and England/USA, we saw Hackett come back from a big deficit early on in the match to lead at the half. The first deal of the next set did nothing to change the spectators’ minds that momentum had shifted.

At one table, England/USA reached three no-trump after South had cue-bid then bid spades in response to his partner’s overcall in diamonds, since immediate spade bids would not have been forcing. Alas, this sequence was construed by North as bidding stoppers for no-trump rather than showing a suit. The club lead set the no-trump game immediately, as all declarer could do was run spades, then try for a miracle in diamonds.

Four spades, by contrast, looks easy enough; after the defenders led clubs, declarer won and set about arranging his heart ruff for the 10th trick. After West won her ace, she cashed a club and returned a trump. Declarer took the heart ruff, drew trumps, led a diamond to dummy and claimed when the second diamond produced the king from East.

But what if West had shifted to a diamond after winning the heart ace? Declarer must go up with the ace or suffer a ruff, and now he cannot both take a ruff and lead diamonds from dummy at the critical moment.

The only way to make the contract legitimately is immediately to draw trumps ending in dummy, then lead diamonds from dummy — by no means obvious, since the chosen line was proof against most diamond breaks.

Your partner’s four-diamond call shows the red suits and invites you to the party over a possible four-spade call from your opponents. Lo and behold, you have precisely the right cards to move on to five hearts. True, you have no values to spare, but you can imagine that if partner has 10 cards in the red suits, you have more offense and less defense than he could reasonably expect.


♠ 6 4
 10 8 3 2
 K J 7
♣ 10 8 4 3
South West North East
    1 1 ♠
2 3 ♠ 4 4 ♠

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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


BobliptonMarch 2nd, 2018 at 2:39 pm

To be specific, the diamond split it fails agains is the singleton King in West’s hand.


Iain ClimieMarch 2nd, 2018 at 4:19 pm

Hi Bobby,

What if West ducks the first heart, takes the second and plays a diamond? Now declarer is open in hearts which doesn’t apply if West wins tbe first heart. If South draws trumps and plays on diamonds, hoping for west to win, east shouldn’t have his defence tested. West holding 3 trumps also stops south drawing 2 rounds then H to K.



A V Ramana RaoMarch 2nd, 2018 at 4:52 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
I think the heart ruff is irrelevent here. South should have focussed his attention on diamonds. Win the club lead, draw trumps and lead A of diamond . ( south maKes a fair assumption that west holds A of hearts based on bidding ) Now, he is home and dry if either K/J falls on A. Even if does not, as the cards lay today, he can continue with diamond from dummy. If east wins
His natural return would be a club a nd west after winning ,if continues clubs, south will not have any proble. As may be seen it would be difficult for west to return a heart when in with club. And if east returns a heart when in with diamond K, south perhaps can congratulate him on the excellent defense.( and if west is dealt with K, J third of diamonds, south regrets his decision to play diamond A but then some assumption to be made in play )
The heart ruff is a mirage. Even if you ruff third heart, you may go down as the diamond position is not clear

Bobby WolffMarch 2nd, 2018 at 5:51 pm

Hi Bob,

No doubt your analysis is keen, however even if the adverse diamonds are located with West having the bare king, it is possible that a very perceptive declarer, after leading the 10 of diamonds, or even small, from dummy, and after East per force (in this case), follows small, will let it ride. Stranger plays (particularly by sensational players) have been made, elevating correct to winning, a higher plane.

The above percentage defying aberration may come about only because declarer is familiar with his opponents habits and above all, is willing to back his judgment to the death (or at least his partner and possible teammate’s wrath).

Bobby WolffMarch 2nd, 2018 at 6:03 pm

Hi Iain,

Oh yes, the web sometimes gets tangled, advantage bridge reporters, since sometimes, far be it for me to admit doing such deeds, slightly (a great lawyer’s word) change in one hand or the other a single card with intent to produce a more interesting, usually high level problem, to (before this admonition), the sometimes gullible reader.

Bobby WolffMarch 2nd, 2018 at 6:19 pm


Whoa! Yes, on many hands, depending on the bidding (or lack of), opening lead and sometimes even herky-jerky tempo, some cards become pretty well marked, but not always, nor on this one, since even the ace of hearts is not clear to be in West’s hand (substitute the KJ of diamonds for the ace of hearts or perhaps not even to consider including the jack.

Also, and never forget while you are indeed trying to pummel your opponents, worthy adversaries feel the same way about you, and clearly understand by your play (such as, in the above case, declarer having only two clubs originally).

That above fact is why the faster road to much better bridge is to seek out and play against the very best partnerships you can find, something that conflicts when human nature suggests playing at the local duplicates where most are closer to novice than to expert.

However, to each his own, but trying to imagine a world without good bridge available is indeed, not a pleasant one.

jim2March 3rd, 2018 at 3:42 am

I had told myself I was staying out of this one … Oh, well.

Which defender can have 5 (or more) hearts?

West, who did not open 1H? East who did not respond 1H? Neither can have 5.

Can West have 6 clubs and not rebid them? Can East have 5 clubs and not raise them?

Can West have both missing big high cards outside clubs and not redouble holding 4 hearts? Can East hold 4 hearts to the ace and not bid one heart?

The odds seem to me that declarer knows the layout almost precisely upon the opening KC lead. Drawing trump will reveal how many diamonds West has. If West turns up with 2 spades, the odds are big that diamonds are 2-2. If spades are 1-4, then West has 3 diamonds, and declarer can play diamonds accordingly, etc.

Hence, I cannot see why declarer should not win the lead, draw trump (getting a firm count on West’s hand) and play diamonds accordingly.

Bobby WolffMarch 3rd, 2018 at 4:08 pm

Hi Jim2,

While happy that you lent your considerable practical talent to this discussion, I feel compelled to chime in with a few challenges.

Considering the actual bidding, you possibly either overlooked South’s initial 2 spade advancer jump over his partner’s simple one diamond overcall or you possibly, at least slightly miss judged, the bidding habits of the
experienced above average player.

In addition to distribution (suit lengths to which what you say makes sense), but the level of bidding which quickly arrived does not, IMO, measure up. East can easily have 5 or even possibly 6 hearts but only have 0-4 hcps and not venture an initial response other than pass, and West could also have at least 6 clubs (especially when not possessing the jack), but only a bare opening and not rebid 3 clubs (in this case, not 2).

Of course, and no doubt, West is a strong favorite to hold the ace of hearts, but even that is not 100%.

However, I am not discounting your line of play as anything but reasonable, only your contention, that your assumptions are as valid, as they seem to you.

Finally, I, would always like you, as my lawyer in court, to plead my case, whatever the actual facts happen to be. And, even better news, your constant bouts with TOCM have not, in any measurable way, destroyed or even slightly damaged your confidence, nor your compelling teaching personality.