Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, March 5th, 2018

Protection is not a principle, but an expedient.

Benjamin Disraeli

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


One of the secrets of declaring at bridge is to identify which of your opponents is the danger hand, and to take steps where possible to keep that player off lead. An example is today’s deal, where the contract of four hearts is touch-and-go. The contract should always succeed if the spade finesse works, but what if it does not?

If West makes the normal opening lead of the club queen, declarer should let the queen hold. Since he has to lose a club and probably a diamond, he must direct his attentions toward not losing more than one spade.

There is a chance of developing dummy’s long diamond, but it must be by a duck into the non-danger hand, West. Meanwhile, declarer must keep East off lead, since a spade lead through South would be fatal if West has the ace. To cover all the bases, declarer wins the second club and draws trumps in two rounds. Then he eliminates the clubs and leads the diamond king, following up with a diamond to the 10.

This line succeeds when West had one diamond honor in either a two- or three-card suit. The reason is that if West has no diamonds left to lead, he must play a black suit and allow declarer to hold his spade losers to one. If West started with three diamonds, declarer will obtain his discard in due course. Likewise, if West began with four diamonds and can exit with a diamond, declarer will cross to dummy’s trump and fall back on the spade finesse.

You seem to have four tricks in your own hand, and if your partner has an ace, you rate to defeat this contract easily enough. So you need to assume he doesn’t, and still find a way to set the hand. To my mind, the choice is between a passive spade or a top club; the chance of finding a diamond ruff here is extremely low. I would lead a trump, rather than a club, but it is close.


♠ 8 3
 K J 2
 A K 4
♣ K Q 9 3 2
South West North East
1 NT Pass 2 2 ♠
3 3 ♠ All 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMarch 19th, 2018 at 4:30 pm

Hi Bobby,

It is only a small extra chance but the same line works against DQJ, DJ9 or DQ9 with East too. It all adds up.



bobbywolffMarch 19th, 2018 at 5:40 pm

Hi Iain,

Thanks for pointing that out, especially for all our extremely numerate readers.

bobbywolffMarch 20th, 2018 at 7:09 am

Hi again Iain,

The super interesting combination (and from a defensive viewpoint) is when West holds 9x in diamonds and thus East QJxx. Once declarer, quite correctly leads the king from dummy, should West falsecard the nine and if he does might East, to continue the ruse, duck the diamond coming back from the dummy, since declarer would normally go for the Q9 combination, but by doing so would come up one trick short. West’s play of the nine might prevent East from splitting his honors since West and South’s top spade might be transposed with the king with West and the ace with South.

So if West knew that South only had an unsupported king of spades he should not falsecard the nine, forcing his partner to split his honors, which will automatically defeat 3N since East gets the lead to, of course switch to the “killing” spade queen.

Many non-bridge players could never imagine how beautiful our game really is, and even if they did, far too many potential players would find it very difficult to abstractly keep up with all the cards, enabling both sides to make fewer mistakes.

No wonder, there has never been a genius type bridge protege born and developed at a very early age, like Mozart was in music. My guess is that there never will be, since only experience, not innate knowledge, can acquaint a child master in bridge to all that he or she needs to learn.

To achieve superiority one has to have the mind qualities necessary, be blessed with the right determined teacher (almost impossible), devote the enormous time required, and again, acquire the highest level experience along the way. QUITE A PARLAY AGAINST IT EVER HAPPENING.