Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 30th, 2018

Let us be happy and live within our means, even if we have to borrow the money to do it with.

Artemus Ward

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

*Forcing spade raise


The response of two no-trump to one of a major can sensibly be played as game forcing with a fit. Opener shows his shortage if any, jumps with a good second suit, or signs off in four of a major with a minimum and no shortage.

After you jump to four spades at your second turn, you must plan the play on the lead of the heart queen. A good plan is to take two club finesses, but that will fail today.

A better idea is to win the first heart in hand, then draw trumps ending in hand and continue with a low diamond. If West follows with a low card, you will insert the 10. Here, East will win the queen and return a heart. You will win the heart king and ruff a heart. The sure trick line now is to play the ace and another diamond. West can win, but can then do no better than exit with a club. You play low from dummy, and East wins the trick and is endplayed either to lead clubs or give you a ruff-sluff.

What happens if West plays the diamond jack at trick four? You should take the trick with the diamond ace, then cash the heart king and ruff dummy’s last heart. You next lead another low diamond from hand, and the defense will be done for. West can rise with the king and play a club, which you will duck in dummy. After East wins that trick, he can do no better than cash the diamond queen, but at that point he must concede the rest.

The cue-bid is typically looking for a spade stopper for no-trump. Had the next hand not doubled, you might have bid three clubs rather than three diamonds. (Your partner cannot have clubs and diamonds, or he would have reversed into two diamonds.) After the double, it feels right to pass and give partner a chance to describe his hand.


♠ 7 2
 Q J 10 9
 K J 9 3
♣ 7 6 5
South West North East
    1 ♣ Pass
1 1 ♠ 2 ♠ Dbl.

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


jim2April 13th, 2018 at 11:10 am

A couple minor points:

1) The text has trumps drawn but hearts NOT eliminated before the diamond play. If trump had been 3-1, this would have been vital. That is, declarer would had no way to return to hand to lead the second diamond. Perhaps playing two rounds, ending in hand and prepared to leave the last one outstanding is what declarer was prepared to do.

2) I am not sure it matters which diamond round gets ducked or finessed. That is, if declarer played small from the board on the first lead, it appears the play transposes.

bobbywolffApril 13th, 2018 at 12:09 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks for bringing up the subject, if for no other reason then to encourage aspiring bridge experts to pay greater attention to detail.

You, of course, have called attention to the column not eliminating hearts before the first diamond play by declarer toward dummy, even after the 2-2 trump division was discovered.

As you deftly pointed out, that avenue back to hand is necessary if trumps turned out to be 3-1, but not so if 2-2. However, nothing, at least as I can see, will be changed to play the same way when spades break evenly and, of course for column purposes when column length becomes critical, shortcuts (as long as it doesn’t effect the validity), become necessary.

However, for learning purposes, it is even better for it to happen exactly this way, with your post, so that the interested reader can see for himself that it is no never mind and thus feel the whole so-called expert elimination, materialize.

Of course if West had the KQJ of diamonds and East both club honors, the defense would prevail, but then West would likely lead the king of diamonds and after a duck in dummy would have to then switch to clubs at trick 2 for success.

Finally, as far as learning and teaching high level bridge, it seems prudent, and you are a great example, of instead of just taking plays for granted, instead prefer to graphically examine the details, in order to not leave anything to chance.

If watching assumed good players play this hand, or one similar, and then see them have to take 2 club finesses by miss managing the play, the odds are still 3 to 1 that they will be successful. That simple fact is the sad part of our game, and, no doubt, serves to prevent below pay grade players, to not, more rapidly improve.

Par contests anyone? They used to flourish, but have basically, to my view, gone the way of the dinosaur, very sad for the future of the game. Just another reason why kids would do well to experience the beautiful melody of bridge, when being taught while very young.

Iain ClimieApril 13th, 2018 at 12:59 pm

Hi Bobby, Jim2

Yet another case where the perfect lead (here a club with the sight of all 52 cards) renders declarer helpless as the cards lie; you’re fond of quoting the 1930s author who made this point about how much of an edge it would provide. We should jokingly sympathise with poor East, having such an unimaginative partner on this occasion.

I take your point on par contests, though – fascinating to watch top class players in a specific situation without the distractions of modern obstructive bidding.



bobbywolffApril 13th, 2018 at 3:59 pm

Hi Iain,

Your views would (should) make a great contribution to the future promotion of the game we, on this site (and almost all who have embraced it), all love and for good reason, not only an inspirational challenge, but a magic combination of simple, arithmetic, logic, Sherlock Holmes detective work, applied psychology involving human thought and action, endurance under pressure, partnership harmony (keeping partner happy and on the right wave length), communications through legal code, and (underrated) the right (or almost) amount of pure luck involved, which in the long run, will influence and determine percentage results, but on any one hand or hands may cause lesser determined personalities, like poor lemmings, to not be up to the task, and run or fly off cliffs.

If the above is true, or (almost), how could any self-respecting mentor, teacher, general educator or natural leader tolerate despicable cheating, nor for that matter not attempt moving heaven and earth to make sure nothing negative ever happens to the future our game represents and to which it so richly deserves.