Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.

George P. Box

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

*Game forcing with spade support


When South opens one spade, North’s call of two no-trump is an unlimited game-forcing trump raise. South’s jump to game denies both shortage and extra values, and North must pass since he has no undisclosed extras.

When dummy comes down, South sees that the contract may be in jeopardy if the diamond ace is offside. What is the right line after drawing trumps? South would lose out if he led diamonds first from the dummy. Specifically, if South put up the diamond king, West would take the ace and later capture the diamond jack with the queen. That would end any chance of winning a diamond trick.

The correct play is to lead a diamond toward dummy’s jack at trick three. This maneuver will force West to put up the queen if he has it. Later on, the jack can be used to knock out the ace. That means a heart can subsequently be discarded on the diamond king.

If East has the diamond queen, dummy’s jack will lose to it, but declarer will still be able to enter dummy with a heart and lead toward his diamond king. If East has the diamond ace, the king will provide the critical discard.

This play would not work if South needed the first or second trick in diamonds (or if West had led a heart at trick one). Since that is not the case, South increases his odds by leading first toward dummy’s jack and falling back on leading to the king, turning a 50 percent line into 75 percent.

In situations of this sort, there is some risk in reopening with a take-out double. But you cannot afford to pass and sell out, only to find your side has missed a game or a sizeable penalty. If your RHO were strong, he probably would have acted, so you must play the percentages and double now.


♠ K Q 8 4
 K 7 2
 J 5
♣ A 8 5 4
South West North East
  3 Pass 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


Bruce karlsonAugust 14th, 2018 at 11:02 am

South, a new player, has been reading, lately about ducking aces and end plays. Ergo, he takes the second club, clears trump in three rounds and takes his winning hearts. He then leads a heart from dummy. East is nappping and follows with the ten realizing too late that he has gone from crocodile to goat.

Iain ClimieAugust 14th, 2018 at 11:04 am

Hi Bobby,

Why is that play so counter-intuitive relative to (say) Kx opposite Jxx in a side suit when small to the King then back towards the Jack is really not that different. I recall a hand attributed to Giorgio Belladona (South) at a European championships where he was in 4S needing either the trump finesse, a heart trick or a heart ruff. His spades were AQ109xxx opposite Jx while dummy’s hearts were K9 opposite Jxx in hand. He took a winner in dummy at T1 and led the H9 off table. if East played the Q (or even Ace) no problem, if west won with the 10 he could lead one spade from SKxx but not another. The only way I think things could fail would be if West held SKx and finds the low spade switch (!) and HQ10x(x) when East takes the second spade and leads another one through, then South finesses. If they find that, it ‘s not declarer’s day.



jim2August 14th, 2018 at 12:38 pm

A minor Q. The text:

The correct play is to lead a diamond toward dummy’s jack at trick three.

If this is after drawing trump, was it supposed to be trick FOUR?

Or, did declarer win the opening AC lead and cross to hand to lead a diamond BEFORE drawing trump?

bobbywolffAugust 14th, 2018 at 2:16 pm

Hi Bruce,

Goats have pride also, so no self respecting bridge playing goat, while playing East, would duck the 3rd heart led from dummy.

However it has been ruled that trying to get someone’s goat is still ethical, but, and no doubt, trying to play it that way, is a croc.

bobbywolffAugust 14th, 2018 at 2:56 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, among the three great Italian players, Belladonna, (Forquet and Garozzo were the others) Georgio being deceased since the late 1980s, was likely among the most charismatic and no doubt, top players of all time (though there are some true but very dark secrets about them) making him capable of the most imaginative and effective results.

Yes, if he and Benito (while partners) were defending, either would be capable of ducking the heart queen while defending from East when declarer may let the nine ride, and/or from West, switch to a low spade from Kx into the AQ when necessary securing the king when next declarer took the finesse.

IMO, a very few other world wide players, at least against the truly great ones I have played against, could match their brilliance, but after the top off-the-charts top three, the quality of the other Italian Blue Team players markedly fell off to the level of simply good club players.

What the future will record them as being, is still up for grabs, but whatever it is, it was indeed a remarkably sad period in World bridge which will never be forgotten by both their many admirers and, of course, those who knew the truth, but still understood just how great they honestly could play the game if they had chosen that route.

A V Ramana RaoAugust 14th, 2018 at 3:06 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
With reference to Mr. Karlson’s comment: even if east is in a slumber and west wins the third heart trick, club provides a safe exit card for west or am I missing something? ( And trump can be cleared in two rounds. Even if south plays three rounds of trumps, west can pitch six of diamonds)

bobbywolffAugust 14th, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Hi Jim2,

While, since this is not a recorded played hand, it is merely the product of our imagination; however I, as declarer would have won the ace of clubs, led a trump to my hand and then led a low diamond toward dummy at trick 3. Sure I could have safely led two trumps first, but it is often advisable to vary tactics so that worthy opponents are never sure about trump length and whatever else which could be thought to be kept secret, just in order to further make the defense’s effort not quite so carefree.

No big deal, but it seems an earlier diamond play does not unnecessarily risk any predictable distribution although in a lifetime of bridge it could happen. IOW, creating some doubt while playing against peers sometimes reaps more than it risks.

However, I cannot in good conscience know or remember exactly why a second trump was not led, making the diamond play from hand at trick four instead of three.

Thanks to you for having such as eagle eye, reminding me that there are players and readers out there who really care, card for card, how the play goes.

No, I have no intention to suggest that now, you should go jump in the lake.

bobbywolffAugust 14th, 2018 at 3:38 pm


Perhaps the great Shakespeare should have instead written, “The Plays the thing in which we’ll get the HUMOR (instead of the conscience) of the King”.

Quit picking on Bruce. What is one person’s joke is another person’s concern.

Slapstick and Keystone Cops have to live, too!

jim2August 14th, 2018 at 4:27 pm

Understand that the text just earlier had said:

What is the right line after drawing trumps?

And I really did not care, but wondered if there were omitted text, or something.

bobbywolffAugust 14th, 2018 at 4:49 pm

Hi Jim2,

By drawing trumps, I, of course, meant the 4 on the first trick. And adding to that, I merely said after drawing trumps, but didn’t say I was going to do it.

I well know, by saying that, I add a wee bit to my lack of credibility, but I’m attempting to pattern myself after all the political rhetoric we all hear, every hour, every day.

And not only that I want our whole bridge menagerie to understand that it is OK to make mistakes, as long as you bring home the bacon.

Which, in turn, reminds me to write another venture involving the three pigs.

Finally, yesterday, August 13th was Judy’s and my 170th BD. Yes, I, while not being on my way to break Methuselah’s 969 years of life, added our almost exact, to the day, length of life and yesterday was the day we reached 170.

More bridge partnerships should attempt to break that total, but alas it is obviously difficult to reach it, much less live up to old
Methus’ endurance probably simply because not all finesses are onside.

No omitted text, only an attempt at sick humor.

Bruce karlsonAugust 14th, 2018 at 5:23 pm

AV… clearing trumps in three rounds was a joke indicating our declarer had trouble counting. Also, he ducked the first club as stated but still can get off lead with,a club so it was I who missed something. Thnx..

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