Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 6th, 2018

Now for good luck, cast an old shoe after me.

John Heywood

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


When West leads the spade king against four hearts, South can see the danger of losing two spades and two clubs. There are only nine top winners, but diamonds offer an additional source of tricks.

South wins the spade ace at trick one and draws trumps, pitching spades from dummy. Then he leads his diamond queen to dummy’s ace and returns the diamond jack for a ruffing finesse. Beware! If South trumps in when East plays the king, West may be able to get in and run spades, since declarer will be out of trumps. Instead, South pitches a spade and will now make it home if either spades are 6-1 or East has the club ace.

If West had held the diamond king, South would have run the diamond jack, pitching a spade, and would have lost the trick to him. However, the contract would still have had play at that point. West could have taken the diamond king but would retain only one additional spade to cash. Declarer would still come home when the club ace was offside, since East could not prevent him from reaching dummy eventually to cash out the diamonds.

As the cards lie, the diamond king is in a favorable position, and when East is allowed to win the trick with that card, he can play a spade. West can take one trick there, but declarer will eventually force an entry in clubs to dummy’s winners.

Note: Had declarer taken a straightforward losing diamond finesse, he would go down when the club ace was onside, or when spades were 5-2. West would have an entry to cash out enough spade winners to set the game.

With a choice of suits to lead on a blind auction, it’s common to lead from a five-card holding or from a sequence of honors. When you don’t have that choice and are confronted by two four-card majors, try not to give up a trick if you can. That makes a spade lead far more attractive than a heart; I’d lead the seven, not the three (second from four small, top from three small), but either card is acceptable.


♠ 9 7 4 3
 A Q 9 4
 J 4
♣ Q 10 5
South West North East
    Pass 1 NT
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


Bob LiptonAugust 20th, 2018 at 4:49 pm

While the line of play works as the cards sit, it assumes that both the club ace and diamond king are in east’s hand. Given that a west opened neither 1 Spade nor 2 Spades, East can be placed with at least one of the club Ace or diamond King and two spades. There I would duck the first spade, intending to play the S6 from my hand. If west continues spades, I would win the second, draw trump, and play the diamond Ace, followed by the Jack, throwing my last Spade. Should west shift to the diamonds, I should take the ruffing finesse immediately, and should he shift to a club, I would play a high Club. Each of these lines would leave me a chance for establishing the diamonds will retaining an entry to the dummy.


David WarheitAugust 20th, 2018 at 5:32 pm

Bob: You say that the line of play works assuming both CA & DK lie E. No. Bobby carefully discussed what happens when W has DK and E CA; the line works. Further, your line of ducking the first S runs the risk that W shifts to a C, finding E with 4 clubs to the A and DK.

Additional point, S should thank W for his terrible overcall. It made analyzing the hand so much easier.

jim2August 20th, 2018 at 6:02 pm

There is also some risk that West is 6-4 in the majors and has a partnership agreement not to open a weak-two with that shape.

(I have some partners who specify just that.)

bobbywolffAugust 20th, 2018 at 6:08 pm

Hi Bob & David,

Thanks to both of you for timely posts which bedeviled our team when this column was conceived.

Often, because of limited space, we cannot fully
discuss alternate lines and their result, without being enabled to discuss, in paragraphs 3-5, important points in what declarer had faced.

By first Bob pointing out what others may have thought, but then David coming to the rescue for both sides, should be very fulfilling to all of us, especially the two of you, who got integrally involved with point and counterpoint. BTW, David has proven to be a spectacular sentry for bridge relevance.

As we all know, winning bridge can be very testy, making lack of describing space, aggravating at the least. Of course, not all concerned players may be on this site, but chalk this one up to being favorable for all the worthwhile ones, all of you who may have doubts from time to time, and shamefully other columns on our part, when we failed, for both sides to have a consolation attempt to further discuss and allow our special game to shine brightly through thick and thin.

Bob LiptonAugust 20th, 2018 at 6:13 pm

Jim, your hypothetical disappears as trump are drawn.

David’s hypothetical is valid, but it call for a very difficult shift.

And yes, west’s over all is pretty bad.


bobbywolffAugust 20th, 2018 at 6:28 pm

Hi Jim2,

Of course various partnership agreements on when to or when not to, use certain conventions, or should be, in every conscientious declarer’s mind before acting.

However, sometimes the columnist either overlooks or intentionally omits mentioning such flaws for whatever reason he may think appropriate. However Jim2’s discipline allowed him to call attention to what could be at one time or another the crucial straw which determined what declarer did.

Sometimes, no small point, that! Again “little by little we can do great things” especially when all the competent cooks get together to make the broth.

bobbywolffAugust 20th, 2018 at 6:44 pm

Hi Bob,

Yes, no doubt West’s 1 spade overcall (even after passing, but while vulnerable) is very weak, but, before North then bids 1NT, gets raised to 3 by South and East now wins the pleasure of leading, how should West then feel about not bidding.

Also, when holding a suit of that nature, especially while holding the 10, it becomes IMO
very unlikely that the opponents can find a penalty double at the one level, convincing me to not commit what I think to be a losing effort of omission not to be discounted in the postmortem, especially when the ace of spades is held doubleton (and partner has three) by either North or South.

Only experience, not technical knowledge nor mathematical tables, lead me in that direction, making myself also vulnerable to disagreement.

jim2August 21st, 2018 at 12:32 am

Bob –

The risk of West being 6-4 is that the AS gets ruffed at Trick Two.

Peter Ho PengAugust 21st, 2018 at 2:54 am

Mr. Wolff

Unrelated to the subject of today, however, this was in my memory and I could not rest.

Years ago I found an article about Bergen raises, in which you and Mike Lawrence gave strong opinions on that.

I forgot where it was. Can you perhaps point out to me?

Perhaps to my e-mail?


bobbywolffAugust 21st, 2018 at 8:51 am


Sorry, but I am not a record keeper, nor do I
know where to find past comments.

However my position on Bergen raises continues to be relatively negative, since, being a weak trump raise, there are excellent chances the opponents will be competitive in the auction and when they are, the Bergen bidder, unlucky for him, if he winds up defensing, has given a blueprint on how to play the hand, and before that for those same partnerships to be much better placed to make bidding decisions, for example if one of the opponents to the Bergen raiser has three little in the opening bidder’s suit and the Bergen responder has shown four or more trumps, that defensive hand will know that partner cannot have more than a singleton, making his three little the start of perhaps a perfect fit.

Add to that, when a Bergen raiser bids 3 clubs or 3 diamonds, the immediate defender is so well placed to make lead directing bids by either doubling or,, just as effective, not doubling with still using a cue bid as an obvious take out.

IOW, the advantage gained by exchanging a little more specific information by the partner of the opening bidder is, IMO, totally overridden by giving even more counter information which will be always used by the wary and well tuned opponents.

However, to each his own, and Bergen raises are still, AFAIK, a popular convention.

EricAugust 24th, 2018 at 10:45 am

That could take several years of walking with an irregular gait prior to joint accident happens.