Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, September 7th, 2018

Knowledge may give weight, but accomplishments give luster, and many more people see than weigh.

Lord Chesterton

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

*Texas for spades


After North’s Texas transfer response followed by Roman Key-card Blackwood, West knew to go passive on opening lead, so he put a trump on the table. Declarer counted 11 top tricks and saw that if trumps broke, he could arrange an elimination play. He would draw trumps, cash the hearts and play a diamond to the queen; if that lost, West would be endplayed.

South won the lead and drew a second round, realizing his hypothetical elimination play would now not work. So he drew the last trump and was about to go after diamonds when he realized that he might as well cash his hearts first. He took the three top hearts, then led a diamond to the queen.

West won his king but had no heart to lead. Since declarer was marked with the club queen, he could do no better than exit with the diamond jack, hoping his partner would produce the 10. But declarer could win his ace and throw a club on his good diamond 10: He ended up with six trumps, three hearts, two diamonds and a club to make his contract.

Notice that if declarer had failed to cash the hearts, the contract would have failed, since West would then have had a safe exit in hearts. As the play actually went, if West had had the fourth heart to lead after winning his diamond trick, declarer would ruff, then play the diamond ace and ruff a diamond. If the diamond jack had not fallen, he would have taken the club finesse as his last chance.

You don’t want to pass and hear partner run to one spade, which he might do with, for example, a 4-3-3-3 shape; so it seems right to bid either one diamond or one heart. I would start by bidding one diamond, and if the opponents doubled enthusiastically, I’d run to one heart.


♠ 3
 9 5 4 3
 7 5 4 2
♣ 10 9 4 2
South West North East
  1 ♣ Dbl. Rdbl.

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


David WarheitSeptember 21st, 2018 at 9:18 am

If S had failed to cash the hearts, the contract would not have failed. S would have played exactly as you described him doing if W had had a fourth heart. The Dk would have dropped, thus creating his 12th trick. Well, OK, S COULD HAVE played that way, but if he wasn’t smart enough to run the hearts before taking the D finesse, maybe he wouldn’t have been smart enough to play as needed.

Bobby WolffSeptember 21st, 2018 at 9:47 am

Hi David,

Yes, although all three finesses (2 in diamonds and 1 in clubs all failed) South succeeded by first stripping the hand (hoping for 2-2 trumps, but having bad luck there too with 3-1). However West then got end played after winnng his diamond king (finessing the jack first also works for making, but by finessing the queen, a better play since declarer may more likely produce an overtrick).

Yes a small slam in spades is a very good contract, but even so, it takes careful play to succeed, rather than carelessly not eliminate the hearts after the 3-1 trump break.

Thanks David for pointing out that although declarer played the hand well, he would still have made the hand, since before he committed to the club finesse, he should attempt to ruff out the jack of diamonds in either hand before he took his last chance
with the club finesse.

If possible, always look for ways to combine as many winning declarer lines as possible before choosing the percentage play.

A V Ramana RaoSeptember 21st, 2018 at 12:03 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff & David
Perhaps cashing hearts before playing diamonds as described in the column line is a superior line as south always makes the contract whenever west holds three or less hearts irrespective of the location of diamond J and club K. And in case west holds four or more hearts, south hopes that the diamond J can be brought down with a ruff ( And there are days when doubleton Jacks are hovering around in which case south ill not have any problem). In case the diamond J does not appear , cross the fingers , look at the ceiling and take club finesse . However in the actual hand as per the column line, it does not matter

Bobby WolffSeptember 22nd, 2018 at 2:11 pm


Thanks for your comment, but South will not make his contract when West has fewer than three hearts but then has, as he actually does in the column hand, all the minor suit power.

He will ruff the 3rd heart and then lead a club into the jaws of declarer’s AQ, but wait patiently for the setting diamond trick. And, depending on what he holds in the minors, he might instead be able to lead diamonds rather than clubs with success, while holding a different combination in the minors.

David is correct, and at least for the sake of theory, the declarer should always (or almost) never expect the defense to not defend correctly as part of his overall plan.

At least from a bridge purist viewpoint.

However I, for one, do appreciate your consideration and then your expressed opinion, since it will often coincide with other reader’s viewpoints, which in turn, helps bring the exact play into direct focus.

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