Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

Lars Porsena of Clusium
By the Nine Gods he swore
That the great house of Tarquin
Should suffer wrong no more.

Lord Macaulay

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



Our themed deals this week all feature tackling suits where we are missing both the queen and the jack. Often the subsidiary cards influence our line of attack, and today’s deal is no exception.

Bringing home three no-trump after the lead of an interior club won’t be easy; we need to overcome not one but two hurdles. The first essential move is to duck the initial club lead. There is no shift we are particularly afraid of, but if clubs are 5-2 (as they are here), we may find we need to cut the defenders’ communications with a duck on the first round.

Winning the club continuation in hand, we then need to consider which major suit to go after, and the decision is pretty close. In favor of playing on hearts is the presence of better intermediates. But (and it is a big but) we need to exploit those intermediates to the fullest by leading to the heart nine. This succeeds not only against any 3-3 break, but also whenever West has both heart honors, and critically when he has a doubleton heart honor.

Today, east will win his heart honor, but has no third club to lead. The best he can do is shift to a high diamond spot, to the 10 and ace. In due course, we can unblock hearts, come back to hand in spades, and run the hearts. That brings us to four hearts, one diamond and two tricks in each of the black suits, nine in all.

Notice that playing the king of hearts, then the nine, will see us lose two heart tricks.

Your partner is virtually certain to have four spades and longer clubs. (With a balanced hand, he would bid one no-trump; with three diamonds, he would surely double one heart for takeout.) So don’t panic: Revert to two clubs, giving partner preference back to his first suit.


♠ Q 7
 J 8 6 4
 J 7 6 3 2
♣ J 8
South West North East
    1 ♣ Dbl.
Pass 1 1 ♠ 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJune 5th, 2019 at 1:54 pm

Hi Bobby,

Haven’t we got a 2nd diamond trick here after the D10 and Ace, so losing 1H, 1D and 1C only and getting 10 tricks? Yes it is only an IMP (except at pairs or BAM, or very occasionally it makes a difference at rubber) but I’ll still take it!

Good hand, though, highlighting the need not to waste middle cards by playing HK then 9.



bobbywolffJune 5th, 2019 at 4:13 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, indeed, you are right about making 10 tricks, if, as specifically mentioned, East switched to an intermediate diamond and South inserted the 10.

Add that to the several forms of tournament bridge (pairs and B-A-M),, to which a mere overtrick often makes the difference between winning and losing, and it is not only satisfying but also necessary to show that type of greed, but terribly careless not to.

Of course, the next thought should turn to East who likely should have returned a major suit, once he won the jack of hearts, in order not to give declarer the soft trick he gleaned by his leading the diamond.

Thanks for calling attention to another part of our great game, the advantage given away by either side voluntarily electing to play a suit 1st and 3rd rather than the much more favored position of 2nd and 4th.

Yes, that advantage (and or disadvantage) occurs constantly in all bridge hands played, but some suits are immune to that result (because of the specific cards held) but many others are not.

Followed of course, to the obvious exceptions and therefore necessities of play and defense
and one is then just beginning to understand the complexities (mostly numerical) which need to be addressed by any hopeful who wants to mount, what often turns out to be, a very pleasant, though thoughtful challenge, to himself.

Finally, I may have found a way to keep from apologizing for my stupid gaffe.

Iain ClimieJune 5th, 2019 at 5:19 pm

Hi Bobby,

No apology needed at all, especially given some of my gaffes over the years. Also, a tiny slip in the text is far less of a concern than one at the bridge table, and I suspect you make very few of these indeed. Even if you’d only claimed 9 tricks, I’m sure partner would have stopped any BAM or pairs slip-up; dummy still has to be awake, as well as fetching coffee or something stronger – although I’ve got dull in my old age and don’t drink alcohol during sessions, even friendly ones.

Strangely, when I played chess, several devastating and successful sacrificial attacks were born from in-game beer consumption, a shocking admission.



bobbywolffJune 6th, 2019 at 5:15 am

Hi Iain,

To compare a quote from General Patton, a tough, smart, and battle worn USA veteran, from World War II, to which I have previously referred which went something like “In battle, the idea is to not give up one’s life for his country, but instead to allow the enemy to give up their lives for their country”.

In bridge it becomes wise to allow one’s opponents to drink alcohol while playing, but for our heroes to abstain.

A different quote, but often the same principle.

Thanks for your unconditional understanding.