Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dealer: East

Vul: All

A 7 6
A J 5 3
J 10 9 5 4
West East
9 4 K Q J 10 8 3
K 9 3 2
Q 7 6 10 9 8 2
A K 6 2 8 7 3
5 2
A Q 10 8 7 6 5 4
K 4


South West North East
4 All Pass    

Opening Lead:K

“Lookers-on see most of the game.”

— English proverb

One of my readers, Jim Beall, sent me a deal that had appeared in print in another bridge column. He added a perceptive comment. See if you can match his analysis.


In a Vanderbilt deal, Ron Smith played four hearts, as did his counterpart, both of whom overcalled East’s two-spade bid. Both received a top club lead and spade shift.


The unsuccessful declarer won the spade ace and led the heart jack, which ran to West when East showed out. West continued spades and got a second heart trick via a trump promotion on the third round of spades — down one.


By contrast Smith foresaw what might happen if the opposing hearts were divided 4-0 and immediately played the diamond king and ace, then advanced the diamond jack, pitching his spade, to achieve a Scissors Coup before touching trumps. Now the defenders had no communications for the trump promotion.


As Beall pointed out, as long as declarer believes East began with six spades, I think the unsuccessful declarer should have been able to avoid losing a swing. To avoid the trump promotion, once trumps are known to split 4-0, South must not let the heart jack run to West. Instead, declarer overtakes the heart jack with his ace, takes the diamond king, finesses in diamonds, pitches his losing spade on the diamond ace, and concedes two trump tricks. He risks going down two, but it is his only chance. Today his luck is in!

ANSWER: It would be possible to start by cue-bidding two hearts to show a limit raise or better. (Remember, a jump to three clubs is WEAK, neither a limit raise nor a forcing raise.) Better, though, is a jump cuebid to three hearts, showing a game-forcing hand in clubs and a singleton heart — a splinter bid. That lets partner decide on which game to play in, with a good idea about your primary support and heart shortage.


South Holds:

A 7 6
A J 5 3
J 10 9 5 4


South West North East
    1 1


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 2009. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitMarch 14th, 2010 at 7:22 am

How about a line of play that is virtually 100%? Just duck the first spade.

Amnon HarelMarch 14th, 2010 at 11:05 am

Anything wrong with winning the A of spades and leading a high club from dummy, pitching the 2nd spade? The sort of problem that’s so much easier to solve away from the table 🙂

Bobby WolffMarch 14th, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Hi David and Amnon,

Either of your suggested lines are very likely to be successful. Ducking the spade can lose, if, for whatever reason, East decided to open 2 spades (instead of 3) with a 7 card suit. Consequently perhaps winning the spade and passing the jack of clubs (throwing the spade loser) to West is safest, but then upon a spade continuation, a diamond to the dummy and then passing the Jack of hearts (necessary if they are all in one hand) might subject the contract to defeat if West is able to win the king of hearts and then lead a 2d diamond which possibly could be ruffed by East. Perhaps, upon arriving in dummy with the diamond ace, declarer could play the high club, discarding the king of diamonds. But then….. Yahta! Yahta! Yahta!

Summing up, bridge was not meant to be this tedious and since all of the above lines will work a huge percentage of time, let us learn to use our reasoning power with something more meaningful, otherwise our competitive instincts to be correct will not serve us well.

Thanks, as always, for your timely comments.

jim2March 15th, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Also, the diamond finesse works whenever the Scissors Coup would have.

Paul BetheMarch 15th, 2010 at 6:21 pm


“Also, the diamond finesse works whenever the Scissors Coup would have.”

Not so. Unlike the finesse, the Scissors Coup works regardless of who holds the Queen.

If East had played the Queen of Diamonds against Ron, he would have discarded a spade anyway.

Since he had not touched trumps, he could use the HJ to drive the HK and lose only one trump. (and 1 diamond and 1 club).

However, if the diamond finesse loses, East wins, and can play 2 spades, and you are now down 2.

jim2March 15th, 2010 at 7:00 pm

If the diamond queen were swapped for any one of west’s, so as to allow east to cover the jack, would not the lead of a fourth diamond by east reinstate the trump promotion?

Paul BetheMarch 15th, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Ah, good point.

It would seem that the best suggestion was then to scissor via the club Jack, which feels guaranteed to lose to LHO.