Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: None

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


South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass
3 Pass 4 All Pass

Opening Lead:8

“The wretched have no friends.”

— John Dryden

West led the heart eight against four spades, and East took his ace, South false-carding with the jack. East correctly surmised that his partner would not have led from a doubleton heart, but refrained from the knee-jerk reaction of giving his partner an immediate ruff. That would be two tricks for the defense, but there could not be two further tricks to come.


The defense also needed two fast diamond tricks, so the right card to play at trick two had to be a diamond. East saw that everything would be fine if he switched to a low diamond and South played the king; but what if South decided to duck? He might well decide that West had the diamond ace because East would surely have given his partner an immediate ruff if he had an ace as a re-entry. Then there would no longer be an entry to East for the heart ruff.


East decided that it must be better to shift to a high diamond to remain on lead if South were to duck. He then avoided the second trap: that of leading the diamond queen. Had he done so, West might have led three rounds of the suit, trying to give his partner an overruff in that suit.


Accordingly, East carefully played the diamond 10, covered by the king and ace. He then overtook his partner’s jack to give West his heart ruff. “What took you so long?” was all the thanks he got.

ANSWER: This is an impossible problem. If you bid no-trump, partner will have short diamonds. If you rebid hearts, partner will have a void. If you jump-raise clubs, partner will have only three trumps. All things considered, it looks best to force to game with a call of two diamonds, the fourth suit. You may get a little too high, but you will at least find the best strain.


South Holds:

9 8 2
K Q 10 9 4
8 5
A Q 8


South West North East
    1 Pass
1 Pass 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 2009. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


bruce karlsonApril 8th, 2010 at 11:49 am

Would you play it differently in MP or IMP scoring?

It is clear from the bidding that partner has “something”, almost certainly the ace or king, in Diamonds. In MP scoring I would probably be too cautious to switch, as declarer can run the table for a probable top holding the Diamond ace. That consideration, however, goes away in IMP scoring or if we are in desperate need of a top board. Am I missing something??

Bobby WolffApril 8th, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Hi Bruce,

No Bruce, you are not! You see the whole thing as clear as it is possible. At IMP’s it is clear to make the play the East in the column hand did. At matchpoints, it is a clear guess. If partner has the Ace of diamonds he will now cash it and we will hold declarer to 10 tricks. It is probably the percentage play at MP’s to do as you thought you would do and return a heart. Also if declarer had the KJ of diamonds we need to get the ruff instead since declarer is almost certain to finesse the Jack not the King. The lead of the heart and your probable pause would certainly indicate a singleton heart, almost surely on the bidding and lead anyway.

There is no doubt that Matchpoints is, and has always been, a bastardized form of the great game of bridge. Great fun, great competition, great excitement and filled with luck. Holding the queen of spades is just more evidence that South is more likely to hold the ace of diamonds. Counting and being a detective, the primary tools of the good bridge player.

As a final, but morbid thought, this kind of hand is just the reason why, at the high-level for the very few partnerships who cheat worldwide, why they should be forever banned from the game when caught, NEVER TO RETURN!!!!!