Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 18, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: All

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


South West North East
2 Pass 2 NT Pass
3 Pass 4♣* Pass
4* Pass 5* Pass
6 All Pass    

Opening Lead: 4

“There is no escape by the river,

There is no flight left by the fen;

We are compassed about by the shiver

Of the night of their marching men.”

— Richard Hovey

Consider the spade suit in today’s deal. How can declarer avoid losing two tricks in that suit, unless the king and queen are doubleton?


When South ends as declarer in six hearts, West leads a low spade, and declarer’s hopes are raised. If the lead is away from the 10, declarer will be in excellent shape. South tries a small card from dummy, hoping to force an honor. However, when East contributes the 10, South’s best chance appears to have gone. Can you see how he might recover?


For South to avoid two spade losers, four rounds of diamonds need to stand up so that two spades can be discarded from dummy and a spade ruffed in the North hand.


The problem is that if declarer wins the spade lead and plays on diamonds before drawing two rounds of trump, then East will be able to ruff in. If South draws two rounds of trump before playing four rounds of diamonds, then gives up a spade, West can hop up with his queen and lead a third trump to kill the ruff.


However, the counter is relatively straightforward — simply duck the opening spade lead. East will continue spades, but now you win your ace and, without needing to relinquish the lead again, cash two trumps, then cross your fingers and play four rounds of diamonds to pitch dummy’s spades. Your luck is in today. You can now take your spade ruff in dummy, and your hand is high.

ANSWER: While there is not complete unanimity about the meaning of your partner’s two-diamond call, simplest and best is to play it as natural. Since the opening bid only promised three, and the way the auction has developed makes this a live possibility still, you should assume partner has good diamonds and an opening bid. A simple raise to three diamonds is not an overbid — quite the opposite.


South Holds:

J 9 6 2
9 7 4
K 2
A J 5 3


South West North East
Pass 1 2 2


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 2010. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Steven BloomJuly 2nd, 2010 at 11:42 am

Of course, if East had played the spade king at trick one, the contract would probably go down!

Bobby WolffJuly 2nd, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Hi Steve,

Right you are, as long as, after trumps are drawn, West has the good sense to duck declarer’s spade lead toward dummy. Oft times, to stoke deception, it becomes a two player defensive ruse, not just one. Is bridge a great game, or what?

Thanks for offering your titillating advice. You realize that now all declarers, upon the lead of a second spade, will rise with the jack against you, if you are, together with your wife, the defenders (which is the way you undoubtedly want it to be).

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 2nd, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Hi Steve:

It is an interesting supposition — and if both defenders cooperate, it is a wonderful ruse to pull off.

However, most knowledgeable players would routinely insert the 10 and the hand would be made as suggested in the column.

It calls to mind Bobby’s real life student from the sixties — the lovable Miriam (popularized in The Lone Wolff) She had two principles she lived by: (1) She always cashed her high cards (especially aces) early so she would not get endplayed; and appropriately here (2) She believed in third hand high come hell or high water (even with the queen of a suit in dummy when she held the king and jack.

That’s what makes horse racing (and bridge too), I suppose!