Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 30, 2010

Dealer: West

Vul: All


A K 5 4

A K Q 4

A K 8 6 2


J 9 6

J 10 9 8 6 3

Q J 10 5


Q 10 7 3 2

9 6 5 4 3 2





A K Q J 10 8 7

7 2

7 4 3


South West North East
4 Pass 4 NT Pass
5 Pass 7 All Pass

Opening Lead: J

“It is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatsoever for supposing it to be true.”

— Bertrand Russell

After South opens four hearts, North can locate the missing trump honors, and at the given vulnerability is then entitled to play his partner for an eighth trump or a little extra in terms of trump honors.

Now the issue is how to make the contract. Playing safe may not be as glamorous as a squeeze or a swindle, but there is a lot to be said for making your contract whenever it can be made. And that applies especially in a grand slam. Just because you believe trumps ought to split is no reason that they actually will.

The correct approach for South is to win the opening diamond lead, take one spade honor, and lead a low spade, ruffing low. Then he will cash a high trump to discover the distressing news, and at that point he should take three more trump winners, pitching low cards from dummy. Declarer then leads a low club to dummy. He must then discard his remaining diamond on dummy’s high spade and can then lead out high diamonds, being able to overruff and draw trumps if East ruffs in.

If East throws away losers on the top diamonds, then so does declarer, and he will reach an ending with the lead in dummy and be left with the heart 10-8 poised over East’s 9-6. Whatever the defenders do, declarer has an answer.

Once the bad trump break is revealed, all this line requires is that East not be void in clubs.


South Holds:

J 7 4
Q J 9 2
9 8 6
9 8 4


South West North East
    Pass 1
Pass 1 2 NT 3
Pass 5 All Pass  
ANSWER: Your partner has shown at least 10 cards in the black suits by his jump to two no-trump. It feels right to try to set up a black-suit winner before anything can be discarded on dummy’s hearts, and you are fractionally more likely to do this by leading spades rather than clubs, given your minor spade honor. A heart lead is unnecessary and may jeopardize your trick in that suit.


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


bruce karlsonSeptember 13th, 2010 at 2:01 pm

It may be worth noting that absent declarer’s ruff in hand equalizing trump length, the trump coup fails as it becomes impossible to retain the lead in dummy. That requirement tripped me up once and I still remember how annoyed I was that my “plan” was flawed.

Many newer players might not be aware of that critical element.

Bobby WolffSeptember 14th, 2010 at 6:00 am

Hi Bruce,

Yes, of course, in order to effect the coup, the declarer (in this case) must reduce his trump holding to the same number of trumps his RHO possesses for the very reason you gave, of with too many trumps in hand he will be forced to trump the dummy’s trick at the wrong time and then, in effect, endplay himself.

For the $64 question this play is either called a COUP or in some cases a GRAND COUP. What determines the difference? See below!

It is called only a coup when you trump losing tricks from dummy, but (DRUM ROLL) when declarer trumps a good trick from dummy it now gains the status of GRAND COUP. All part of the romantic lore which was part of the bridge learning experience of many years ago. The execution is the main part, but it is also fun to know the history of bridge and its key terms.

Thanks for keeping in touch.