Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: E/W


K Q 8 5

A 9 7 5

9 3

K 8 5


10 7 6 2

J 8

Q 8 5 4 2

J 10



K Q 10 2


Q 9 7 6 4 3 2


A J 9 4

6 4 3

A K J 10 7



South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 Pass 3 Pass
4 Pass 4 NT Pass
5* Pass 5 NT Pass
6 Pass 6 All Pass
*Three aces or none, counting the trump king as an ace

Opening Lead: J

“Oh! Death will find me, long before I tire

Of watching you; and swing me suddenly

Into the shade and loneliness and mire

Of the last land!”

— Rupert Brooke

In today’s spade slam South could see, when dummy came down, that a grand slam might have been easy to make if spades and diamonds behaved, but he was not going to play carelessly and risk his contract just because his side might have missed the boat.

He won the club lead with the ace, played the spade ace, then led the spade nine to dummy’s king.

Had both opponents followed suit, declarer’s life would have been easy. He would have drawn the last trump and played on diamonds. But when East discarded on the second trump, South resisted the knee-jerk reaction to ruff a club — that would have been fatal as the cards lay. Instead, he ran the diamond nine to preserve entries to hand. West ducked this, so declarer cashed his two top diamonds and ruffed out the diamond queen. Then he ruffed a club low in hand, relieved to see West follow suit, and cashed his last diamond winner while West again had to follow suit. Next, declarer went to the heart ace and ruffed the club king with the spade jack and could take the trump queen in dummy for the 12th trick. He gave up his heart loser at trick 13 as West disconsolately trumped his partner’s winner.

Incidentally, on an initial heart lead, declarer can succeed only by drawing trumps with the spade king and queen, then ruffing out the diamonds — a successful, but far from obvious, line.


South Holds:

10 7 6 2
J 8
Q 8 5 4 2
J 10


South West North East
  1 Dbl. Pass
1 2 3 Pass
ANSWER: Since a call of two hearts from your partner at his last turn to speak would have shown a good hand, his jump shows a great hand — eight playing tricks or so. Your choice is to pass or bid three no-trump now. Your bits and pieces may be just enough (with the heart queen instead of the jack, I would act), but I’ll guess to pass today.


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 25th, 2010 at 12:40 pm


West “knows” that South started with 5 Diamonds and it appears that he needs 3 Heart pitches. Ergo, if he takes the Q of Diamonds, there are only two pitches available. I am sure I am missing something but it appears that South ends up with an orphaned Heart. I write knwing that I am not seeing something. Please advise…

bobbywolffSeptember 25th, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Hi Bruce,

If West wins his queen of diamonds, declarer will have three (not two) heart discards in dummy for his 3d, 4th and 5th diamonds. The orphaned heart will have a parent after all and all children will live happily ever after, since twelve tricks will make it home before dark.

Lest you think that your post was not valuable, let me add that a friend of mine, Blair, gifted me with a sensational book (at least by my judgment) entitled “INNUMERACY”, with a subtitle of Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences by John Allen Paulos.

Two reviews follow:

1. “An intelligent and good-natured analysis of the follies that arise from a lack of understanding (sometimes a willful lack) of science and mathematics. This pleasant book would improve the quality of thinking of virtually anyone.” Isaac Asimov

2. “Outstanding! The best account of America’s serious, growing math illiteracy problem. Witty, clear, stimulating. Anyone can enjoy and profit from reading this book.” Simon Ramo. co-founder of TRW Inc. and author of The Business of Science

At the risk of angering some, my opinion is that Eastern Europeans and the Middle East in general, at least as far as the playing of high-level bridge is concerned, come by the arithmetic needed for consistent success better than other nationalities. What the above means I am not sure, only that it seems to exist, at least in my mind.

If this post becomes valuable to any reader, which, sometimes, in turn, results in better understanding of potentially correctable problems, your timely comment will have served a useful purpose. Please keep them coming.

bruce karlsonSeptember 25th, 2010 at 7:21 pm

A copy of “Innumeracy” is on the way. Let us hope it arrives quickly.

I see where I “lost” the Diamond winner/Heart pitch and am quite sure I would have seen it at the table. Anyway, my embarrassment will hopefully be trumped by a new infusion of “counting sense” courtesy of the book.

Thank you,