Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dealer: North

Vul: All


A J 7

K 10 4

A J 7 6

A Q 2


K Q 9

A J 6 2

9 5 4

8 4 3



Q 9 8 7 3

K 10

K J 10 7 6


8 6 5 4 3 2


Q 8 3 2

9 5


South West North East
    1 1
1 2 Dbl. 4
Pass Pass 4 Pass
Pass Dbl. All Pass  

Opening Lead: A

“Who would have thought my shriveled heart

Could have recovered greenness? It was gone

Quite under ground.”

— George Herbert

Looking at all four hands on this deal from the 2000 U.S. International trials, we can see that a club lead by Eric Rodwell defeats four spades, while the lead of the heart ace allows declarer to discard his losing club on the king and make the contract. So Jeff Meckstroth’s four-club bid should have made the defense simple.

Not so fast: Rodwell quite reasonably thought he might be need to start tapping dummy immediately, so he tabled the heart ace and shifted to a club. Was this too little too late? Read on.

Declarer, Steve Garner, rose with the ace, pitched his losing club on the heart king, ruffed the third heart in hand, and played a trump to the king and ace. (Ducking would have simplified the play.)

Now declarer ruffed a club to hand to lead a second trump toward dummy’s jack. West won the queen and tapped South again with a heart.

Down to one trump in hand, Garner now led out the diamond queen, leaving a trump outstanding. He would have been home had East taken the trick, but Meckstroth smoothly ducked!

When declarer repeated the finesse, Meckstroth produced the diamond king followed by the club jack, giving everyone a ruff and discard.

Declarer was dead in the water now. Ruffing in dummy would promote the spade nine, while ruffing in hand would allow West to jettison his last diamond. Declarer would then have no way back to dummy to draw the last trump. Down one!


South Holds:

A J 7
K 10 4
A J 7 6
A Q 2


South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 NT Pass 3 Pass
ANSWER: Gone are the days when this sequence was nonforcing. Your partner has enough values to force to game and may have slam interest. Rather than stolidly raising to game, cuebid three spades to let him cooperate if he has enough values to be looking for higher things. In context, you are highly slam-suitable.


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


Denis KristandaOctober 9th, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Hi Mr Wolff,

Little feedback if I may, I think what you mean: Jeff produced the diamond King followed by the Queen of Heart, giving everyone a ruff and discard. (Club only played twice, at trick 2 and a ruff, isn’t it ? so west still have 1)

On the play, declarer should know that from the bidding and earlier play: East has either 1-5-3-4 or 1-5-2-5.

So, when the DQ hold and he played another diamond but did not see the K with West (2nd hand), declarer should see the danger of this 2nd finesse. If East 3 cards of D ( (Kxx – meaning West has 2) then he can return another D for easy ruff (after winning with K) – in other word, if East hold xxx then K should be appearing on 2nd Diamond.

(Additionally, West has shown Spade KQ and A Heart, hence most likely East has the rest of HCP for his Vulnerable 1H overcall headed with only Q)

Of course, the other possibility is West has Kxx . In this case, also declarer need to still play the A, come back to hand with Club ruff (This is assuming declarer ditch a diamond on dummy when West return the 4th Heart) and concede a Diamond – 10 tricks.

If declarer threw a Club on 4th Heart, playing Ace (rather than finesse for 2nd time) still produce the same result only if K is with West.

So, one of the key play by declarer, IMHO was to throw small Diamond from dummy on the 4th Heart which enable Club ruff as replacement of 3rd Diamond trick.

Of course all analysis above is done after tens of minutes studying this board carefully (as every board posted) – If I did it on the table, the director will have punished me for slow play….

I am sure after all of above, there is still some “loophole” in my theory… 🙁

That’s why I am still learning from the best ! 🙂

p.s: let me know if you are holidaying in Sydney, Australia – I shout you a nice Australian beef steak with big glass of beer !

Bobby WolffOctober 15th, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Hi Denis,

When declarer eventually lost the diamond finesse to the now bare king, East (Meckstroth) led a club, not a heart (clubs had already been ruffed once by declarer) and was necessary to lead since West (Rodwell) had to have an avenue to get rid of his diamond in case it wasn’t the nine, and although it was it shouldn’t detract from Jeff’s brilliiance for enabling the defeat of the hand.

If Judy and I would ever return to your beautiful country we will love to take you up on your generous offer. However, at our ages, at this time it seems somewhat unlikely, but only the shadow knows.

Thanks for writing.