Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: All


7 6

A 8 7 3 2

9 7 5

A 9 5


Q J 9 3

J 5

Q J 6

Q 6 3 2


A K 8 5 2


10 8 4 3

K 10 8


10 4

K Q 10 9 4

A K 2

J 7 4


South West North East
1 Pass 3 All Pass

Opening Lead: Q

“Through all the compass of the notes it ran,

The diapason closing full in Man.”

— John Dryden

Bridge literature has documented the lead of the jack by East from K-J-9, when North has 10-third, to prevent declarer from taking an extra trick when he has either the queen or the ace-queen. The “surrounding” play that crops up in today’s deal is less well-known.

Suppose that West leads the spade queen against three hearts and leads a second spade, won by East, who switches to a low diamond. Declarer wins, draws trumps, and on the face of it has three further losers. However, if South continues with the second top diamond, then plays a third, he will prevail unless West unblocks his diamond jack.

The point is that a third spade return from West would allow a ruff and discard, and a club to the king and a club back means that declarer will end with two tricks in the suit if he guesses well. West needs to unblock his diamond jack so that East wins the third round of diamonds. Now East must switch to the club 10, “surrounding” the nine in dummy.

If the 10 is covered all around, declarer will lose two further tricks in the suit, and if not, the 10 fetches the ace, again leaving two losers. Had East led the low club instead, South plays low, and West is forced to contribute the queen. When dummy’s ace wins, a low club toward the jack means that the defense comes to just one club trick.


South Holds:

7 6
A 8 7 3 2
9 7 5
A 9 5


South West North East
    1 Dbl.
1 Pass 2 Pass
ANSWER: The jump to two spades is a game-force. Just because you have extras does not mean you have to make an extravagant leap. Support your partner with a call of three clubs. Let him have all the space he needs to tell you why he forced to game.


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


jim2November 10th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

I covered the E-W hands and thought the point was how declarer should sequence plays to avert unblocks after spade, spade, trump exit. I had decided to win the trump ace and lead low to the diamond king.

BTW, if I held the West hand, my partner’s minors would surely have been 8432 and KJ8.

bobbywolffNovember 11th, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Hi Jim2,

Appreciate having you as a new pen pal.

In the high-level game, the key factors are:

1. Technique-keeping an eye (play) and ear (bidding)

open wide for evidence to determine how to proceed.

2. Card combinations-how to maximize advantages for the specific cards your partnership has been dealt.

3. Psychology-like warfare, the realization that your opponents (enemy) will order their plays to their best advantage trying to keep their codes (tracks) as unreadable as possible.

4. Rewards-also like warfare, never knowing whether anything your side can do will be helpful in achieving a positive ending, but still giving great effort.

5. Determination-The grit to lend oneself to the task every single hand, keeping in mind one’s relative experience and individual numeracy, and never forgetting active ethics and time restraints.

Here, evidence does begin to already point to declarers not having the 10 of diamonds, when he played the King , especially so if it was the most likely way for him to score up his contract.

(the dog who didn’t bark).

Some other readers will immediately cry out that the players they play with and against are very unpredictable and sometimes play badly so that, as a defender, one can never rely on their plays to be accurate.

The only advice I can give is that your task is to learn how to play against the best and most every other task will eventually, if not sooner, fall into line.

Never up, never in.

Good luck!