Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, December 4, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: All


A K 7 5 2

Q 6

A 7 2

A K 5


9 6

K 10 8 5

Q J 10 9 4

10 4


Q 10 8 3

9 2

8 6 3

8 6 3 2


J 4

A J 7 4 3

K 5

Q J 9 7


South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 Pass 2 Pass
2 NT Pass 6 NT All Pass

Opening Lead: Q

“Nature is very consonant and conformable with herself.”

— Sir Isaac Newton

West leads the diamond queen against six no-trump. What is your plan to make 12 tricks?

You have three top tricks in the majors and need to develop three more major-suit winners. As playing on spades first will yield at most two extra tricks, you should play on hearts first (where the potential is greater). So you take the diamond queen in hand with the king and lead a low heart toward dummy’s queen. This will give you three extra tricks if West flies up with the king or if East can take the heart queen with the king and hearts split 3-3. In our given layout, West holds the heart king but cannot play it, so the heart queen will win the second trick.

Now you have 10 certain tricks and have to decide whether to continue to play on hearts or to switch to spades. While you have a fair chance of making another two tricks in hearts by continuing the suit, it is better to switch to spades by leading the spade two toward your jack. This will bring in two extra spade tricks when East holds the spade queen and the suit breaks no worse than 4-2 or when West holds the spade queen and spades break 3-3.

Playing on hearts, then on spades, is the only way to succeed today. And note that if you tackle either suit in any way except the recommended one, your contract fails.


South Holds:

J 4
A J 7 4 3
K 5
Q J 9 7


South West North East
    1 Pass
1 1 2 Pass
ANSWER: A simple raise to three clubs would be a huge underbid. You have enough to force to game, so cuebid two spades to set up a force, then plan to raise clubs at your next turn. This hand rates to play much better in clubs then in no-trump though you will be prepared to let partner provide input as to the best strain.


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


jim2December 18th, 2010 at 3:06 pm

This hand was a tough one for me.

Starting spades first and getting four tricks allows declarer the heart finesse late. Leading to the heart queen early and shifting to spades if it wins is essentially the same line, albeit reversing the heart king location.

Your line gains, and I think significantly, when the heart king is doubleton with West. Even if West stolidly ducks, declarer will surely play the heart ace later in desperation should spades fail to come in.

Would cashing the clubs first to force discards hurt declarer’s transportation? For example, West might be 4-4-3-2.

bobbywolffDecember 18th, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Hi again Jim2,

As usual, your questions are probing and on target.

Starting from your last question, yes, cashing clubs first, particularly the 4th club winner will not only hurt declarer’s transportation, it will eliminate other probable winning card layouts for declarer by canceling easy access back to his own hand.

No doubt, other declarer lines of play may work, but what starts out as plenty of back and forth entries could end up corrupted by dillying rather than dallying.

Changing the emphasis to another responsibility due declarer of playing in a timely fashion, the suggested line, though unproven as to whether it is the very best one, is at least reasonable, doable and one which leaves at least some oxygen remaining to the deserving opponents for other boards on that round or segment.

Please excuse me for leaving the main discussion of percentages of success in favor of the ever present subject of timeliness, which if selfishly forgotten, can be devastating to all players at that table.

Again, thanks for your uncanny ability to make us all think.

David WarheitDecember 19th, 2010 at 9:54 am

Jim2: You state: “Starting spades first and getting four tricks allows declarer the heart finesse late.” Yes, if west has queen third of spades, but if east has the queen, he will win it and immediately shift to hearts. For that reason and the one you mention (heart king doubleton with west), the line suggested by Mr. Wolff is decidedly superior.

jim2December 19th, 2010 at 3:40 pm

David Warheit –

4 spades, 2 diamonds, 4 clubs, and the heart ace are 11 tricks.

Starting with spades always means declarer will take the heart finesse.

Our esteemed host’s line stakes everything on the heart suit if the heart king shows on the first lead. If it does not, then the lines are near-transpositions, as I noted, etc.