Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, December 31, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: N/S


A K 8 5 4 2

K Q 5

6 4

A 7


10 7

J 10 8

K 10 9 7

K Q J 4


Q J 9 6


J 8

10 9 8 6 5 2



A 9 7 6 4 3

A Q 5 3 2



South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass
3 Pass 3 Pass
4 Pass 4 NT Pass
5 Pass 5 NT Pass
6 All Pass    

Opening Lead: K

“It is circumstance and proper timing that give an action its character and make it either good or bad.”

— Agesilaus

After North’s strong jump shift and a check on controls, you find yourself playing in six hearts. West leads the club king. What is the best plan to make 12 tricks?

The surest way is to set up dummy’s spades. After winning the opening lead with the club ace, your first move should be to play a trump to your ace. If hearts prove to be 4-0, you would need a 3-3 spade break and so would play the spade ace and king and ruff a spade. If the spades broke, you could then cross to the trump queen and play good spades, throwing your remaining diamond losers. When the defender ruffed with his penultimate trump, you could win his return and return to dummy with the trump king to enjoy the rest of the spades.

When both opponents follow to the first round of trumps, the type of hostile layout where you need to find the right play to succeed occurs when West is short in spades and long in trumps.

The way to overcome any 4-2 spade break is to play the spade three from hand and the two from dummy! Then you will be able to win the return, cross to dummy with the trump queen, and ruff a spade low in your hand. You can then cross to the trump king, drawing West’s last trump in the process, and discard your diamond losers on the four good spades.


South Holds:

Q J 9 6
J 8
10 9 8 6 5 2


South West North East
  2 Pass 3
Pass Pass Dbl. Pass
ANSWER: If your partner had a takeout double of hearts, he would have acted initially, so he cannot have that hand, can he? Far more likely (especially looking at your hand) is that he has a heart stack and is doubling for penalties. You may not have all that much to bring to the festivities, but nobody really asked your opinion. Pass as requested, and trust your partner.


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


John Howard GibsonJanuary 14th, 2011 at 10:38 am

I love instructive hands like these, where the right thing to do is to defy your natural instinct and lose the first spade trick by ducking in dummy, looking to ruff the second round without too much concern. This of course enables the suit to be set up given the existing 4-2 spade break, with the removal of trumps ceasing to be a problem. It all looks so obvious, but if I was at the table more than often than not, I would have my blinkers firmly clued on. Yous JHG

bobbywolffJanuary 14th, 2011 at 11:47 am


You have been and still are an absolutely superb front man, extolling the beauty and virtues of our sometimes testing game.

Whenever an author gimmicks around, exploring strange, but necessary new ways to establish enough tricks to make the slam, such as the spade suit above, you sing its praises, glorifying the game itself, but, at the same moment, modestly downplaying your own innate ability.

The lesson to be learned is that anyone who, whether or not he would execute it at the table, but, of course, understands it now, is capable of advancing by bounds and leaps in his goal to be as good as he can be.

Howard, your writing, enthusiasm and obvious love for the game itself, comes across in no trump, so please never stop what you do and magically our wonderful pastime will continue to benefit and flourish because of your considerable efforts.


L.N.January 28th, 2011 at 8:35 am

It seems to me, that there’s also another line of play, which allows you to cope with any 4-2 spade (as long as the trumps are not 4-0). It is to ruff the club on trick 2 and then proceed with the Ace of Hearts. If the trumps are 4-0, you’ll need the very same 3-3 distribution in spades as without ruffing the club, but if they are not worse than 3-1, you can now cross to dummy with the spade, ruff a spade, cross to dummy with a heart honour and lead a small spade.

If the spades are 4-2 and East has doubleton with the remaining trump, he can either ruff your loser (so you can still discard four diamonds) or he won’t get his trump.

If the spades are 4-2 and West has doubleton with the remaining trump, he can overruff you just to endplay himself or if he declines to do so, he won’t make his trump.

Although this solution is not nearly as elegant as the one suggested – to draw one trump and duck the spade – it has also some advantages – you still can make 13 tricks if both majors are breaking.

Is it so, or am i missing some point?