Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Dealer: East

Vul: Both


A K 3

7 5 4


Q J 10 8 7 6


K Q 6

K Q 9 7 5 4

K 9 3 2


7 6 4

J 10 9 8

10 8 6 3

5 4


Q J 10 9 8 5 2

A 3 2

A 2



South West North East
1 2 3 Pass
3 Pass 4 Pass
6 All pass

Opening Lead: King

“Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;

Or surely you’ll grow double:

Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;

Why all this toil and trouble?”

— William Wordsworth

Three years ago IBPA’s Book of the Year Award went to “I Love This Game” by Germany’s Sabine Auken. Telling a story against herself, Auken describes the following deal from the German trials, which identifies the “kill point” — where a player’s actions sealed the fate of the contract. 

Against six spades the lead was the diamond king — fortunately for declarer — rather than the fatal heart. South won in hand and led her spade queen, and when West showed out, the contract’s fate had already been sealed. 

Auken now unblocked the club ace and led a spade to dummy to play the club queen and discard her diamond deuce. But West thoughtfully allowed the club queen to hold, and East ruffed the next club. With clubs still not established, the slam now had to fail. 

To cater for a 3-0 trump break plus the club king with West, the club ace must be cashed at trick two. Then, when West shows out on the spade queen, you overtake that card for an immediate ruffing finesse in clubs (pitching a heart from hand). Even if West wins and returns a diamond, forcing dummy to ruff and leaving it with just one trump compared to East’s two, dummy’s master clubs can be co-opted as a second “trump” suit. 

Declarer leads out winning clubs, but what can East do? If she ruffs, South overruffs, re-enters dummy in trumps, collecting the last spade in the process, then discards the second losing heart on the club 10.


South Holds:

7 6 4
J 10 9 8
10 8 6 3
5 4


South West North East
2 Pass
2 Pass 2 Pass
ANSWER: Opinions differ as to what to do with a very weak hand with three trumps on this auction. A jump to four spades does show a blizzard, but tends to suggest either four trumps or a little more in the way of ruffing values. I prefer to make a second negative of three clubs (a more popular style nowadays than bidding two no-trump) and raise spades on the next round.


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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


John Howard GibsonMarch 8th, 2011 at 12:22 pm

HBJ : What I like about this hand is that fact that even good players can go astray or fall asleep at the bridge table ( failing to spot a danger that lurks ahead ).

When deals throw up singletons in both yours and partner’s hand, then the possibility of a 3-0 trump break is far more likely. Assuming it exists, then playing on clubs immediately becomes imperative, since the contract depends on slinging away two losing hearts, and trumps are the only means of entry to dummy.

Once the club queen at trick 4 takes care of 1 heart loser, declare is still in control with a top spade left in dummy. Once dummy is back in with a diamond ruff, the jack of clubs fixes East for sure.

This might have been one slam that even I could manage to steer home with my head in gear.

A great lesson which extols the virtue of getting your timing right , where trumps are split badly. Mind you I been known tosuffer from the 3 deadly sins of declarer play : impetuousity, loss of concentration and lazy thinking.

bobbywolffMarch 8th, 2011 at 3:45 pm


You sure can recognize and deal with a great hand so in spite of your Impetuosity, Loss of concentration, and Lazy thinking your writing cures your ill-thinking.

However, it is perhaps a curious hand, replete with a tempting, but ill-fated wrong way to go about it (cashing a high spade first). To even think about it makes me ill-at-ease. Maybe it is even ill-advised to imagine that this hand actually appeared, but it would be ill-bred of me to doubt it.