Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Dealer: South

Vul: Both


K 4

K Q 10 4

A K 9 5 3

10 2


A 8 7 3


Q 6 4

A K 9 8 6


5 2

9 6 5 2

J 10 8

Q 7 4 3


Q J 10 9 6

A J 7 3

7 2

J 5


South West North East
1 ♣</span 1 Pass
1 Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 4 All Pass

Opening Lead: King

“Gallantry to the ladies was among his principles of honor; and he held it as much incumbent on him to accept a challenge to love, as if it had been a challenge to fight.”

— Henry Fielding

From the first round of last year’s Vanderbilt Knockout Teams in Reno, where all this week’s deals come from, we see a fine play by Canada’s George Mittelman.


At one table, where South played in four hearts, West cashed two high clubs and shifted passively to a trump. It was easy enough to draw two rounds of trumps with dummy’s king and queen, find the bad news, then knock out the spade ace. West could duck the first spade, win the second, and play a third round. But South simply ruffed high in dummy and claimed by drawing trumps.


At the other table, North became declarer in four hearts, also on a club lead. Mittelman, West, won the top two clubs and played a third round, knowing from the auction that if his partner had four clubs, then he had no other high cards of any significance.


Declarer ruffed in dummy and immediately played to the spade king, then led a spade to the queen and ace. Mittelman played back a third spade, ruffed high by declarer.


To succeed in his contract from here on, declarer had to cash just the heart queen, then play for trumps 4-1 by taking the diamond ace and king and ruffing a diamond. Then he could ruff a spade with the heart 10 and achieve a trump coup at trick 12. When declarer actually cashed both his top hearts at once, he could not avoid shortening himself and losing trump control — down one.


South Holds:

Q J 10 9 6
A J 7 3
7 2
J 5


South West North East
1 ♣</span Dbl. Pass
ANSWER: You do not have quite enough to drive to game here, but a simple scheme will be to find your side’s best fit and invite game. The way to do that is to cuebid two clubs, asking your partner to bid a four-card major. When he does so, you will raise to the three-level and let him out short of game if he has doubled with a real dog. An alternative is to jump to two spades, which limits the hand at once.


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


jim2March 29th, 2011 at 2:41 pm

This hand has traps that I did not initially see.

My first thought would have been to preserve trump length in the hand with the source of tricks. If declarer ruffs the third club in the North hand and plays on spades, however, ruffing the third spade lead high leaves declarer unable to draw trump when they split 4-1. That is, with something like KQ facing AJ73, the absence of side entries would require an honor over-take, but that would create a trump loser.

My second thought was to ruff the third club in the South hand and pitch the spade king. West would have to win the first spade, but now there would be no entry to the spades if four rounds of trump were required.

If I were able to read the table well enough to deduce that the third round of clubs meant trump were 4-1, then I would have to admit that the spade suit was dead. That would leave only a cross ruff or the diamond suit as sources of tricks.

Accordingly, I would ruff in the South hand, pitching the spade king, and advance the spade queen. West would have to win, and probably return a trump to try to attack the potential cross-ruff (other returns look no better, and generally transpose). Declarer wins as cheaply a possibly in the South hand (creating a tenace), cashes a spade, then plays three rounds of diamonds.

Since East has three diamonds, declarer scores ten tricks whatever he does. If East had just two, the created trump tenace lets declarer score ten tricks: one club ruff, one high spade, one round of trump won in South hand, two high diamonds, three high spade ruffs, and two diamond ruffs in the South hand. If East started with four diamonds, then the single round of trump will let declarer ruff two diamonds without an over ruff by West.

At the table, I would go down, unable to make the leap to basing the play on 4-1 hearts.

bobbywolffMarch 29th, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your analysis is right on from the defensive West’s standpoint in determining how to attack declarer because after cashing 2 clubs tricks, and besides the known ace of spades it will appear to him that his only chance for the setting trick is to establish a trump trick in his partner’s suspected 4 card holding in that suit. To accomplish that it is necessary for West to keep leading good clubs forcing declarer to weaken himself in trumps and hoping that his partner’s trump holding is strong enough to develop a trick.

This defense should almost guarantee to South, the declarer, that trumps are going to break 4-1 with the 4 in the East hand.

Sometimes, believe it or not, it is easier to declare against good players, simply because the detective work becomes easier since the quality of the defensive players tends to give their line of defense more meaning than sometimes does the haphazard and unpredictable play of lesser defenders.

I, unlike you, would expect you to get it right as declarer and, no doubt, would not be disappointed.