Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces On Bridge: Tuesday, March 22nd

Vulnerable: East-West

Dealer: South



A J 8 5 3

A K 6 5

6 4 2


K J 5 3


Q J 10 4 2

K 8 3


10 8 6 4 2

10 7

8 7

J 10 9 7


A Q 9

K Q 9 6 2

9 3

A Q 5


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

*Forcing heart raise with a singleton spade,

Opening Lead: Diamond queen

“In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

At the rubber bridge table, South was the sort of player who considered it beneath his dignity to take more than a few seconds to play any deal, regardless of the degree of difficulty or the money at stake.

Declaring six hearts today on a top diamond lead, he won in dummy and drew two rounds of trumps. He took an immediate spade finesse, and when it lost and a diamond came back, he won dummy’s ace and took a second club finesse. When that lost, he threw his hand in disgustedly, conceding one down. He also made the mistake of saying there was nothing he could have done about it, giving North the chance to ask him if he wanted to bet on the outcome on proper declarer play. The bet was taken, the hand reconstructed, and North took over the reins.

North won the diamond lead, took the diamond king to ruff a diamond high, then crossed to the heart jack to ruff another diamond high, drew a second trump and led a spade to the nine. All that declarer had needed to find was a normal break in both red suits, and he could endplay West to lead either a spade or a club into declarer’s tenaces and concede the 12th trick. If East had played the spade jack or 10 on the first round of the suit, declarer would have been able to cover, creating a different but equally effective tenace in the spade suit.


South holds:

A J 8 5 3
A K 6 5
6 4 2


South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 Pass 3 Pass
ANSWER: Over your partner’s fourth-suit forcing call, you are faced with three unpleasant alternatives. You can repeat your hearts or diamonds (in eitherss case suggesting a better or longer suit than you have) or bid three no-trump with length but not strength in the danger suit. That would be my choice, though I can’t say I like it.


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 GibsonApril 5th, 2011 at 11:02 am

HBJ : Hi there….just want to run this line of play through you. Does it have any merit ?

Works if West holds King of spades (50-50 chance ). Play involves 2 round of trumps, 2 top diamonds, 2 diamond ruffs, Ace of spades, spade ruff ( finishing in South hand ).

Declarer has left spade Q, one heart, AQx of clubs. North has 2 hearts + 3 small clubs. At trick 9 the queen of spades is led, covered by West with the King, SMALL CLUB DISCARDED FROM DUMMY.

West is fixed. Spade gives ruff and sluff. Club gives declarer a free finesse.

Bruce KarlsonApril 5th, 2011 at 11:46 am

It interests me that the humble spade 9 appears to be crucial to the guarantee of success. Absent the 9, East can force the Q to spike the end play.


bobbywolffApril 5th, 2011 at 12:26 pm


Your line of play is:

1. Imaginative

2. Requires only the king of spades to be with West (offside at that, at least to the naked eye)

3. Will stir up talk at your club, much of which will be about your sheer bridge talent, not to mention your adventuresome personality

4. Above all, it works

5. Alas, wrong, since the column line only requires trumps to break 2-1 and the diamonds to be no worse than 5-2, but to play it this way will only result in ho hum comments from those few who care

If you are nothing else, no one can say that you are not thought provoking.

Continued thanks for your loyalty to the Aces and, more importantly, to the game itself.

bobbywolffApril 5th, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Hi Bruce,

Your great comment reminds me of the 1955 Bridge Week at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when I had the glorious opportunity to play with the already established star, Eddie Kantar, while both of us were in our very early twenties when he switched defensively to the queen of hearts with dummy on his left, holding Kxx and I with xxxx. After dummy won the king, declarer had to lose a trick to me, wherein I had nothing better to do but return a heart catching Eddie with an original holding of AQ10.

At least to me, his play of the queen, was better than sliced bread and had never been seen by me before. With that as a backdrop, is it any wonder that bridge became my religion? Perhaps your AQ9 realization will cause the same effect. If so, and if managed right, you will be blessed with a lifetime of excitement and yearning to improve, at the very least, enabling you to bask in the challenge of trying to be the very best you can be.

Daniel SkipperApril 6th, 2011 at 2:47 am

Another line occurred to me as I studied the hand before reading your analysis.

On winning the opening diamond south might draw trumps in two rounds. That successful, Ace of spades, spade ruff, top diamond, diamond ruff. A second spade ruff followed by dummies last diamond pitching the smallest club from south. I’m not sure on the exact chances, they do require that it is West that holds the diamonds but 6-1 is ok.

bobbywolffApril 6th, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Hi Daniel,

If I was a feline, your analysis would suggest to me that I was being used by you to prove that there are many different ways to skin me.

Right you are, but there is a negative fall-out. The Aces will not be able to again use this hand, years later, with your line as the suggested one.

Fie on you for beating us to the punch, but after due consideration, rather thanks instead for your thoughtful analysis and besides, years later will probably still be available.

alberto romanoApril 6th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Daniel’s line needs the hearts 2-1 beside the long diamonds in West.

Your original line works with any diamond break (not 6-1) Aand with hearts 3-0 IF 3 in EAST so is much better.

Is that correct ?

bobbywolffApril 6th, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Hi Albert,

Yes, you are definitely correct. However, if hearts are 3-0 it would still be possible to change back to the column’s line before any terminal damage is done.

Besides the column line is able to take effective advantage of the AQ9 combination, making it a sentimental favorite with me.

I’m impressed with your eagle eye and above all, your taking the time to write. In spite of rumors to the contrary, high-level bridge is alive and well.