Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, April 9th, 2011

Vulnerable: North-South

Dealer: South



K 8 7 5 4

A 7 5

J 7 6


K Q 10 8 5 3 2

Q 10 2


9 4


9 6

K Q J 10 9 3

Q 10 8 5 3


7 4

A J 9 6 3

8 6 4

A K 2


South West North East
1 3 4 All pass

Opening Lead: Spade king

“First say to yourself what you would be, then do what you have to do.”

— Epictetus

Playing in four hearts, you win the spade-king lead with dummy’s ace as East follows with the nine. When East shows out on the trump king, you appear to have five potential losers: two diamonds and one in each of the other suits. What can you do?

You should play the trump ace, followed by the diamond ace and the club A-K. When West is unable to trump any of your winners, he surely began with 7-3-1-2 shape and now has no minor-suit cards remaining.

When you throw West on lead with the spade queen, he can cash his heart winner but must then lead another spade. It looks natural to ruff in one hand and discard a loser from the other, but if you do so, you will still go one down. You will lose one trick in each major and two tricks in the minors.

Instead, when West leads a top spade, you should throw a club from dummy and a diamond from your hand. Left on lead, West has no choice but to play another spade. You ruff in the dummy and throw the last diamond from your hand. You can then crossruff the remaining tricks, all three of your minor-suit losers having vanished as if by magic.

Note that if you exit at trick six with a heart, West crosses you up by leading a low spade next. Your spade loser has vanished, but you have three minor-suit losers instead!


South holds:

7 4
A J 9 6 3
8 6 4
A K 2


South West North East
1 2 2 Pass
ANSWER: You are faced with an impossible array of choices. You cannot raise spades, bid no-trump, or repeat your hearts. Since a cue-bid would show extras, that leaves you with no option but to invent a second suit with a call of three clubs, which does not show extras, of course. With any luck, this may allow partner to take control.


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 23rd, 2011 at 4:06 pm

HBJ : Does ducking the king of spades at trick one guard against the defence suggested in your last paragraph? West highly unlikely to have 8 spades.

Whatever lead comes next, declarer takes it, cashing 1 top spade, 2 top hearts, 2 top clubs and the Ace of diamonds, then throwing West in with his master heart. Now comes the double sluff, followed by the ruff and sluff.

jim2April 23rd, 2011 at 5:28 pm

West has the 2 of hearts.

That is, say declarer ducks, wins the second spade, and then cashes the KH. It costs West nothing to follow with the 10H. Then, when declarer plays a second heart to the ace, West can decide to play the QH or the 2H. If West works out the looming endplay, pitching the QH under the AH prevents it.

bobbywolffApril 23rd, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Hi HBJ and Jim2,

Jim2 came up with the answer to HBJ’s safety play (sort of) of ducking the first spade but if declarer does duck then West can jettison his two high hearts leaving himself with the lowly deuce, but misnamed in this hand since by ridding himself of the Q10 it should be rather called the enabling deuce because of its role in defeating the contract.

Oh what a tangled web we weave to win, when first we practice to not be thrown in. (Egg Shelley).

If West ducks both the second spade and the third heart, true it doesn’t defeat the contract, but the artistry shown belongs in a hall-of-fame bridge gallery.

jim2April 23rd, 2011 at 6:06 pm


I suspect our good host put the 2H in West’s hand deliberately, just as he put the 10H into the South hand on April 5 / April 19!

raduMay 16th, 2011 at 11:10 pm


declarer can indeed duck the opening lead; if West unblocks the hearts to avoid the endplay, East becomes the victim of the endplay after diamond ace and a low diamond.

It looks like the club jack was put there for a reason too.