Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Vulnerable: Both

Dealer: North



K Q 7 2

7 5 3

K Q J 10 9


9 8 7 4 3 2

J 6 5

Q 9 2



A 10

A 10 9 3

8 6 4

A 7 6 3


Q J 6 5

8 4

A K J 10

8 5 2


South West North East
1 Pass
1 Pass 1 Pass
1 Pass 2 Pass
2 NT Pass 3 NT All pass

Opening Lead: Spade nine

“Feigned necessities, imaginary necessities … are the greatest cozenage that men can put upon the Providence of God, and make pretences to break known rules by.”

— Oliver Cromwell

Many of the rules that players learn as they start bridge have sound kernels of common sense, but a top player must think for himself and know when to break the rules.

Consider today’s no-trump game, where you (East) win the spade ace at trick one. What now? A spade continuation will surely achieve nothing. Declarer is marked with the spade queen and jack, and you cannot set up your side’s winners, let alone cash them.

Although it looks attractive to switch to a diamond around to dummy’s weakness, you cannot realistically hope to set up more than one trick for your side in that suit. Together with your three aces that will be a fourth defensive trick, but will not be enough.

Instead, you need to attack declarer’s entry to dummy’s clubs. Switch to a low heart, and as long as declarer did not start with three hearts headed by the jack ,the clubs will be dead. Even if declarer has the doubleton heart jack, you can hold up the club ace long enough to exhaust him of any entry to dummy.

As the cards lie, declarer will be forced to win a heart honor in dummy and play on clubs. You duck your ace twice (taking your club ace on the second round would be a needless risk), then win your club ace and exit with a diamond. Declarer must let your partner in sooner or later for the heart play that will set up the defenders’ fifth winner.


South holds:

Q J 6 5
8 4
A K J 10
8 5 2


South West North East
1 1
ANSWER: Did you make a negative double to show your four-card spade suit? That is reasonable, but one has to know that not all four-card spade suits are created equal. Since a 4-3 spade fit might easily be your side’s best game, it feels right to bid one spade and pretend you hold a five-carder. Diamond bids can come later.


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 GibsonMay 10th, 2011 at 11:15 am

HBJ : Nice instructive hand which comes down to East praying for litttle miracles. His partner only needs the jack of hearts to put declarer in trouble, with clearly the best chance for defeating the contract residing in the heart suit.

The fact that the heart switch could well scupper declarer’s entry to dummy prematurely makes that switch doubly imperative.

This game is wonderful in that it is all about foresight and developing plans which secure ( as with classic chess moves ) multiple objectives…….such as strengthening your defensive capabilities with a move designed to reduce your opponents’ options ……or thwarting an attack with a counter-attack of your own.

bobbywolffMay 10th, 2011 at 3:26 pm


There is an old Jewish joke which features a man who brought his lunch daily to work, with his consisting of only dried fish heads with no meat left, sharing a table with another man who had a much more appetizing food prospect. Thereafter, our hero Mikey, struck up a conversation, which caused his lunchmate to ask him the secret of why he was so smart. “It is because of these fishheads I eat”, whereupon Mikey, with agreement from his friend, then exchanged lunches. Afterwards, Mikey was told that all that had happened was that Mikey’s traded lunch was inedible and nothing good had happened.

“See” said Mikey, “you are getting smarter already”.

Bridge, as you so beautifully point out, is often an exercise in sheer logic wherein reality (defined in bridge as possible holdings matching the facts up to then, which consists of the bidding, the opening lead, and other information legally obtained) will sometimes enable, in this case a defender, to make a “killing” defensive play which only requires partner to have a key card, (heart Jack or perhaps even less, plus a diamond stop).

Does it take a superhuman analytical mind to figure out such things? NOT AT ALL, only a concentrated mindset focused on foiling declarer’s anticipated source of tricks and the experience and confidence necessary to carry out the attack. Challenging? You bet! Beyond getting done by someone with only normal intelligence? Again, not at all, with the only prerequisite a fierce desire to win, coupled with at least some numeracy, and a love of the game attitude which will translate into doing what is necessary to do the job. “Watson (HBJ), do you not agree”?

Thanks for both your superior attitude and, of course, your taking the time and trouble to write.