Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday June 28th, 2011

Vulnerable: North-South

Dealer: East


9 8 6

4 2

K 8 5 3

A Q 9 6



Q 10 8 7 3

Q 10

J 7 5 3 2



K J 9 6 5

A 9 6 2

10 4


A J 10 7 5 4 3


J 7 4

K 8


South West North East
4 5 5 Dbl.
All pass

Opening Lead: Heart seven

“The more things change, the more they are the same.”

— Alphonse Karr

Today’s deal emphasizes the importance of forming a plan before playing from dummy at the first trick. But that is not the end of the story. You must not stick blindly to your approach when the opponents’ carding suggests a fatal flaw in the idea. Be prepared to adapt as circumstances change around you. Today’s deal is a classic in that sense. As Yogi Berra said, you can observe a lot by watching.

Against five spades doubled, West leads his fourth-best heart and South wins his ace. The spade ace is cashed, and South’s first thought should be to take three rounds of clubs, ruff a heart, and throw East in with the spade king, hoping that that player started with only three clubs. In that case he would now have to lead around to the diamond king or concede a ruff and discard. In either eventuality declarer would hold his losers to one diamond and one spade.

But when the club 10 puts in an appearance on the second round of the suit, South should change his plan. If he plays another club, East can ruff and get off play with a heart. Instead, South should ruff the heart himself and then throw East in with a trump.

Now if East has a club to return, it is into the A-9; if he does not, he must lead a diamond or a heart. Either way, the second diamond loser is eliminated.


South holds:

K J 9 6 5
A 9 6 2
10 4


South West North East
1 Pass
1 Pass 2 Pass
ANSWER: Opinions will vary on whether blasting to three no-trump with this hand is the winning strategy. Would you rather give away information by bidding two diamonds here, in order to find a 5-3 heart fit when it is right? Put me down as a two-diamond bidder. Nothing will stop the opponents from leading spades anyway, if it is right!


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


jim2July 12th, 2011 at 4:56 pm

So, the best line is to concede if East doubled on KQ2 of trump?

Bobby WolffJuly 12th, 2011 at 11:47 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, in bridge one has to often give to get. Obviously, if asked which way is the proper way to play the spades, every player above a certain rank, in this case about a corporal, would pass the first spade to guard against the 3-0 onside distribution you fear. However to do so would prevent the declarer from taking 11 tricks and could be (would be) forever branding that player classified as an unlucky expert.

There is something to learn here, that knowing fancy achievable endings of hands is of great value, but only if the player (usually the declarer) knows when to do it. There usually are enough tells in the play (bidding, opening lead, tempo, specific defense, readable hesitations), to not leave many excuses for wannabe experts to stumble.

The only way for any player ever to learn the above, him or herself and gain the confidence which goes with, is to play as much as possible against the best players in town or of course, to go to the Nationals and enter the highest level events possible.

jim2July 13th, 2011 at 12:50 am

You’re undoubtedly correct on odds and table feel.

Of course, if I laid down the AS, I’d get called the unlucky amateur when West – East held:

S –

H Q10873

D A102

C J7532


H KJ965

D Q96

C 104

The Theory of Card Migration would have struck again.

Bobby WolffJuly 13th, 2011 at 3:37 pm

Hi UA (unlucky amateur),

Right you are and the example EW hand(s) you mention are very possible and fit the bidding.

It is often said when an up and coming, but not having arrived player, takes a position which does not work, that he is foolish, but when a known established star does it, he merely used unlucky judgment.

Such is the up and down road to the Emerald City, when upon arriving there, you too can also get behind a curtain, like did Frank Morgan, and become known as the Wizard.

“Let the Winner explain” is often a calling card of admirers of idols, but first one has to get there in order to be thought of in the winners glow.

Stay on the Yellow Brick road and eventually trade in the poisoned flowers encountered to the overall respect that you will have earned.