Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, July 8th, 2011

Vulnerable: East-West

Dealer: North


K Q 6 2

A K 9

A K 6 3

6 2


J 10 9 7

8 5 3

J 8

A 10 7 5


A 8 4 3


Q 10 2

Q J 9 4 3



Q J 10 7 4 2

9 7 5 4

K 8


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

Opening Lead: Spade jack

“Though I beheld at first with blank surprise

This Work, I now have gazed on it so long

I see its truth with unreluctant eyes;”

— William Wordsworth

At the table it would be easy to predict what would happen to most declarers in four hearts. They would cover the opening spade lead with dummy’s queen, and East would take his ace and shift to a club.

The defenders can cash their two club winners and would probably exit with a spade. Declarer’s only legitimate chance now would be to find a spade-diamond squeeze. However, West can guard spades while East controls the diamonds, so nine tricks will be the limit.

Curiously, though, the natural lead of the spade jack allows the contract to be made if South concludes that the spade ace is with East. Declarer must duck the first trick in dummy — a play far easier to find on paper than at the table. If East takes his spade ace to shift to clubs, declarer loses only two clubs and a spade since the two diamonds from hand can be discarded on dummy’s spade winners. If the spade jack holds the trick, that leaves West on lead, and he cannot sensibly attack clubs from his side of the table. Best is to exit passively with a trump, but declarer can take a ruffing finesse against the spade ace, then throw a club on a winning spade honor. South can later develop a diamond trick for his 10th winner. In all, he loses one trick in spades and one in each minor.


South holds:

A 8 4 3
Q 10 2
Q J 9 4 3


South West North East
1 1 NT Pass
ANSWER: You have enough values to drive to game here, but you may have a 4-4 spade fit, which you would surely want to play in if it is available. To investigate, you can bid two clubs as Stayman if you play “system on,” meaning that you use the same methods over a one-no-trump overcall as you do in response to a one-no-trump opening bid.


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


David WarheitJuly 23rd, 2011 at 2:12 am

Assuming west wins the spade jack and shifts to a trump, south wins, draws trump & leads the spade king. If east doesn’t cover, south must discard a club and play for diamonds to be 3-2 as indicated. But if east covers with the ace, south must ruff, then cash 2 diamonds. If they break, he cashes the spade queen, discarding a club and leads a diamond, losing one trick in each side suit as indicated. But if diamonds don’t break, he must cash the spade queen & discard a diamond and then lead a club, hoping the ace is onside.

John Howard GibsonJuly 23rd, 2011 at 6:15 am

HBJ : As Johnny Supremo would say, ” more contracts go down for lack of foresight at trick one, than for any other reason “.

A lovely hand which also illustrates the value of the wonderful duck. It either sets up 2 spades for valuable discards if East takes his Ace, or as you pointed out it keeps East off lead for the telling club switch.

Impetuousity and lazy thinking will always be the demons that sit on the shoulders of most bridge players. They certainly sit on mine…….but never Johnny’s.

Bobby WolffJuly 23rd, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Hi David,

A sub heading for your accurate description could be entitled “The Good and the Very Good” since you went into a more detailed specific description of what needs to be done, once the spade jack is ducked in dummy.

Since you brought up the priorities which declarer should take (first testing the diamonds before opting to discard a club) your description would win the prize as easily the most complete, especially from a technical viewpoint.

Thanks for staying alive and coming to the aid of the bright reader who has high-level bridge aspirations.

Bobby WolffJuly 23rd, 2011 at 3:38 pm


Again, and for the umpteenth time you sing the praises of our wonderful game, which of course, describes bridge at Johnny Supremo’s level.

An interesting topic of conversation might be what would happen if Johnny Supremo had an individual head to head contest against bridge itself with the latter not only creating the puzzles, but also being the director and the producer.

My bet would be wagered on our contest to be decided in favor of the game of bridge even against the formidable genius of Johnny, since the game could set the traps usually evident, but presented in so many different ways, to eventually wear Johnny down, forcing him to take a middle name, “Almost”!

“Oh Johnny, oh Johnny how you can love” scratch love and substitute play, but every man is said to have his master!