Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Vulnerable: North-South

Dealer: South



A J 6 5

Q 9 8 7 6

K 3 2


Q 5 4

Q 8 7

A 5 4

Q 10 8 4


K J 9 8 7 6

K 10 9 2


J 7


A 10 3

4 3

K J 10 3

A 9 6 5


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

Opening Lead: Diamond ace

“It is a silly game where nobody wins.”

— Thomas Fuller

In today’s deal, South had a minimum but normal opening bid, and North at his second turn felt too good to bid only three diamonds, which would have been consistent with a hand that was purely competitive without any game interest. Hence the partnership reached the Goldilocks level of four diamnds — not too low, not too high, just right.

Since North-South had avoided a no-trump contract and North had shown an unbalanced hand, West guessed to lead the diamond ace and a second diamond. If South had made the mistake of going for spade ruffs in the long trump hand, he would have found that that there was also a fourth club to look after, and that this could not be ruffed without letting West on lead to play a third round of trumps. Declarer found a better solution by ducking a heart into East’s hand at the third trick.

Then he could play to take two heart ruffs in his own hand, losing one heart, one diamond, and one club. In total, the tricks he scored were four tricks in aces and kings, two heart ruffs in hand, and four trumps in dummy.

It is worth noting that if declarer plays the spade ace and ruffs a spade at tricks three and four, then leads out the club king and another club, ducking when East’s jack appears, then West must overtake to be in position to play the third diamond. Otherwise, declarer’s crossruff succeeds.


South holds:

A J 6 5
Q 9 8 7 6
K 3 2


South West North East
Pass 2 Pass Pass
Dbl. Pass 2 NT Pass
ANSWER: It is an excellent and almost unbreakable rule that when both players pass at their first turn to speak, they can’t sensibly want to play game in no-trump. Here, your partner’s two-no-trump call suggests two or three places to play and asks you to bid your lowest playable minor. So bid three diamonds and await developments, if any.


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


jim2August 25th, 2011 at 12:21 pm

On the play of the hand, is there any way East could have worked out that West had the KH and put in the QH?

I guess, though, that if one can posit such inspiration by East, one can also declare that declarer would win and lead the JH.

Bobby WolffAugust 25th, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Hi Jim2,

On many, perhaps most, bridge hands, usually part scores are parry and thrust where, depending on the exact spots, here the possible defensive play of the queen of hearts by West (to gain entry for the killing 3rd trump lead) and the counter that if so, then the winning and continuation of the Jack from dummy, usually abound in the play.

Whether a real or manufactured hand the point of presenting it is to emphasize, starting with the opening lead, the intelligent goals of the defense and the attempted counter by the declarer. To say every hand is different is not necessary, for it will always be apparent that it is, but the reader will benefit, to first see the conflicting goals of the two sides, the reasons for them, the intense implementation and battles along the way, as well as the earned final result.

All the above is well worth the time and thought process involved, with the trench fighting, perhaps not the most graceful nor the most exciting parts of our competitive game, but nevertheless important for the reader to see in action.

Your keen bridge mind immediately grasps the conflict, analyzes opportunities for possible victory in the race for eventual triumph, and therefore gains important experience in method, card combinations and timing.

If every player had your would be talent the improvement would arrive much faster, not to mention the lower drop out rate from those who cannot seem to weave their way through it. Regardless where a player starts out, with perseverance, any wannabe player can succeed, but only with supreme patience to overcome problem areas which are more difficult to some than for others.

Summing up, the above is only a stage which most bridge players, riding the up elevator, experience, and by so doing sometimes get hooked on the supreme and many variations encountered. Stay with it since, all of a sudden specific card combinations take on greater meaning with the result that soon thereafter an epiphany of sorts will magically appear in order to make one’s bridge future infinitely easier.

Thanks for providing a provocative counter which enables a full discussion of a rather mundane, but in real life (especially for talented bright beginners), a very necessary discussion. The actual play and defense (not the bidding) is original in bridge, which sometimes is illusory, requires numeracy, a language all its own and on defense requires both partners, with the use of inferential knowledge (not visibly available) from partner’s unseen hand to wend its way to a hoped for successful result. Easy?, not usually, exhilarating, no doubt, since problem solving ranks right up there and always gives much satisfaction.

Bobby WolffAugust 25th, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Hi Jim2,

Our recent posts probably passed in the night.

When declarer leads a heart at trick 2 it would normally be from a doubleton not including the king, because if declarer held the King he would probably draw the 3rd trump and make use of the heart suit to throw away at least one possible loser. One heart holding to be aware of is 10x in declarer’s hand wherein the defensive play of the queen would manufacture an extra trick for declarer and one which could be his contract fulfilling 10th trick.

Yes, it would be relatively “duck” soup for declarer to counter West’s play of the heart queen to win the ace and lead back the jack, although in the actual hand he might first come back to his hand with the ace of clubs to then lead a heart toward the dummy, just in case West had both the king and queen of hearts.