Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Vulnerable: North-South

Dealer: South


5 3

K 9 4

J 6 5 3 2

A 7 3


K Q J 9 6 4

10 5

Q 4

J 10 5


10 8

J 8 3

K 10 9 7

Q 8 6 4


A 7 2

A Q 7 6 2

A 8

K 9 2


South West North East
1 1 2 Pass
4 All pass

Opening Lead: Spade king

“I am the spirit of the morning sea;

I am the awakening and the glad surprise;

I fill the skies

With laughter and with light.”

— Richard Gilder

At the Dyspeptics Club the members agree on very little. But three of today’s four players are convinced that South not only holds better cards than he deserves, but also generally makes less of them than he should.

However, in today’s deal South found a play that few would have managed — though whether he deserved to make his game, I shall let you decide.

The spade king was led against four hearts; South held off the first round and won the second. Now South could see that he needed either a ruff in dummy or the establishment of a long diamond. So he led out ace and another diamond, and West won and played a third top spade.

Had declarer ruffed in dummy, East would have overruffed and returned a club to leave South with an inevitable loser. But much to North’s surprise, South found the correct play: he discarded a club from dummy on West’s spade jack. Mind you, he rather spoiled the effect by then trying to ruff the spade in hand!

North wisely asked him if he had any spades left, so South corrected his revoke without penalty and made his game. He then added insult to injury by apologizing to his partner for failing to ruff the spade in dummy and make an overtrick!

(Incidentally, the best plan for South at trick three would have been to lead the third spade himself and throw one of dummy’s clubs away; this involves the least risk of all.)


South holds:

A 7 2
A Q 7 6 2
A 8
K 9 2


South West North East
1 1
1 Pass 1 NT Pass
ANSWER: Even though your partner has shown a minimum hand, a slam in clubs (or hearts) is still not out of the picture. Cuebid two diamonds and plan to raise to three clubs at your next turn, just in case partner has extra club length in a minimum hand. Note that in a competitive auction like this, your partner’s hand might not be balanced.


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 GibsonSeptember 2nd, 2011 at 7:19 am

HBJ : Surely the loser on loser play is warranted because West has already announced a long suit in spades ( possible six ) so the over-ruff looks very likely. The choice is there as to which black suit he needs to get his 10th trick in by means of a ruff.

The safety first rule needed to be applied here for sure.

Bobby WolffSeptember 2nd, 2011 at 12:04 pm


Yes, as usual, your summation is on target.

If one is interested in describing what happens, the declarer has exchanged a loser, his 3rd club in dummy, for a sometimes winner (a spade ruff), but in actuality a loser on this hand, because it allows East to get an unnecessary trump trick (warned by the bidding and a likely distributional signal from East), with his trump holding which is not strong enough to warrant it on its own. When later, declarer then ruffs his 3rd club in dummy (before drawing trumps), South completes his winning, loser on loser, play.

Although relatively a simple maneuver, this exchange of losers to one’s benefit occurs frequently and needs to be known and added to a declarer’s bag of tricks (if you will excuse the expression).

Michael BeyroutiSeptember 2nd, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Dear Mr Wolff,

couldn’t East discard two clubs on the third and fourth spades? He could then overruff the club ruff in dummy?…

Bobby WolffSeptember 2nd, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Hi Michael,

Yes, but only if he held only a singleton spade. Since he has two and only three will ever be played, causing him to go quietly and bemoan your effective declarer play.