Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Vulnerable: Both

Dealer: East


10 4

9 6 5

K 8 6 5

10 9 3 2


8 3

Q 10 3 2

J 7 4 2

Q 8 7


J 6

A K J 7 4

A Q 10

6 5 4


A K Q 9 7 5 2


9 3



South West North East
Dbl. 3 Pass Pass
4 All pass

Opening Lead: Spade three

“And now the matchless deed’s achieved,

Determined, dared, and done.”

— Christopher Smart

Today’s deal is from a match between England and Japan in the 2004 World Championships. When the English East opened a strong no-trump, the Japanese South settled for a conservative two-spade overcall because he did not have a penalty double in his arsenal. He duly collected nine tricks.

In the other room Justin Hackett drove to four spades — as might we all. West led a trump and declarer played the 10 from dummy, hoping that it would be an entry. When East covered, Justin ran off all but one of his trumps. East discarded two hearts and two clubs, while West discarded four hearts. This led Justin to conclude that West held the guarded club queen, so he gave up all thoughts of exiting with a red suit in the hope that an opponent would eventually lead a club, allowing him to finesse.

Instead, he boldly laid the club jack on the table! And West played low, assuming his partner would win with the king. In truth, West’s play may not stand up to analysis, but well done to Justin Hackett for making such a brave move. Brilliancies in bridge are often based on psychology, not on complicated lines of play. I’m sure that most of us would not have thought of Justin’s stratagem, but even if we had, we would have rejected it in favor of the legitimate line of cashing the club ace and king, hoping tp drop a doubleton queen.


South holds:

8 3
Q 10 3 2
J 7 4 2
Q 8 7


South West North East
1 Pass
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 Pass 2 Pass
ANSWER: Your partner has shown at least 5-5 in the black suits and a good hand, but you have absolutely no interest in higher things. While passing would keep you a level lower, it must be right to play in clubs so that you can ruff spades in your hand if necessary. Simply revert to three clubs now.


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


jim2September 8th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

I remember reading Oswald Jacoby complaints in frequent Bridge World articles that the best line or play in the quiz (on which he was voting) could not be determined unless one was “at the table.” His forcefully-penned view was that mathematically superior lines could and should be rejected by players when they had other inputs that convinced them that less probable plays had a better chance of success. I likened his opinion of players who felt otherwise as similar to Moliere’s of doctors.

On a side note, I think the West hand is a classic example of when one might lead the highest honor of partner’s suit. As oft is the case, East could follow with the JH and get a diamond switch.

John Howard GibsonSeptember 8th, 2011 at 1:37 pm

HBJ : At trick 1 East knows the defence isn’t go to make a spade trick…… why not let dummy have the trick to invite a club fineese that isn’t going to work. BY covering the 10, East is forcing declarer either to play for a doubleton queen of clubs ( which could have worked ) or attempt the rare but brave coup that was successfully carried out.

At this level surely it is best to lure declarer into taking the wrong ( hopefully doomed) line of play. Just a thought. Yours HBJ

jim2September 8th, 2011 at 2:33 pm


Very clever! But change the JC to the JD, and now declarer could lead towards his diamond J93 where before there was no success line.

Bobby WolffSeptember 8th, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Hi Jim2 and HBJ,

Hooray, since each in his own way, is right.

General genius sometimes has no bounds and especially at bridge, where feel at the table, and according to the late and great Oswald Jacoby, often overrides the percentage tables and makes the lesser likely action the correct one.

Here Justin Hackett, an intuitive player as well as a very high-level one, did well to analyze the table situation (with East pitching low clubs) and concluded that both on West’s trump lead and East’s failure to discard just low hearts, that West was an overwhelming favorite to possess the club queen.

Besides, as Edgar Kaplan once said, “Sometimes the difference between daring and foolhearty is only the result”.

Thanks to Justin for providing the opportunity, to Jim2 and HBJ for their comments and interest and to bridge itself for offering titilliating psychological battles for players and kibitzers to enjoy.