Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Dealer: East

Vul: Both


A J 10 7 3

10 9 7 5 3 2

Q 5


K 6 3 2

Q J 4

A J 9 7 6 4


Q 4

Q 9 8 7 5 4


K 10 3 2


K 9 8 6 5 2

A J 10

A 8 6



South West North East
2 4 4 Pass
Pass 5 5 All Pass

Opening Lead: Club Ace

“It is easier to discover a deficiency in individuals, in states, and in Providence, than to see their real import and value.”

— Friedrich Hegel

Bridge literature is filled with suit combinations with which you should try to make the opponents do the heavy lifting, rather than try to do the hard work yourself. Sometimes the strategy needed to persuade your opponents to sacrifice themselves is obvious, but in a deal like today’s, the approach is far from obvious. Enough clues: let’s look at how South should play five spades. West leads the club ace, followed by a club to East’s king.


Now the hand appears to hinge on diamonds breaking 2-2, but that is an oversimplification. Your chances are considerably better than that, if you take advantage of a neat variation on a standard theme, that of the elimination play. Declarer should ruff the club at trick two, ruff a heart, then play the spade ace and a spade to his king, cash the heart ace, and ruff a heart.


Now declarer plays a low diamond from dummy and, when East produces an honor, ducks. As long as diamonds are either 2-2 or 3-1 with one hand holding a singleton honor, he is home. When East wins the trick, all he can do is give a ruff-sluff, and the diamond loser from the South hand goes away.


(Admittedly, on a different day, if East were to rise with the king and then exit with the four, declarer would have to guess whether to play him for K-4 doubleton or K-Q-4. Fortunately, today is not that day!)


South Holds:

K 9 8 6 5 2
A J 10
A 8 6


South West North East
    1 Pass
1 Pass 2 Pass
ANSWER: Today’s deal is all about partnership agreements, not about the correct call. When North reverses (bidding a suit at his second turn that forces South to give preference at the three-level), he guarantees real extras. If you play as I do that a call of two spades by South here is forcing, then make that call and allow North to describe his hand further. If not, bid two hearts as the fourth suit to set up a force.


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


Howard Bigot-JohnsonNovember 22nd, 2011 at 9:32 am

HBJ : Yes, this line works if East has the two outstanding spades, but if say West held them….. a clever East could unblock his king of diamonds to avoid an end play on his side.
Now I suppose after the same elimination play a low diamond to dummy’s 10 would also bring home the bacon.
Lovely hand to demonstrate the virtue of covering both the 2-2 and 3-1 diamond breaks in one go, with the only the KQJ holding scuppering one’s chances of a result.

jim2November 22nd, 2011 at 1:44 pm

What should declarer do if East follows with the 4D?

MikeNovember 22nd, 2011 at 2:13 pm

It makes no difference what E plays. You always duck the first D trick. Anyway, if E plays the 4, you will only go down if W has KQJ, which is hardly possible given the lead of A C without the K. So basically if E plays 4, you are making.

Bobby WolffNovember 22nd, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Hi Jim2 and Mike,

Good question Jim2, and as far as Mike’s answer I can only quote 2nd Citizen from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” after Mark Antony had made his famous speech (“Friends, Romans, Countrymen”) on Caesar’s infamous murder, “Methinks he has much reason in what he says”.

At least to me, bridge is the greatest competitive game ever, because of the powerful thought and logic ever present, first in calibrating the bidding and then in the execution of playing and defending.

What other game comes even close in challenging the above, as long as everyone at the table treats our game properly and thus plays ethically and honorably?

jim2November 22nd, 2011 at 3:55 pm

I quite agree on ducking the 4D.

I asked because of the wording in the column:

“Now declarer plays a low diamond from dummy and, when East produces an honor, ducks.”

If one intended to duck whatever East played, then the wording could have been:

“Now declarer plays a low diamond from dummy and, no matter what diamond East produces, ducks.”


“Now declarer ducks a diamond.”

The specific use of “honor” in the column made me wonder, that’s all.

Bobby WolffNovember 23rd, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your comment is right-on and in retrospect it should have been discovered and changed at some point in the proof-reading process.

Clarity in presentation should rank at or very near the top in all types of writing, particularly when the text reaches many readers and the subject is a difficult game which requires exactness in both the playing and/or the relating.

Thank you for your reminder of our continued responsibility to all our valued readers.

Jeff HNovember 28th, 2011 at 6:46 am

@hbj – It seems that unblocking the diamond king would do little to help. You again eliminate the round suits and then either lead up to the 10 of diamonds or lead it from the board. It makes no difference as West is now endplayed. It seems to me that keeping the K gives declarer the best chance to go wrong.

Bobby WolffNovember 28th, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Hi Jeff H,

Please excuse the delay, but you are 100% correct in what you say. When East plays the King, South should let him hold it, with West playing an honor not the 4. Then, if East continues with the 4 South would have a legitimate guess as to whether to finesse it or not. That defensive gambit, instituted by East, is to cater to the actual holdings since if East had K(H)4 and played low, South would duck, endplaying West with his possible singleton H, but if West played an honor and East then, after declarer’s duck, continued with the 4 South would have to guess. Note: Since East’s play of the H, holding double H 4, that double honor 4 is probably less likely for him to “rise to the occasion” (and very cerebral, although realizing that West’s diamond holding, at this time is unknown, while just following suit with the 4 is more natural, although missing a chance for a significant gambit, worth a newspaper column.