Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 26th, 2011

Since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than to be loved.

Niccolo Macchiavelli

East North
Neither ♠ J 10 9 2
 K 9
 Q J 4 3
♣ Q 10 9
West East
♠ A K 8 6 5 3
 10 6 5
♣ 8 7 3 2
♠ 7 4
 10 7 6 4 2
 A 9 2
♣ A J 4
♠ Q
 A Q J 8 5 3
 K 8 7
♣ K 6 5
South West North East
1 2♠ Dbl. Pass
4 All pass    


In today's deal from the Cap Gemini, Paul Chemla of France would have been doubly irritated with himself for misguessing the location of a high card — and even more irritated when it turned out that he had a line of play that did not require the guess at all!

Three no-trump may be best for North-South, but four hearts looked fair enough on the lead of a top spade. This was particularly true because, after the opening lead, Chemla knew the location of both minor-suit aces.

After some thought, West shifted to the diamond six, and East put in the nine. Chemla won in hand, crossed to the heart king, and continued with the heart nine, thoughtfully covered by East. Now Chemla could draw trump, but in the process he erred by pitching all of dummy’s spades.

At this point a diamond to the jack, ducked, left Chemla having to find the club jack. That was because when East won the third diamond, he had a spade exit-card that declarer could not extract. Since West was known to hold four clubs, Chemla got it wrong by playing him for the jack.

The correct play is to leave one spade in dummy while drawing trump, throwing a club from dummy instead. Now you lead a second diamond to dummy after drawing trump. East must duck, you ruff a spade back to hand, and lead a third round of diamonds. East takes it, but is now endplayed to lead clubs in the three-card ending.

With trump control the advantage of leading your singleton is obvious. You will be able to get in at least once more, and so long as your partner has an entry, you have good chances of scoring quite a few quick tricks. When the opponents are in a known 4-4 fit, there is less attraction in playing a forcing game (here by playing on spades) — declarer can draw trump in either hand while ruffing in the other.


♠ K 10 5 4
 A 4 3 2
♣ 9 7 6 4
South West North East
1♣ Pass 1
Pass 2 Pass 3 NT
Pass 4 All pass  

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


Michael BeyroutiJanuary 9th, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Dear Mr Wolff,
What you describe here is a very nice and elegant line of play…
Just out of curiosity, what made you choose this particular Macchiavelli quote since none of the key words, such as love or fear, appear in the text?
What did North’s Double mean? Were they playing penalty doubles of weak jump-overcalls?

Bobby WolffJanuary 9th, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Hi Michael,

First, North’s double was negative and therefore for takeout. True, he had a spade trick, but his desire was to tell partner he had a smattering, no more than a doubleton in his partner’s suit, but did not want to sell out at the 2 level.

Your interest in why that particular quote was used might be answered by the elegant successful line discussed, but endangered going down several tricks, just in case West showed up with an ace of one of the minors, making there be, at least a modicum of fear, with declarer choosing that line of play.

And besides Prince Macchiavelli has always been one of my favorite characters, living hundreds of years ago, but understanding human nature thinking as well as anyone ever. By reading his famous book, “The Prince” my favorite quote of all time appeared and read something like, “In times of national corruption the do-gooder will always be despised”.

Bobby WolffJanuary 9th, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Hi Michael,

Also, I left out that Paul Chemla’s personality is feared by some of his contemporaries, (although underneath he is just a lovable pussy cat), because he always appears to be a roaring lion ready to digest his dinner with his opponents being the victims.