Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Alas, regardless of their doom,
The little victims play!
No sense have they of ills to come,
Nor care beyond today.

Thomas Gray

South North
East-West ♠ A J 9 6 5 3 2
 A 6 2
 K 5
♣ 6
West East
♠ Q 8 7 4
 K Q J 9 4
 Q 8 2
♣ 8
♠ K
 10 8 7 3
 J 9 6 3
♣ J 9 4 2
♠ 10
 A 10 7 4
♣ A K Q 10 7 5 3
South West North East
1♣ 1 1♠ Pass
3♣ Pass 3♠ Pass
5♣ Pass 6♣ All pass


How would you play today's contract of six clubs after receiving a heart lead? It looks natural to play for a diamond ruff in dummy, and indeed that is the right approach. But there are some formalities to be observed if you are to give yourself the absolutely best chance.

When the deal came up, David Smith of Australia was at the helm, after an auction in which South’s delayed jump to five clubs suggested solid clubs together with some extra values on the side. After winning the heart ace, he made the careful move of ruffing a heart in hand in to protect himself against the somewhat unlikely but by no means impossible bad break in clubs. Now came a diamond to the king and a heart ruff, the diamond ace and a diamond ruff, then the spade ace and a spade ruff as East pitched a heart.

At this point in the deal declarer had cashed four winners and taken three ruffs in hand and one in dummy, to reduce to a five-card ending. Smith now cashed two top trumps, ready to claim if they split. When they did not, he simply exited with his losing diamond and could claim the last two tricks whichever defender won the trick since he had the Q-10 of clubs poised over East’s guarded jack of trumps.

(Declarer has some flexibility in the timing, but must use his entries to dummy to ruff three times, to reduce his trump holding to East’s length for the trump coup.)

You have only five hearts. Additionally, with a minimum hand and a slow trick on defense in the trump suit, it would be totally wrong to bid on here. Just for reference, if your minor suits were switched you would still not really have enough to bid three hearts, but the decision would be much closer.


♠ Q 8 7 4
 K Q J 9 4
 Q 8 2
♣ 8
South West North East
Pass 1
1 2 2 3

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 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


JaneJanuary 19th, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Hi Bobby,

Doesn’t a club lead sets the contract? Seems like west should consider this as it appears to be a misfit hand. If you had been north, would you have bid slam?


RogerMJanuary 19th, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Interestingly, declarer can still make it on a club lead. Draw trump, then lead a trump to the spade Ace, intending to set up a spade trick. When the spade King falls, just lead the spade Jack and pitch a diamond, setting up the spade nine for trick twelve.

RogerMJanuary 19th, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Sorry – I meant “Draw trump, then lead a spade to the Ace…”

JaneJanuary 19th, 2012 at 3:50 pm

You are right! How cool is this?? Real lucky however. I still wonder if the slam should be bid. Results bridge and all that jazz.

Thanks for the comments.

(Hi Bobby- looks like we took over your blog for a moment)

Bobby WolffJanuary 19th, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Hi Jane and Roger,

Taking over, what you call my blog, is what sites are supposed to be about. Roger is correct in suggesting (and being 100% right), about the loser on loser play in spades for the slam going trick.

Yes I would bid 6 clubs with the North hand, relying on South’s 1,3,5 club bidding to suggest (at least what he thought to be) a solid suit (or almost) and both an Ace and a King on the side.

Notice that, even with a club lead, with spades the normal 3-2 there is both enough time and entries to establish spades and make a grand slam.

Both aces (especially) and kings (slightly) are undervalued and this hand is good evidence to that fact. When 7 card suits headed by the ace are accompanied with probably entries, all one’s partner needs is a singleton in order to establish great numbers of tricks. With normal 3-2 breaks in both black suits, 15 tricks become available and we only bid to 12. However because of the dastardly distribution encountered, the above estimate was held to only our contract and without dummy’s 9 of spades, and East’s singleton being an honor, well, don’t ask.

One other learning experience is worth noting having to do with the book Design for Bidding, beautifully described way back in the 1940’s by S.J. Simon of the UK.

While 1C, P, 1S, P, 2C, P, 2S P is not only NF but expected to be passed. However 1C, P, 1S, P, 3C, P, 3S is GF (or at least to 4C), not because of superstition or black magic, but only because of the necessity of, based on frequency, the lack of bidding space available suggesting playing it forcing, so that the correct higher contract has more of a chance of being reached, instead of trying to stop on a dime which being able to pass 3S would be doing.

All the above bridge caveats need to be digested and learned before any of us will begin to have any chance to reach levels all of our very good minds should seek.

True, the playing of bridge has no universally great intrinsic value which will help the human race, but playing it for the excitement, logical mind development and challenge as a pastime, at least in my opinion, has no equal.

As Rudy Vallee, a very old 1930’s famous singer, might have sung, “My site is your site” instead of his well-known theme song, “My time is your time”.

Ted BartunekJanuary 24th, 2012 at 1:10 am

After ruffing the diamond, use the second heart ruff to return to your hand and now draw 2 rounds of trump. If trump split, you’ll have a potential spade/diamond squeeze against West. When trump fail to split, you can still cross to the spade ace and ruff the spade at that time to achieve the 3 card ending.