Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Reflection, you may come tomorrow,
Sit by the fireside with Sorrow.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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


Sometimes the problem in a bridge deal becomes evident at trick one; on other occasions the difficulties only become apparent later. Into which category does today's deal fall? You are South in six spades on the diamond queen lead, and I'll give you the hint that trumps do not break 4-0.

I hope you decided that the problem resides solely in hearts. If you can avoid losing two tricks in that suit, you should make your slam. With trumps to spare in both hands, you should be looking to strip the hand of the side-suits, eliminate the trumps, then force the defenders to help you out.

So win the lead in hand, draw trumps, then play a diamond to the ace and ruff a diamond. Now cash three rounds of clubs, ending in dummy, and exit with a heart, planning to cover East’s card. If East plays a low, you can put in the seven and claim the balance, but what if he plays the eight? You try the queen, but it loses to the king. Back comes a low heart — should you put the 10 up or play low from dummy?

The correct answer is to play low from dummy. East is more likely to the eight or nine than both cards. This is an example of the principle of Restricted Choice, where if East had the 9-8, he would have had a choice of cards to play at his first turn.

Tempting as it might be to bid three no-trump, your hand was not worth a drive to game at your first turn and has not become so when partner's response promises no more than 5-6 points. You can describe your hand precisely by raising to two no-trump. This shows a balanced 18-19 count and lets partner tell you what he has.


♠ A Q 9 5 3
 A Q 7
 K 5
♣ K 8 5
South West North East
1♠ Pass 1 NT 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 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David GoldfarbFebruary 22nd, 2012 at 9:26 am

On this hand, actually, I’d play it a little differently: when trumps split 2-2, instead of ruffing a diamond and then playing clubs ending in dummy, I’d play off the clubs first then lead the D9. If West started with QJT in diamonds, I can throw a heart and then I don’t have to worry about how the hearts lie. (This also wins if East started with the T but is napping and doesn’t cover the 9.)

On the actual hand, East presumably covers the D9 with the T, I ruff in hand, then re-enter dummy with a trump to lead a heart, and we come back to where we were in the text.

David WarheitFebruary 22nd, 2012 at 10:02 am

Good comment, David. Your line of play also works if west has at least 6 diamonds, and preserves all the chances in the suggested line.

There is an alternate line of play: strip the hand as suggested and then either lead a small heart towards the ten or lead the ten. This works unless east has the jack and west the king. Note that at this point you know that hearts are no worse than 5-2. This line is worse than the suggested line, since that line fails only if east has the 8 & the 9 (and he plays one of them on the first lead). At first blush it looks like the suggested line of play is only very slightly better than this, but the combination of east making a mistake and the rule of restricted choice discussed in the article make the suggested line better than twice as good.

jim2February 22nd, 2012 at 1:02 pm

You guys!

I’ve been waiting for two weeks to mention the 9D play and the alternate heart line, and you BOTH got in ahead of me!

Grumble-mutter-sigh ….


bobby wolffFebruary 22nd, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Hi DavidG, DavidW, and Jim2 aka the three wise men,

One not only has to be a knowledgeable bridge player, but also live in the right time zone to get the recognition he deserves.

Between the two Davids, I feel like a fallen Goliath and to Jim I can only say, Grumble-mutter-double sigh…Worse still, everything which needs to be said about the alternate heart attack is summed up neatly. However good bridge analysis appears to be alive and well even though it is coming at me instead of from me.

Damn those slingshots and back to the bridge board, searching for greater difficulty.

David GoldfarbFebruary 22nd, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Actually I’m in the Central time zone, but am a night owl and so generally see the column just as soon as it is posted.