Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 10th, 2012

But let us argue points in order,
And reason the whole case carefully.

Edgar Lee Masters

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


After this relatively long auction to six spades, West knew enough to lead the heart three. How would you plan the play?

When trumps are 3-2 and clubs no worse that 4-2, you can make the contract by winning the heart ace, cashing the club king, drawing trumps ending in hand, and ruffing a low club. You will make four trumps, the red aces, five clubs and a club ruff.

However, whereas trumps are a favorite to split, clubs rate to be 4-2 rather than 3-3, so you should try to protect against the expected as well as unexpected bad breaks. If one player has long spades, you hope it is East — but you still need to be careful.

After winning the heart ace and cashing the club king, you need to manipulate the trump suit. Suppose you carelessly play the spade ace followed by the six to your king. When you continue with a club ruff, you will be left with the bare spade 10 on the table. East will not cover when you lead it, and you will have no safe way to draw his last trump. One down!

The winning play after cashing the spade ace is to lead the spade 10 to the king. You ruff a low club with the nine and then play dummy’s trump six, finessing the eight in your hand. You can then draw the last trump with the queen and claim the contract.

If you are unwilling to pass, should you overcall, double, or bid one no-trump? The last option is unpalatable for more than one reason, and a two-level overcall in your weak diamond suit might have you banned from bridge. What's left is a canape one-spade overcall, or — my choice — a double. I'd be planning to convert a two-club response to two diamonds, pretending I have a little more than I do.


♠ A 10 9 6
 A 8 7
 A 8 6 3 2
♣ K
South West North East

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


jim2February 24th, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Seeing no posts, I beg our Host’s indulgence to tell you a story. The same exact hand was dealt in a small stakes lunch bridge game I played in many years ago in an alternate universe. The E-W hands, however, were switched.

My partner was a nice guy, but he couldn’t have timed the play of the hand if we were playing in a clock shop. From his point of view, suits never broke for him so he always tried for cross-ruffs. Here, clubs would surely not break, so he knew he would need to ruff both red suits.

Thus, he ducked the heart lead!

East – holding the West hand in the column – made what seemed the only safe return of a club (any red suit return transposes), and pard climbed aboard his horse Ruff.

Club king – diamond ace – heart ace (pitching last diamond) – diamond ruff – club ace – club queen and West (holding the East hand above) had a dilemma with dummy ready to over-ruff and pitched a heart. Pard pitched a diamond from dummy and thrust another club into the Defense. West knew his partner held the high club and pitched another heart.

Pard duly ruffed it, ruffed dummy’s last heart in hand with the 8S, ruffed a club with the 9S, ruffed dummy‚Äôs last diamond with the QS, and rode Ruff all the way home. West suffered the indignity of having to under-ruff the last four tricks. East only had to under-ruff once.

bobby wolffFebruary 24th, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Hi Jim2,

I thought you were going to point out an error in the Aces description of the play about after leading the 10 of spades to the King declarer ruffed a club with the 9 but, according to the prose, declarer did not lead the ace of spades before leading a small spade to the 8.

Is that the equivalent to ducking the heart lead while playing a grand slam?

Your luncheon story is indeed a ruff and very tough tale (or is it tail to remind us of the animal involved) to relay, but what the defense had to endure of “Underruffing is the curse of the game” was almost worth the gaffe or is it giraffe.

Now, after re-reading the column description, it has magically corrected itself making my first paragraph null & void of sense and sensability.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonFebruary 25th, 2012 at 12:26 am

HBJ : Will this line of play stand up to scrutiny. Duck heart, and win continuation pitching a losing diamond. Play K of clubs. Play 10 of spades finessing the jack. Assume East covers, queen winning. Low club ruff with dummy’s 9. Spade Ace, and spade return ( East’s 75 taken by declarer’s K8 ) with remaining clubs all good.
If 10 of spades not covered. Then play club King, before low spade to declarer’s 8. Again club ruff with this time with the Ace, before removing trumps with declarer’s KQ to enjoy the long clubs.
So whole contract depends on East having the jack of spades. Good odds or not ?

jim2February 25th, 2012 at 2:55 am


The column line wins on all 3 – 2 (or 2 – 3) splits no matter where the JS is. It also wins when the JS is singleton in the West hand, as well as in a four card holding in the East hand as in the column.