Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, February 18th, 2012

What of a truth that is bounded by these mountains and is falsehood to the world that lives beyond?

Michel de Montaigne

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


In today's deal from the NEC tournament held last year in Yokohama, both tables reached five diamonds, Justin Hackett on a club lead, Valio Kovachev on a spade lead. The key to the defense is that when East gets in with the heart king, he must return a trump to kill the crossruff. The Bulgarian East missed this and played back a spade, but Justin drew a round of trumps himself, prematurely, on winning the spade ace, and that was fatal. In the ending, after declarer had trumped two plain cards in dummy, East could ruff a winning heart high and return a second diamond to leave declarer with a losing spade at trick 13.

In the other room a spade lead forced declarer to rush to take his discards. After he gave up a heart to East, Tom Hanlon accurately played back a trump, but Hugh McGann erred by discarding a spade — he could surely have afforded a club. Now, when declarer ruffed two spades to dummy, he had set up his long spade and at trick 13 would be left with a winner, not a loser. So the declarer who should have succeeded went down, and the one who should have been defeated made his contract.

Most of the expert declarers in five diamonds brought home their game when East did not find the diamond shift. Paul Gosney of Australia was one of the few defenders who found the diamond shift at the critical moment to beat five diamonds by force.

It may look attractive to raise to two spades on this auction, but there is a real danger that you may be running into a spade stack. While East has indicated unsuitability for defense, West may still be lurking in the wings. I would pass here, and only bid two spades with the same hand plus an additional minor spade honor. Let partner compete to two spades if he wants to.


♠ A 7 4 2
 9 8 7 5 2
♣ A K 3
South West North East
Dbl. Rdbl. 1♠ 2

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 WarheitMarch 4th, 2012 at 7:06 am

If west leads a club, the best line is to ruff in dummy and lead a small heart at trick two. This makes it very hard for east to rise with the king and return a trump. Failure to do either spells curtains for the defense. On a spade lead, however, south must immediately cash his club winners, and now it is very easy for east to play the king, and especially when declarer plays the queen it is almost as easy to return a trump.

bobby wolffMarch 4th, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Hi David,

Yes, you are right on in your analysis on this type of combination possible cross ruff and/or suit establishment hand.

However, (and I guess you were ready for that word), it would not be difficult at all for a competent East to rise with the king of hearts since South is almost certain to hold the Ace & King of clubs because of West leading the ten (West would not underlead his ace of clubs and if he had the king, the declarer would let it slide around since the king queen combination could also be ruled out).

Thanks again for your continued interest, for by doing so, and particularly expressing what usually is a to the point opinion, you are representing a fairly large part of the bridge population and from around the whole world
who are not inclined to write, for whatever reason they think valid.

Most of the time, at least in my experience, bridge learning comes in clumps where one new thought enables another to fall into place.

And because bridge is really the thinking mans (and womans) game for a lifetime, we will always continue to need an excellent playing liaison to create a reason for specific discussion.

David WarheitMarch 4th, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Wlhat a great comment, Mr. Wolff! When I said “it would be very hard for east to rise with the king”, I meant if I were east, because I probably would have missed the full implications of the club lead which you so carefully pointed out, but I would have been good enough to rise with the heart king after south had plunked down ace of spades and AK of clubs. Great lesson.

Wytze BrouwerSeptember 11th, 2015 at 10:32 pm


My partner would not bid unless he had at least 5 spades since he cannot have more than 4 points. I would raise to 2 spades