Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

The policeman buys shoes slow and careful; the teamster buys gloves slow and careful; they take care of their feet and hands; they live on their feet and hands.

Carl Sandburg

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


After North's routine pre-emptive raise to game, West cashes the heart king and then shifts to the club jack. Once East follows, how do you propose to make 10 tricks?

After taking the club jack with your ace, you draw trump in two rounds and ruff the heart queen in dummy. Then you cash the club queen and king, ending in the dummy. Now that both hearts and clubs have been eliminated, you lead a low diamond from dummy, intending to cover whichever card lower in rank than the king that East might play.

On the given layout, suppose that East follows with the diamond seven. When you cover this with the nine, West has to win the trick with the ace and your king is set up immediately. Also, it would not help East to play a diamond higher than the seven. If he plays the 10, this will be covered by the king and ace, leaving the jack and nine equals against the defenders’ queen. And, of course, the diamond queen from East would be even less effective.

On another layout West might win the first diamond with the 10. Then he can do nothing but play another diamond (allowing you to make the diamond king) or give you a ruff-and-discard. Thus you will make 10 tricks no matter how the diamond suit lies.

By contrast, if you had played a diamond to the king in today’s layout, West would take it and return a diamond, giving the defense four tricks.

It may look obvious to jump to four spades, but you have a vast number of losers — imagine your partner with queen-fourth of spades and a stray jack. Best is to jump to three spades, which (since even a simple raise to two spades shows a good hand) suggests huge trump support and at least an ace more than a decent opening bid.


♠ A K 10 4 3
 Q 7
 K 9 2
♣ A Q 7
South West North East
Dbl. Pass 1♠ 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


jim2March 28th, 2012 at 4:57 pm

The column hand poses an interesting Law of Total Tricks situation.

Both sides have 10 trump, but there appear to be only 18 tricks there — 10 for N-S and 8 for E-W.

bobby wolffMarch 29th, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, Larry Cohen will be disappointed if he reads this hand.

The “Law” is not a god only a guide. But in bridge, those inconsistencies seem to be the rule not the exception. For what it is worth I believe the lower spot cards are the main reasons for the problem since they sometimes have a great effect on trick taking.

For proof consider: J2 opposite, K543 as against J2 opposite K1098. With the same holdings and with Qxx in front of the K there are 3 tricks difference in the application and all with no Goren point count difference.

The bridge law of total tricks, at least to me, have the same problem other laws have, including bridge ones. Sometimes the laws do more harm than good, and although most law abiding citizens think, not to follow them is one of our worst sins, I generally do not agree. Color me different.