Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Even a sheet of paper has two sides.

Japanese saying

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


You never know when squirreling papers away will come in handy. In cleaning out my files, I came across a hand I'd cut out from a U.S. Daily Bulletin from the 1970s. Declarer was Robert Lebi of Canada, who has been a regular player on Canadian squads over the last 30 years.

The lead against four hearts was the club jack to East’s king. Next the club ace was cashed, and East now erred by playing a third club, allowing declarer to shorten his hand. Lebi earned a game swing for his team in this Spingold match by ruffing, playing a heart to the ace, and, believing his opponent’s king to be a true card, played for a trump reduction. He took the spade ace, then ruffed a spade. Now came the diamond ace and king, a diamond ruff, and a spade ruff. Declarer was down to the Q-10 of hearts and a master diamond while West held J-9-3 of hearts. The diamond jack completed the coup. West had to ruff and lead into the trump tenace to concede the contract.

The Levi team won their knockout match by less than the swing on this deal, when the other declarer did not ruff a spade when in dummy with the heart ace!

Note that if East shifts to the heart king or a diamond, declarer cannot get home. While the heart play could be expensive, a diamond will almost never cost, and as we have seen, it can gain by preventing declarer from shortening himself for the trump coup.

A simple call of two clubs is reasonable, as is a double. This would not be for penalties, but show the fourth suit, clubs, and tolerance for partner's suit, together with decent values. Your trump support may be on the feeble side, but your opening values probably compensate for that.


♠ K 8 6 3
 7 3 2
♣ A K 9 6 3
South West North East
1 1 1♠

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


Iain ClimieApril 24th, 2012 at 10:34 am

Dear Mr. Wolff,

I feel East was on autopilot here. Is it really likely that a 3rd club could be right as South can hardly be 0-5-5-3 shape on the bidding? If so, partner would have 5 trumps so the contract would probably be doomed regardless looking at the misfit.

If South somehow had HQJ109x and 5 solid diamonds or even had 5H and 6D then a diamond back still works – the trump finesse is probably taken and then a club back sinks the contract. If east held HKJ doubleton, however, then the King might have been a brilliancy.

I can’t help feeling that I’d have played a 3rd club first and thought later, however.



bobbywolffApril 24th, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Hi Iain,

You have a rare 3 way combination of modesty, enthusiasm, and more high-level bridge understanding than you care to acknowledge.

This current hand and your discussion illustrates all of the above attributes, especially your humble admission of, like the above East, probably falling into the trap of continuing a 3rd club.

However, how about if declarer held the 10 of clubs also, but the QJ109xx of hearts and only 4 solid diamonds (AKQJ but decided to rebid them anyway, very unlikely), and after LHO ruffed the 3rd club, then lost the setting trick to the bare king of trumps. I am aware that, with that layout, perhaps West should throw the 10 of clubs away on the 2nd cashed club, if he had it, but sometimes (often) those informative plays are not made, simply because both the pace of the play and the degree of difficulty in doing it, dictates against its liklihood.

Never forget, that without your curiosity and effort in bringing the above factors to our very large worldwide internet audience the value of the history of this hand diminishes to a whisper.
This long ago hand and the tricks with trumps which Robert Lebi performed is indeed concrete evidence of the superiority of our game. Sure the defense could have thwarted his maestro performance, but it would have taken a brilliancy on its own.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonApril 24th, 2012 at 1:30 pm

HBJ : As East in with the club Ace , I would be looking at North’s doubleton diamond with a measure of dread. Clearly, my king of hearts is a goner with declarer no doubt electing to play the Ace first if the suit is to be tackled.
So why cash the second club and play the king of hearts at trick 3 ! What can declare do ? He can of course ruff a diamond quickly with dummy’s small remaining trump ( for fear of losing his chance to ruff the 3rd diamond )……….. but I think the timing is out ? He doesn’t get to dummy enough times for the trump reduction leaving East with a safe exit card in spades.

jim2April 24th, 2012 at 2:24 pm

I would not lead the KH, and agree with our Host on a diamond at Trick #3.

To put it another way, if I led the KH at Trick #3, the “Theory of card Migration” would give South:


bobbywolffApril 24th, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Hi HBJ and Jim2,

Yes, I agree with Jim2 to lead a diamond at trick 3 in case of his well thought out layout which, if true, would likely cause the contract to sail home, because of the heart king sacrifice, instead of being defeated when declarer instead will go for the better percentage play of the straight heart finesse, hoping for a singleton or doubleton heart king onside.

Iain ClimieApril 24th, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff,

Many thanks for you kind comments although I can produce numerous partners (past and present) who might argue the opposite case. I can at least try to live up to the qualities you think I have.



Howard Bigot-JohnsonApril 24th, 2012 at 4:49 pm

HBJ : Just a final thought. On the bidding South looks to have a 6-5 distribution in the red suits leaving West with 4 trumps.
Given that declarer will be looking to ruff one diamond ( with heart 4) he wont be taking the finesse on from hand. He will surely play the Ace, and then decide on playing for either the king doubleton or jack doubleton in hearts ( if the king didn’t appeared ).
I appreciate a diamond switch at trick 3 may be best for the defence, but I was only suggesting an imaginative albeit imperfect defence.

bobbywolffApril 24th, 2012 at 5:23 pm


What you say is all true. It is now relatively easy to see that either a diamond or the king of hearts will prevent declarer from being able to execute his trump end play, leaving a third club the losing play. However, since with certain declarer holdings such as Jim2 described, the heart king would fail but the diamond would probably succeed, leaving the heart king play (with Jim2’s hypothetical layout) also failing. No doubt the heart king is a better play than a 3rd club, but still not as good as a diamond.

With your description (2nd paragraph) you are looking at all 52 cards and only Superman, with his Xray eyes, is privy to such advantage.