Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, April 27th, 2012

Battles nor songs can from oblivion save,
But Fame upon a white deed loves to build.

Lizette Reese

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



In today's deal from last year's Yeh Cup in Wuxi, China, three hearts looks to be high enough. But Agustin Madala bid game and received a diamond lead to the king, a spade shift to the ace, and a second diamond. He rose with the ace, pitched his diamond loser on the top spade, then finessed the heart jack, noting West's seven. Now he played a club, ruffed a diamond as East threw a club, took a second top club, and played dummy's top spade to pitch his last club.

Next came a second diamond ruff as East pitched his last spade, and since the defenders’ only plain-suit cards were spades, declarer could safely exit with the heart jack, knowing that if East won and had a spade to lead, declarer would be able to ruff low and not be overruffed. As the cards lay, East won and played back a heart, letting Madala finesse and claim his contract.

East had only one chance to make declarer’s life harder. When the fourth diamond was led from dummy, ruffing low would have given up any hope of getting a second trump trick. But might East have given declarer a losing option by ruffing high?

Declarer has to overruff, then has to read whether to exit with a high trump or a low one, depending on whether the remaining heart honor is bare or the nine is falling. I think declarer should get this right; if West has false-carded with the trump seven from 9-7-x, good luck to him.

A bid of one spade would show at least five, but you can double to show four spades and values, typically with diamond tolerance. You are very much at the minimum end of therange for this action, but if you do not bid now, you may never get an easy and relatively safe chance to show values.


♠ 10 7 6 5
 K Q 5 3
 K 9
♣ 10 9 4
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 ClimieMay 11th, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff,

What happens if East plays a diamond back at Trick 2 looking to put West in with the SA for a diamond ruff. East can split his/her trump honours when a trump is led and I think this sinks the contract. Easy with the sight of all the hands of course when you know there are not critical discards on the clubs but am I missing something?


Iain Climie

JaneMay 11th, 2012 at 2:49 pm

This is exactly what I was going say as well. I see no reason not to lead the diamond back. Looks to me like the only good chance to set the contract. If declarer holds the spade ace, then there is nothing to be done anyway. Does east even have to split his heart honors?

bobbywolffMay 11th, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Hi Iain and Jane,

Yes, with this particular diamond and heart layout, along with the opening leader holding the ace of spades, a diamond back would have scuttled the contract.

However it would have been necessary for East to split his heart honors, otherwise declarer
after finessing the heart jack and playing the ace could run his good clubs (with East having to follow suit three times) and throw his losing spade away while East was ruffing the 4th club.

As mentioned above in the hand, this was a real life tournament hand which almost surely involved East thinking he was likely to eventually get two heart tricks (he usually would) and didn’t want to risk declarer being able to throw away his spade(s) earlier on good clubs especially when partner could have the singleton jack of hearts or somesuch making the set a sure thing as long as East didn’t split or, of course a trump coup was not effected.

Also it is possible that partner’s diamond spot was not readable (they obviously normally lead 3rd and 5th) although it probably should have been.

In bridge, just like in so many other endeavors there is “many a slip between the cup and the lip”. However with both of your eagle eyes coupled with (in both cases) love of the game, the discussion of bridge will never be left wanting.

Iain ClimieMay 11th, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Hi Jane,

I suppose in East’s defence that South could be 2-7-3-1 when the spades disappear on clubs and the defence are held to 1D and 2H tricks. Here a spade back then a club could leave South trump bound so that East eventually scores two trump tricks.

It does seem a bit far fetched but South’s skimpy values could suggest an extra trump. Any thoughts?


bobbywolffMay 11th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Hi again Iain,

Sometimes a quick pen wreaks undue satisfaction.

Your fast thinking mind is indeed impressive and is a huge asset in playing the game we all love, if only in making your bridge table presence difficult, for an even astute opponent to overcome.

Iain ClimieMay 11th, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Hi again Mr. Wolff,

You are too kind – no, really. I wasn’t quick enough to put the other possibility in my first post! Another really good hand for discussion, though and I do sympathise with East.



David WarheitMay 11th, 2012 at 4:30 pm

South can avoid the line of play suggested by Cllimie & Jane by going up with the diamond ace. East, however, can still defeat the contract by unblocking his diamond king under the ace. This is not, however, a very easy play for east. Hmm, that’s two howevers, which explains why my head hurt when I first read this problem.

Mike WienerMay 11th, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Nobody playing matchpoints would take the safety play shown in this hand. I love your column but my one criticism is that, like this hand, you often give solutions that may not apply to matchpoint scoring. You should make a point of this in your discussion of the hands.

Mike WienerMay 11th, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Oops. I was commenting on a hand that appeared in today’s newspaper (5/11).

bobbywolffMay 12th, 2012 at 12:01 am

Hi Mike,

At the very least, you have well advertised the 5/25 AOB hand which will be seen right here. Thanks for the plug.