Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 25th, 2012

The privilege of absurdity, to which no living creature is subject but man only.

Thomas Hobbes

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


Today's deal contains points of interest both for defenders and for declarer.

Looking at all four hands, can South make six hearts on the lead of the spade queen?

If South ruffs the opening lead and plays ace and another club, East must ruff his partner’s winner and play a trump, restricting South to 11 tricks. If East hoards his trump, not ruffing his partner’s winner, then the 4-0 break comes to declarer’s rescue. He can simply arrange to ruff his two club losers in dummy and come to 12 tricks painlessly.

Of course, declarer does not know in advance about the bad trump break, but he must plan to counter this line of defense. What he must do at trick two is play the diamond king, then cash the diamond ace, and ruff a diamond high.

He has now established the diamonds as a threat against East. When he now plays ace and another club, East again must ruff and play a trump, or South reverts to the crossruff line. The difference is that when South wins the trump in dummy and finds the bad break, East is left with only two trumps instead of three.

South simply plays a winning diamond from the dummy. East must ruff again, but now a second heart to dummy draws East’s last trump and provides access to dummy for the last time. So both of declarer’s club losers can be discarded on dummy’s two remaining diamond winners.

Your partner's double is takeout, suggesting values and the unbid suit. Obviously you intend to bid hearts. The question is whether to bid three hearts or just make the simple call of two hearts. The fourth trump is exceedingly valuable, but with the queens in the minors instead of one in the trump suit, I'd settle for a call of two hearts, planning to complete to three hearts if necessary.


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


jim2June 8th, 2012 at 12:52 pm

The column hand is presented as a double dummy exercise. What would you consider to be the best “normal” play?

For example, if trump are 2-2 and clubs more evenly split and the winner of the second club leads a trump as before, West can ruff the fourth diamond for down one.

I suggest never touching clubs, but establishing diamonds, crossing to a heart honor, and running diamonds. The defense will eventually ruff, but declarer can win the return in hand, cross to the remaining trump honor (drawing the remaining trump), and run more diamonds.

This needs diamonds 3-2, as does the column line, but fails when trump are 4-0.

(The column line seems to fail when, say, clubs are not 6-1 OR West has a second trump.)

bobby wolffJune 8th, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Hi Jim2,

As usual, you have captured the heart of this unusual but somewhat sensational distribution, which leads to this fictional declarer’s success.

From both a learning experience and a learned technique a bright, enthusiastic and an on the way up excellent player will benefit from the thought process.

What are the factors? Imagination, numeracy, and just plain suit establishment are the main actors. In real life this declarer might have to guess whether trumps were 2-2 or 3-1 after the club layout is determined. Is this difficult, if not impossible? No, not at all, since the defensive tempo of the supposed competent opponents may well give it away (when the trumps are originally 2-2 and of course, the clubs are breaking normally, not 6-1) most defenders will, at least appear not to want to switch to the 1st heart. Again Benito Garozzo comes to mind as my most difficult defender to play against since he always seemed to immediately comprehend the right-on problem and therefore was (is) the toughest defender to read.

Are contrived hands worth presenting? Although subject to argument, I think they are, if only for the reader to secure more knowledge understanding tricks with trumps. We must crawl before we walk, (already done with most column readers), walk before we run (where many are now) and then if both of those tasks are accomplished, learn to close opponents out, by using table presence to complete the deed.

The sad part to grasp is just how few talented and enthusiastic would be super players stop (many of them already well established), before they reach the pinnacle, which could be symbolized by the marvelous crossroads depicted above.

Jeff HJune 8th, 2012 at 3:06 pm

I find the opening lead of the spade Queen most unusual, since it is in dummy’s hand. Perhaps you meant the Jack?

bobby wolffJune 8th, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Hi Jeff H,

My copy says the jack, not the queen, of spades is led. I do not know what could have gone wrong for your copy to show a different lead, but if so, I do apologize for the gaffe.

bobby wolffJune 8th, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Hi again Jeff,

Yes, I just spotted the error, it being in the text. Poor proof reading which is totally my responsibility and not to be excused.