Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 21st, 2012

The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.

Edward Phelps

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


In today's deal North's raise to two hearts is the most flexible action with a single spade guard, even though three no-trump would have been an easier spot as the cards lie.

How would you play the heart game when West leads the spade king?

Suppose you win with the ace and begin to draw trumps. The 4-1 break means you will not be able to set up a 10th trick in diamonds before you have lost control of the hand. So after winning the spade lead, you should immediately lead a low diamond to the nine.

West wins with the jack and persists with another spade. You ruff in hand and play three rounds of trumps, leaving East with the trump 10, and yourself with the jack. You then cross to dummy with the club king and lead another low diamond, hoping to see an honor appear from East. East produces a low diamond, but you guess to put in the eight, which forces West’s ace.

That player forces you to ruff a spade with your last trump (the jack), but when you play the diamond king, the suit proves to be 3-3. East is welcome to ruff the fourth round of diamonds with his established trump 10, because he will have no spade to return. So the game comes home.

The moral is that whenever it may take some time to establish a needed trick in a side suit, consider playing on the side suit before drawing all the trumps.

The answer to this question is more about personal style than what is right or wrong. I'd simply raise to three no-trump without using Stayman, an action I tend to take whenever I have square shape and enough high-card values to suggest that game should be easy. There are two reasons why this may work: It gives away less information about declarer's shape, and even if we have a spade fit, the suit may not break.


♠ A 8 4 2
 8 6 2
 10 5 4
♣ K 6 2
South West North East
2 NT 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


Howard Bigot-JohnsonJuly 5th, 2012 at 7:16 pm

HBJ : Lovely instructive hand . Clearly 9 tricks are always there and so the 10th has to come from diamonds relying on one honour (J/Q) being in East’s hand.
Taking 3 rounds of trumps, eliminating clubs and timing ( playing on diamonds at trick 2 ) all the key requirements of a successful line of play.
For declarers like me I could see myself losing trump control and playing diamonds for three losers. Perhaps not now should an identical hand turn up at my next duplicate outing.
Thanks for the gift of insight.

bobby wolffJuly 5th, 2012 at 9:54 pm


For the gift of insight, you return the joy of caring and appreciation.

The ability not to panic saved this declarer from defeat. Like life itself, the 4-1 trump break was just another tack in the road, taking thought which led to a proper remedy, but overcoming adversity, like that which too often occurs at your bridge club, becomes the order of the day and to overcome it, requires patience, discipline and talent. Good luck!