Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

A Foreign Secretary … is always faced with this cruel dilemma. Nothing he can say can do very much good, and almost anything he may say may do a great deal of harm.

Harold MacMillan

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


Against six spades, West leads the heart 10, won with your ace, but on the first trump, East discards a club. Can you recover?

You will have to start by discarding dummy’s diamond losers on your two spare heart winners. You play the diamond ace at trick three, cross to the club king, and cash the club queen.

You next play the heart king and queen, throwing dummy’s remaining diamonds. When you lead the trump five, West does best to split his honors, preventing you from finessing dummy’s eight. You win his trump 10 with the queen and ruff the club four with your remaining trump, the nine.

While dummy’s last four cards are the trump K-8-3 and club ace, West still has to play to this trick, holding J-7-6 of trumps and a low card in each red suit. He is now on the horns of a dilemma. If he overruffs with the jack, you will be able to ruff his red-suit return in dummy, draw trump, and claim the balance. If instead he discards, you will lead a red card and score a ruff with dummy’s trump three. You can then exit with the club ace, which West ruffs, and score the K-8 of trumps on his return.

(Incidentally, if East had all five trumps, you would need to find him with exactly 5-3-1-4 pattern. If so, you could cash all the side suits, ruff the fourth club, then exit with the spade nine to East to endplay him in trumps.)

It is easy to get carried away here, but you can imagine partner's hand with six solid diamonds and the spade queen, where you would be struggling even in game. For the time being, look for three no-trump first, facing a spade stop. Bid three clubs, asking partner to support hearts or rebid at no-trump with a spade guard.


♠ 9 5 4
 A K Q 2
 J 5 3 2
♣ K Q
South West North East
1 Pass
1 Pass 2 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


David WarheitJuly 8th, 2012 at 9:24 am

In the other room, west doubled 6S, and south decided that 9 third of trump wasn’t the best holding for a slam contract, so he ran to 6NT which west also doubled. West led the 10 of hearts. South won &, convinced that west had all the spades, advanced the 9 of spades, fully intending to finesse. West covered, so south won the ace, returned to hand with the club king and finessed the 8 of spades. He then cashed out dummy’s spades, discarding a diamond, and came back to the club queen. He then cashed the king-queen of hearts. With four tricks to go, east was forced to come down to king-queen of diamonds and 10-8 of clubs. Dummy held ace doubleton of diamonds and ace-9 of clubs. Declarer cashed the ace of diamonds and led another. East won but was now forced to lead up to dummy’s major tenace in clubs. Making 6!

bobby wolffJuly 8th, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Hi David,

My first inclination was that you were wrong, after you said that, after intending to finesse spades, but getting the ten covered ran the spades but you meant only 4 spade tricks. Later you added 3 heart tricks, 1 diamond trick and 4 club tricks via the end play securing your small slam.

Your fantasy illustrates the extremely valuable
ways of developing tricks by first reading where the cards are (by West’s silly and give away double of 6 spades) and then executing the squeeze and end play, eventually forcing East to be end played in clubs.

Beautifully done, bountifully lucky in finding East with the cards needed to execute the final ending (making up for the extra trump trick made in spades) but very worth while in describing very high level play and achieving the goal.

No other mental game can possibly match the mind battles which go on often when very good players match wits at a bridge table. In your imagination when West, because of his trump holding, decided to greedily increase a possible set, he committed a breach of discipline, which, at the very least, might have cost him a very good result (defeated slam), but, you demonstrated how a top declarer could overcome an inferior contract by spectacular card reading and execution.