Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 29th, 2012

The opinion of the strongest is always the best.

Jean de La Fontaine

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


When North chose a negative double after West's overcall, you had far too much playing strength to rebid at the two-level. Your leap to four hearts may have been an overbid – it was certainly all North needed to commit to a small slam. West leads the club king, taken by dummy's ace. How do you plan to make 12 tricks?

You should try to set up and enjoy your spade suit, as it needs little more than breaking no worse than 4-2. However, in some layouts a little care is required.

In today’s layout, if your first move in trumps is to play dummy’s ace, you will go down! Instead, you should tackle spades immediately by playing the ace and king then ruffing a spade high once West follows with a third spade. Next, return to hand with a trump to the 10 (discovering the 4-0 break) and ruff a second spade high. Then you will play the trump five and cover East’s card as cheaply as possible. You can now draw East’s remaining trumps and claim the contract losing just one club trick.

This plan would also succeed if spades were 3-3. After ruffing one spade, you could draw trumps and claim 12 tricks via four spades, a spade ruff, five trumps, a diamond and a club.

As you can see, you need both the ace and king of trumps for ruffing purposes. If you waste one of those at trick two, there would be no way to recover.

Your action here may depend on the vulnerability — just as you'd be more cautious facing a two-spade opening if the pre-empt were in first seat nonvulnerable (when I would guess to pass) or second seat vulnerable, when I might go all the way to game. With quick tricks, but no trump spots, I would pass, expecting game to be poor, facing a nonvulnerable preempt.


♠ 6 2
 A K 5 4
 A 9 5 4
♣ A 8 2
South West North East
1 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 13th, 2012 at 11:06 am

Tiny point: south should cash the queen of hearts at trick two. This gains in only one extremely unlikely situation, but it doesn’t cost a thing. It gains when someone has singletons in both hearts and spades.

RogerMJuly 13th, 2012 at 1:19 pm

But in that situation, you would have to ruff a diamond back to your hand and might lose to an over-ruff when the other opponent has a singleton diamond!

bobby wolffJuly 13th, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Hi David and RogerM,

The next step is to figure out which is more likely to happen. Obviously it would be West with the short diamonds with possibly Q10xx, 9xx, x, KQJxx, or even Q10xx, 9xx, void, KQJxxx instead of the one in the column, so which complete hand is more likely?

Sometimes it is tedious work, and only rarely necessary, trying to determine.

David WarheitJuly 13th, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Roger; you have a point, but to make Bobby’s comment clearly, not only would there have to have to be a singleton diamond (which can only be west), but spades could not be 3-3 and west would have to have at least 4, and finally west would have to have specifically 9-third of trump. And I thought my situation was “tiny”!