Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, July 26th, 2012

They (the voters) have learned that mystery and concealment in the management of their affairs cover tricks and betrayal.

Grover Cleveland

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


A neat elimination play saw South home in today's deal. But declarer had to play her cards in an order that disguised her intentions, so that her plan was less likely to be foiled.

Against four hearts West led the spade six, top of nothing, to the four, nine and king. Declarer immediately returned the suit. East won and was reluctant to open up diamonds, so played another spade, ruffed in dummy. There appear to be four losers, but South’s plan was to cash her minor-suit winners and, if trumps broke 2-2, hope that the player who won the second heart trick did not have the third club, so would be forced to give her a ruff and discard.

Had she set about her minor-suit elimination early, the defense might well have divined her plan and arranged for West, the player with the third club, to win the second heart.

To disguise her intentions, after ruffing the spade, she called for dummy’s heart jack, giving the appearance of finessing for the queen. An unsuspecting East played low, and on winning with the king, West equally unsuspectingly returned a diamond. Winning in dummy, declarer cashed the club ace, and when no honor appeared from East, continued with the king, then a diamond to her ace. The scene was set, and now a heart to East’s ace brought about the desired result. Whatever that player led, declarer would pitch her club loser and ruff in dummy.

Even if you don't play support doubles, so that partner might still have three hearts for you, you should rebid one no-trump now. This describes the basic nature of your hand and lets your partner develop his hand if he has a minimum with extra shape in the minors or delayed support for you with a ruffing value.


♠ K 8 7
 Q 10 9 7 2
 A 3
♣ 7 5 4
South West North East
1 Pass
1 1♠ Pass 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


Iain ClimieAugust 9th, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

I think east missed several tricks here. South has 5+ hearts and 3 spades so west needs either the DA and 1 trick in hearts or clubs, or a trick in hearts and one in clubs if south has the DA. A diamond back at T3 can’t really cost while is declarer really playing a spade back at T2 with HK109xx as then a third spade would set up a possible trump promotion for West’s presumed Qx. Surely he’d just be crossing to table at T2 and leading a heart?

When west doesn’t have the DA, east has to hope west has a trump trick and CQxx or similar. A diamond at trick 2 at least clarifies matters.


Iain Climie

bobby wolffAugust 9th, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, you are right on target, so let us delve a little deeper into what happened, and if possible to determine, why.

First, from an immediate perspective (as you have already explained) finding out about the ace of diamonds would be enabling to East in being able to rise with the ace of hearts, lead a heart back and wait for their natural club trick, without which EW will have no chance to achieve a set.

The fly in the ointment is perhaps, from East’s standpoint, partner has the ace of diamonds and declarer will miss guess later, having the jack in hand and no way to establish the clubs for enough diamond discards in order to eliminate having to guess them correctly. Could declarer’s hand be:
S. Kxx
h. KQxxx
d. Jxx
c. xx

Theoretically, yes, but if so, wouldn’t declarer go immediately after trumps, with the idea of after the ace is knocked out, hope for 3-3 clubs in order to be able to establish 2 club tricks for contract making diamond discards?

As you so rightly and timely explained, that why would declarer give East the opportunity to promote his partner’s theoretical gueen of hearts via an overruff on the 4th spade led by him.

Now to what often happens is simply incomplete or lack of sophisticated bridge reasoning by the defense (or at least one of the two defensive partners). It happens as often as the sun tends to come up in the morning and will continue to happen with less than world class players involved or even with them involved, but not thinking as clearly as they should. No doubt, what we are discussing is the essence of what our very high level game is about, detective work, involved with what declarer does compared to him (or her) being a barking dog, and what he does do, compared to a dog who does not bark and therefore what he does not do, enabling the defense enough evidence to make a very educated critical choice.

Thanks from me and others who will read your analysis and, if nothing else, at least understand better the obvious beauty of our wonderful game and above all, the logic which is ever present.

This hand would shine forth in bridge being put into schools the world over, instead of just much of Europe and now in China in order to teach the logic of thinking clearly, not to mention the absolute necessity of total concentration.

Iain ClimieAugust 9th, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Hi again,

I quite agree about popularising bridge as the game can be a lifelong pleasure, requires tolerance and a sense of humour (especially when the best play misfires or you miss a subtle inference) while it is cheap and can be played at a range of levels from purely social to fierce competition. Age and gender don’t matter either.

Someone said of chess that it is a pool from which a gnat may drink or in which an elephant may bathe. I think this applies even more to bridge.


Iain Climie