Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, August 4th, 2012

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail.

Lewis Carroll

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


Today's deal comes from the bulletins of a recent U.S. Nationals. (If you are interested in reading such reports, visit here.)

Both Souths reached four spades doubled, with the minority of high cards, after each of the North and South players had taken aggressive positions in the auction. After the lead of the heart king, both Souths took an immediate spade finesse. The unsuccessful declarer drew three rounds of trumps and ducked a club to East. But now two rounds of diamonds prevented declarer from establishing the club suit.

The successful, more fortunate, declarer played a second trump to hand and ducked a club to East, who exited with the third trump. Now declarer simply ducked a club and claimed. But the defense here could also have prevailed by playing two rounds of diamonds. Declarer then ruffs a heart to hand, but when he leads a club toward dummy, West can defeat the contract by rising with the club king! This maneuver is often referred to as a crocodile coup since you open your jaws and swallow your partner’s honor. If declarer ducks this, the defense takes a club ruff, and if declarer wins the trick, he no longer has an entry to the clubs.

Declarer could perhaps have done better by winning the second trump in dummy at trick three and playing a low club from the table. If East hops up with the queen, he beats the contract. But if he ducks, the crocodile no longer works for the defense.

Even though your RHO has suggested a four-card spade suit, your intermediates look good enough for an advance with a call of one spade. In auctions of this sort, you are not necessarily trying for game when you bid, just looking for your side's best fit and trying to compete efficiently.


♠ A J 9 4 2
 Q 10 8 5
♣ 10 7 5
South West North East
Pass 1 1 Dbl.

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 WarheitAugust 18th, 2012 at 9:18 am

But south doesn’t have the freedom to “win() the second trump in dummy at trick three”. At trick 2, he leads either the queen or ten of spades, ducked all around, and then he leads the other spade honor and east covers.

bobby wolffAugust 18th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Hi David,

Three different very advanced lessons to be learned for the aspiring expert:

1. For the defense to be able to time it properly so that the declarer will not be able to get maximum results (here making it impossible for declarer to establish the contract making establishment of the club suit while he still has an entry to the club length).

2. For the declarer to attempt to accomplish what he needs to do in the most deceptive way, sometimes (and hopefully) leading from the hand which may require the defense to do something unusual to carry out their necessary superior defensive maneuver.

3. In an all world class table competition the advantage usually goes to the partnership which has the opportunity (with perfect play) to attain their goal. Here, as you have quite cleverly pointed out, it would be EW with the rise of the king of spades on the 2nd lead of trumps.

The above hand is a good example of what high-level bridge is about with:

1. Suit establishment and its vulnerability for success, to excellent defense by alert opponents.

2. Deceptive declarer practice, while looking at all 26 of his assets (either opponent can only see his own 13, but, of course, also is able to see the evidence indicating the likely, sometimes overwhelming transparency of what his partner holds, or, at the least, what he needs to hold to accomplish their goal).

3. The qualities needed are:

A. Bridge detective work based on the bidding and the way declarer goes about playing the hand.

B. Card playing imagination by both defensive partners who combine their efforts by doing what is necessary to do the job.

C. If one word summed it up, it would be unwavering concentration to the task at hand and then, of course, the implementation, error free, of the process.

D. A baseball analogy would be the shortstop or the 3rd baseman’s bullet throw to first after he first concentrated on how to field the grounder hit in his vicinity or a top level tennis player’s serve as he prepared to blast it or, of course, a golfer’s putt after he spent time lining it up in a consistent way playing for a special break on the green, or a football quarterback as he righted himself before delivering a long touch pass or a soccer player’s kick or header when he was in sight of the opponent’s net.

Intense concentration is the common denominator and although in bridge there is much less physicality than in the above sports, there is still the intense endurance required to do it hand after hand, particularly so when dame fortune, as it occasionally does, forces a partnership to have several different hands in a row which demand it in order to win.

Who, among us, is prepared to now argue that high-level competitive bridge is not a sport? Certainly not any of the players who often are required to go through the above laborious process.

Paul BetheAugust 20th, 2012 at 10:01 pm

On the lie of the cards, isn’t South cold after trick two, the Ten or Queen of spades ducked all around?
(or even if covered).

After a club is ducked at trick 3, even if East rises Queen:
* If the opponents don’t play 2 rounds of diamonds, club ace, finish trumps, concede a club.
* If the opponents do play 2 rounds of diamonds, declarer now embarks on a crossruff:
diamond ruff, heart ruff, diamond ruff, ace of clubs, heart ruff, last diamond ruffed, club exit.
Declarer left in a coup position with AJ of trumps.

bobby wolffAugust 27th, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Hi Paul,

Sorry for the delay, but I had not looked far enough onto past columns.

You are right except your line would fail if West started with five diamonds and East with one less low spade.

Thanks for your suggestion.

bobby wolffAugust 27th, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Hi Paul (again).

East having one less spade has nothing to do with it and I was wrong to have suggested it.