Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

They must conquer or die who've no retreat.

John Gay

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


A first look at West's hand might suggest that South is in deep trouble in his four-spade contract. However, provided declarer is careful, he can overcome even this terrible trump break!

West leads the heart 10, overtaken by East with the jack to play the heart king.

As long as declarer discards a diamond, the defenders can take only one more trick, a trump.

On a diamond shift, declarer wins the ace, draws one round of trumps, then plays on clubs. West can ruff the third round but dummy’s trump six will take care of a heart exit. If at trick three East plays a third round of hearts instead of shifting, South discards a second diamond and ruffs in dummy. Next, he draws five rounds of trumps, then plays on clubs. As West no longer has a heart left, he makes his long trump, but then has to return a diamond. Declarer makes five trumps in hand, a heart ruff in dummy, the diamond ace and three clubs. Note that if declarer ruffs the second heart, the contract fails, as it allows the defense to make a heart and either three trumps or two trumps and a diamond.

The only risk of discarding a diamond is a club ruff, but that is a highly unlikely risk, particularly since East did not follow with his lowest heart on the opening lead — which he would have done had he wanted the ruff.

It is all too easy to raise or jump in diamonds and end up defending against a spade contract on a diamond lead. Your partner doesn't know about your source of tricks, but you can tell him right now. As a passed hand, your jump to four clubs should show a diamond fit and a source of tricks in clubs. That may help your partner decide whether to bid on, or what to lead if he ends up on defense.


♠ 6 2
 6 4
 K 8 7 4
♣ A K 6 5 4
South West North East
Pass 1♠ 2 2♠

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


JaneSeptember 5th, 2012 at 2:30 pm

A trump lead makes this hand more interesting. With six trumps, why shouldn’t west find this lead? Looks to me like it would disrupt the timing.

JoeSeptember 5th, 2012 at 3:47 pm

On a trump lead, declarer simply shifts to clubs immediately. Once ruffing, West is faced with the same choice – continue spades, in which case South draws trumps and wins 5 spades 4 clubs 2 diamonds, or move to hearts, in which case the same result as the article occurs (10 winners, discarding a diamond on the second heart).

jim2September 5th, 2012 at 3:47 pm

It did not seem to when I tried it. I also looked at East letting the 10H hold and West shifting to a trump at Trick #2.

Because the column line included declarer drawing one round of trump, those other leads appear to transpose.

Declarer sees the 6 – 0 break and goes about cashing minor suit tricks. Say declarer starts on clubs and West refuses to trump in until both diamonds have been discarded (preventing a late entry to the closed hand).

If West now ruffs and leads a trump, declarer can draw trump for an easy run.

If West ruffs and attacks hearts, the Board’s 6S is still there. Now when a diamond is led towards hand, West can ruff again, but declarer has regained trump control and ruff the next heart return in hand and take the rest (losing a heart and two ruffs).

jim2September 5th, 2012 at 5:01 pm

— sigh —

Beat again, this time in a “photo finish.”

bobby wolffSeptember 5th, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Hi Jane, Joe, and Jim2,

All three of you continue to discuss monkey wrenches into the heretofore, but only sometimes, oiled machine.

The end result accomplishes what is often done in our great game, make the losing side in the argument, blue. What we have left are at least 3 Blue Jays and very likely four, if you, in my case, use my first name, instead of my last.

Shantanu RastogiSeptember 6th, 2012 at 11:42 am

On a diamond shift after discarding a diamond on second round of hearts if declarer wins with Ace and plays one round of trumps and then plays on club west ruffs thrid round and now declarer is locked in the dummy with heart exit. Therefore, on diamond shift at trick three declarer should win in the dummy and then after playing a round of trumps should play on clubs. Then after ruffing heart in dummy he can come to hand with diamond Ace and remove trumps and claim 10 tricks.

bobby wolffSeptember 6th, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Hi Shantanu,

Yes, you appear to be 100% correct in your analysis. Thanks for pointing this important column error out.

jim2September 6th, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Kudos, Shantanu!

Does preserving the AD solve it, though?

What if West responds by ruffing the fourth club and not the third, using that round to pitch his/her last diamond?

Shantanu RastogiSeptember 7th, 2012 at 5:00 am

Hi Jim2

If West ruffs the fourth Club then on heart continuation Diamond ace is discarded from hand and heart is ruffed in dummy coming to same 10 tricks as then all trumps are high. If instead of heart trumps are played declarer draws trumps and Diamond Ace becomes tenth trick.

Shantanu RastogiSeptember 7th, 2012 at 8:10 am

The beauty of this deal is what should be your trick target. If spades are 4-2, 5-1 or 6-0. If you think spades are 4-2 you would like to ruff the seond heart in hand and draw trumps and claim 12 tricks with 5 spades, 5 clubs and 2 diamonds. This is a likely play in pairs but in this deal this line doesnt succeed. Some of the comments suggested that there should be trump lead. I feel playing pairs or even in duplicate one shouldnt lead trump as it alerts declarer of bad break and leads him to the right card play. On a heart lead declarer in pairs would always be in two minds about trumps. However the play for 11 tricks ( spades 5-1) and 10 tricks (spades 6-0) are same requiring loser on loser. So I feel even in pairs one can sometimes play for bad breaks as 2 out of 3 plays require loser on loser play.

Iain ClimieSeptember 7th, 2012 at 8:21 am

Hi Shantanu,

Interesting points but the a priori chance of spades being 3-3 or 4-2 is 84 percent although East’s long hearts reduce this to some extent. At pairs the field will ruff the 2nd heart so you’ll get little worse than average by doing the same. The safety play would probably represent a bit of a wild shot but could be tried if you really needed tops.

If West does the decent thing and doubles, of course, life is so much easier!


Iain Climie

angelo romanoSeptember 8th, 2012 at 9:00 pm

I don’t think “West does the decent thing and doubles” as there are 6 Clubs for NS unless EO find the spade ruff (with a double by E, if played by S; with the lead of a small H (!) if played by N)