Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, September 28th, 2012

I am tired. Everyone's tired of my turmoil.

Robert Lowell

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


In today's deal South was a solid performer, but one who believed that the cards always conspired to gang up against him. After he had finished declaring four hearts here, he could add another plaint to his long litany of woes. Was he entitled to whine? You be the judge.

Against his game the defenders led out the three top diamonds. South ruffed and announced he was not going to risk a defensive ruff. So saying, he led out the heart ace and jack. West ducked this, and now declarer found himself in trouble. If he played a third trump, West would win and force dummy with more diamonds, whereas if he played on the side-suits, West would score both his trumps for down one.

It may be unlikely that four trumps will lie with the long diamonds, of course, but the point of the deal is still a valid one. If you can protect yourself against a bad break, you should do so. After declarer ruffs, he must play the heart 10 — otherwise, West will prevail. When this holds, South continues with the heart jack, leaving the defense powerless. If West wins his king, he can play another diamond, but South ruffs in hand, crosses to the club queen, and can use dummy’s high trumps to draw West’s last two hearts.

Incidentally, declarer cannot afford to cross to dummy to take the trump finesse. He might run into an unexpected ruff.

It's very tempting to double to show the unbid suits, but what are you attempting to achieve? Your partner rates to have a Yarborough, and you have no real shape. So all you are doing is setting yourself up for a large penalty. Let the opponents bid to their game and hope to beat it. If the opponents stop low, you may change your mind, of course.


♠ K Q J 4
 A J 10 2
 6 4
♣ A 8 4
South West North East
1 Pass 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


jim2October 12th, 2012 at 12:01 pm

As West, would you have overcalled with:

S 972
H 8653
D AKQ1053
C –


S 9732
H 863
D AKQ1053
C –

bobby wolffOctober 12th, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, and now a club back by RHO, leaves you, the declarer. being among a small select group of “genius'” who have lost to a singleton king onside and gone down in a game everyone else is making 11 tricks. Add to that the possibility of losing an overtrick (1 IMP in teams, the board at B-A-M, 30 points at rubber bridge or significant match points in pairs) and the so-called safety play (and it is, of sorts) only works on this hand.

Bridge knowledge, and make no mistake, safety plays, are very important in all forms of the game except matchpoints (and even then on occasion). However your comment should persuade all who read it, that this one is likely not the percentage action.

Thanks for your industry in pointing this out. Little by little we can grow together.

Iain ClimieOctober 12th, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

If West’s hearts were just slightly better (try swapping H6 and H9) then East could cause some trouble by ruffing the third diamond. Should he try this anyway just in case South has HAK32 or similar?


Iain Climie

bobby wolffOctober 12th, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Hi Iain,

Good pick-up. West should make it easier for him by after cashing K and either A or Q then lead low as long as he could be sure that his partner, East, had a trump.

Of course, this defense would surely have made it much easier for declarer to execute the safety play which makes the hand. Moral: Sometimes one has to work hard to make the LOSING play, probably only at bridge!

Iain ClimieOctober 12th, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Hi Again,

This does raise the question of how to defend here whether partner has a trump or not. Perhaps playing around with the lead is an idea. If West leads the DQ, then DA and DK (or some other odd sequence) it could be used to suggest partner trumps (if possible) on the third round whereas the more normal DAKQ in that order would not ask partner to trump unless he thought it would help. It also avoids embarassment when partner is void in trumps.

I seem to recall similar methods can be used when reversing the normally led card from AK to either show a doubleton AK or (if the opening leader clearly has length and strength in the suit) to suggest that the switch is a singleton in a side suit.

Sadly your comment about working hard to make the losing play is all too apt. Some of my all time howlers have occurred after protracted thought whereas the bid or play that feels right is often the right one. I used to hit the same problem at chess, though – “big thinks breed blunders” could be my motto for bad days at both games.


Iain Climie

bobby wolffOctober 13th, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Hi Iain,

As is usually the case with your comments is a not so often quote by Shakespeare from 2nd Citizen after Mark Antony’s speech eulogizing Caesar, “Methinks there is much reason in what he says”.

Especially. “big thinks breed blunders”.