Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

The fascination of what's difficult
Has dried the sap out of my veins, and rent
Spontaneous joy and natural content
Out of my heart.

W.B. Yeats

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


The higher a contract, the easier it usually is to play. Imagine for a moment that you were playing today's hand in six spades. How should you play it when the defenders lead two rounds of hearts? You would ruff, cross to dummy, and finesse the queen of trumps. The only chance would be to find East with a doubleton trump king.

With just 24 points between the hands, though, it is more likely that you would end in game. Now your aim is to make 10 tricks against any lie of the cards. How would you play the contract at teams or rubber, when the defenders again begin with two rounds of hearts?

The original declarer ruffed the second heart and played the ace of trumps, East showing out. When he continued with a low trump toward dummy’s 10, West stepped in with the jack.

Can you see what the winning defense is now? West played a third round of hearts, deliberately giving a ruff-and-discard. If declarer ruffed with the dummy’s bare 10, West’s K-9 would be worth two further tricks. If instead declarer ruffed in his hand, he would be down to the same number of trumps as West. He would lose trump control when he knocked out the trump king and was forced again.

Paradoxically, the only safe line is to lead a trump toward the 10 at trick two. You then have a small trump left in dummy to deal with a third round of hearts.

Your partner's four-spade call showed a spade control (not necessarily good news) and interest in slam. When you hold solid trumps and partner looks for slam, you know he has a good hand. Here, the only sensible noise you can make is to bid five diamonds, suggesting no club control but something in diamonds. That lets partner decide whether to bid on past five hearts.


♠ —
 A K Q 10 6 3
 Q 8 2
♣ 10 9 8 4
South West North East
1 3♠
4 Pass 4♠ 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


Bill CubleyOctober 16th, 2012 at 5:00 pm

On the problem I lead low to the ten at trick 3.

In real life I go down. Maybe I think of the safety play. But you don’t make a lot of hands playing for the least likely result. This one has a 4-0 break 2X; a 3-1 break 8X; a 2-2 break 12 times, if my math is right. And only one right line of play to make.

Al Roth alway sadi a plus score is better than nothing. Think I would have punched him for saying,”Win 2″ when the opponets lost 50 for being down one in a grand slam and he passed it out. Thta’s my Detorit upbringing.

bobby wolffOctober 16th, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Hi Bill,

I’d disagree with you except for one thing. You are absolutely right in what you say.

However, how many readers would be interested in reading about this hand, if taking a spade finesse, or, for that matter, doing anything other than leading an initial low spade from hand toward the ten?

Professionally done entertainment do well in Peoria and thus go on to Chicago and the big stage, as do unique plays react in the bridge world and become well read.

Thanks for your comments and, no doubt, root for the Tigers to win the World Series. They are well on their way to, at the very least, earning their right to play in it.

Bill CubleyOctober 17th, 2012 at 6:08 pm

One of the most instructive hands I defended was beatin 1 club against a national champion with a 3=3=4=3 shape holding the 4-3-2 of clubs and I got a ruff.

Your hand is good to learn from. I need to take 10 tricks or lose the board. The overtrick is irrelevant.

Sorry you won’t be in SF for the nationals.

bobby wolffOctober 17th, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Hi Bill,

Actually I will be in SF for the last 5 days, so if you see me, please come over and say hello.