Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, October 18th, 2012

To mischief trained, e'en from his mother's womb,
Grown old in fraud, though yet in manhood’s bloom.

Charles Churchill

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


When the Open teams of England and Turkey met in the 2008 European Championships, Yalcin Atabey of Turkey had done well to reach five clubs as South. Those declarers who ended in three no-trump,whether North or South, were doomed to fail, as both East and West had natural red-suit leads.

In opposition were England’s Hackett twins, Justin and Jason, and Justin led a heart against the club game. At first glance there appear to be three losers — one in each of the red suits plus the spade ace. But with those excellent spade intermediates in dummy, the contract looks safe. Declarer will win the heart lead, enter dummy in trumps, and lead a spade to the king. West wins with the ace and leads a heart to East’s king. East does best to return a diamond. However, a spade to the queen and a spade ruff set up the suit. It only remains to finish drawing trump and discard two diamonds from hand on dummy’s spades.

Declarer began as prophesied. At trick three, Atabey led a spade to the king, which held, Justin ducking impassively. South continued with a spade to the 10. In with the jack, Jason returned a diamond, taken by dummy’s ace. Atabey drew the remaining trumps, then confidently led the spade queen, on which he discarded a diamond, believing that East held the ace. But it was West who produced this card, and his diamond return saw the game drift two down.

Whether you play two clubs as forcing or not, that is the call you should make now. You have no idea what the correct strain or level for this hand is (or even if it is your side's hand), so make a natural call and wait to support spades at your next turn, suggesting very much this sort of hand.


♠ K 7
 A 8 6
 10 4 3
♣ K Q 10 6 5
South West North East
1 1♠ 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


JaneNovember 1st, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Greed is a terrible thing. Not only is this a very lucky hand, south blew it when he tried to sneak by the spade ten. I would have been thrilled when the spade king held. Lead back a spade, put in the queen if the ace does not appear out of the west hand and thank the card gods for being so kind to this pair who bids minor suit games without a singleton and 23 HCP. Would you open the north hand? The spade suit quality is rather lacking.

jim2November 1st, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Jane –

I am not sure it is so simple. For example, how would you proceed if the QS lost to the AS (as might be expected) and a diamond was returned?

You are on the Board with your last plain suit entry, trumps are not gone, there are two instant red losers, the spades may not be 3-3, and you do not know where the JS is.

Ruff a spade high, and 4-2 spades sinks the contract. Ruffing finesse loses if the JS is with West.

This is why the play worked at the table. Sometimes you have to pay off to brilliancy.

My own question to Our Host was if declarer might have ducked the opening heart lead? This loses to a diamond shift, but wins against just about all other times.

bobby wolffNovember 1st, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Hi Jane,

You, of course, achieved the winning line, even against the Hackett twins, but Jim2’s analysis cannot be denied, and of course the defensive portrait painted by these 2 excellent (and by the way very ethical) young (so many years have passed since they became great, maybe notso), changed the percentage tables so that declarer took what most all players would consider the right percentage line of play, but fell victim to the brilliant defense of Justin Hackett’s duck.

Sometimes players value hands differently and are blessed by the card gods with their judgment reaching what turns out to be the best contract. This time that fortune was balanced by having their opponents do something sensational against them.

Whether to open the North hand is just a question of style and since I believe in striking the first blow if possible, I would answer in the affirmative.

Thanks always for your valuable contributions.

bobby wolffNovember 1st, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Hi Jim2,

First of all, thanks for your correct analysis to Jane.

No, I do not think that declarer should even consider ducking the first heart since when 3rd chair plays a high heart, he will be well aware that partner does not hold the ace (he would never lead away from it while defending a suit contract), if he is allowed to win the first trick and will (should) switch to the game killing diamond whatever he would hold in the suit.

jim2November 1st, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Perhaps the heart duck would have been more attractive if the lead had been the KH and declarer was able to obfuscate with which spot card s/he played.

I forgot to add in my “analysis” that the ruffing finesse is available (in the sequence after the QS loses to the AS and a diamond is returned) ONLY when trump are precisely 1-3.

Otherwise, the finesse succeeds but West ruffs in and cashes the two red winners.

JaneNovember 1st, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Interesting and helpful comments from Jim and Bobby. I would not have considered taking a chance on losing to the spade jack, preferring to play the hand with more optimism. Since the hand does look a bit hopeless, I would try for the decent break. I am not blessed with the wonderful ability of knowing all those percentages, but certainly respect those who do.

I also know how important it is to respect the world class players and their skill and ability. If anyone can fool their opponents into making a wrong play, they can.

Fun game, this bridge. Greed is a terrible thing however. I learned that too well some time ago!

bobby wolffNovember 1st, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Hi Jane,

Your moral is quite clear and 100% true, but dammit, I do love money, as well as overtricks, and more of it or them, is better than less.

Please suggest a good therapist!