Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 24th, 2012

Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.

Ecclesiastes 8

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


At a recent Nationals, this deal was the last of a four-board extra-time segment. It determined the match, and yes, while four spades might have been easier, let's assume that East would have sacrificed in five clubs had he been offered the chance. Plan the play in five diamonds after a top club lead.

Declarer ruffed the club lead and could see that there was no realistic danger to cope with except 4-0 trumps. He led the diamond king from dummy at trick two and was more hurt than surprised by the trump break. What would you expect to happen next?

He led a second diamond and ducked East’s jack. When the defense found the most challenging continuation of a second club, South found the only route home by following with his remaining club and pitching a heart from dummy!

Now, when a third club was led, he could ruff in hand, then cross to dummy, and draw trumps with the aid of the diamond finesse. He scored a club ruff, four trumps and six major-suit winners. This is the first time I’ve seen that particular maneuver exercised with such expert trump control. Normally, one takes the ruff in the short trump hand, not the long one.

Notice that if declarer ruffs the second club, he can no longer draw trumps. Since he cannot cross back to hand in spades, the defenders will score both a heart trick and a second trump trick for down one.

Bid your hearts before your diamonds for two reasons. The first is that 10 tricks are easier to make than 11; the second is that it is easier to get diamonds into the auction economically at your next turn. You may not be able to describe your hand precisely, but you can get the thrust of your shape across by bidding three diamonds if your partner rebids two no-trump.


♠ A K Q J 5
 J 7 5 4
 K 5 4 2
♣ —
South West North East
1♠ Pass 1 NT 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


David WarheitDecember 9th, 2012 at 7:26 am

I would have opened 5C, not 4C, with the west hand. Then I think east should bid 6C over either 5D or 5S which is only down one! What thinkest thou? (Ecclesiastes, but I forget which verse).

bobby wolffDecember 9th, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Hi David,

A five club opening is certainly a live possibility with that vulnerability (favorable) and that suit.

However, once done, and let’s assume North would still have doubled and then looking at the vulnerability South would have attempted five diamonds, would you as East, after having it passed around to you, even consider sacrificing in six clubs?

If so, your judgment would be beyond magic and belonged in Heaven with Ecclesiastes, where, no doubt hand records are served up in advance, so that everyone will be able to play and, in this case bid, double dummy.

However, after due consideration, playing bridge where both sides had the hand records in advance would be, at least to me, a far lesser version of the game and one in which only the best theorists and analysts, not the best practical wily players who specialize in bridge psychology win, a condition which I sincerely think would subtract, not add to the game.

However, as always, thank you for the lively discussion you invariably produce, even if it is not so slightly tinged with fantasy.

Lurpoa BegijnDecember 10th, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Very nice play, duck the club !

bobby wolffDecember 10th, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Hi Lurpoa,

Thanks for appreciating the unusual play, rarely refused, of accepting a ruff in the short trump hand.

However, as we all know, bridge is a special exercise in numerate logic and as such, often
requires special handling, to be successful.

Thank you again for your no doubt, heartfelt comment. It is always nice to hear sincere praise for what turns out to be necessary bridge reasoning.