Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

The trouble with people is not that they don't know but that they know so much that ain't so.

Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw)

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


Against your four spades, reached after North's cuebid of two diamonds, which was artificial and said nothing about diamonds (it merely showed a high-card limit raise in spades.) West leads a diamond to his partner's jack. At trick two East returns the heart king. Plan the play.

This may look like a standard elimination-type hand (in which you eliminate hearts and try to duck a club to East to give you a trick in either hearts or clubs).

However, with such small club spots in both your two hands, that line is unlikely to work.

Instead, look at your diamonds. That is the suit where the good spot cards will come into play. Since the bidding and play thus far tell you that East must surely have the diamond ace, you can take ruffing finesses through him to establish discards for yourself.

Win the heart ace, play the trump ace and a trump to dummy, and advance the diamond king, ruffing out East’s ace. At this point you can lead another spade to dummy and pass the diamond 10, discarding a club.

West can win with his queen and shift to a club, but you win the club switch with the ace and cash the diamond eight, discarding your last club loser. You then give up a heart, and ruff the last heart in dummy. You end up losing two diamonds and one heart, but no clubs.

Though your club honors are well placed, you are not really worth a game-try. Partner could have jumped to three spades with anything approaching extras, so he rates to be balanced and minimum (with only three spades on a really bad day). I could understand moving on with the spade 10 in addition to your assets, but here discretion looks to be the better part of valor; so pass.


♠ J 9 8 2
 7 2
 K 10 8 4
♣ A Q 3
South West North East
Pass 1 2♣
Dbl. Pass 2♠ 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


John Howard GibsonJanuary 2nd, 2013 at 5:55 pm

HBJ : A lovely hand which demonstrates the need of every player to consider alternatives to the dreaded but often doomed finesse.
Combining a loser-on-loser, plus the establishing of a diamond winner to pitch away the remaining club loser shows us mortals why the game of bridge is such a beautiful game.
Would I have found this line of play ? Not on a day when lazy thinking takes over from alertness and logic.

Patrick CheuJanuary 2nd, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Hi Bobby, this hand is only easy if we did not play too quickly on trick one, as after the jack of diamonds by east on our nine, the king,ten and eight in dummy is the equal of Ace and queen through ruffing and loser on loser play,and there are no entry problems to dummy.If trumps need unblocking we may have to ruff high in our hand so as to create entries to dummy’s J982 spades, but not this time.Best Regards-Patrick.

bobbywolffJanuary 2nd, 2013 at 8:21 pm


Thanks for my first heard positive comment of the glorious New Year.

Interior spot cards are a fertile field for declarers to create magic out of heretofore mundane smaller cards.

At least to me, it is not lazy thinking, but rather not creative teaching, from experienced, but aging great players, in not having the foresight in passing on various ways to make tricks out of thin air.

You, my friend, are very alert, extremely logical, and certainly not lazy in thought. One needs to play bridge with the concentration of a surgeon or air traffic controller in order to achieve the proper goal. Playing top level bridge is not a sometime thing.

Best to you and yours in 2013!

bobbywolffJanuary 2nd, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Hi Patrick,

Yes, it is important to keep track of the middle rank cards to see how they grow in value as their immediate higher rank begin to be played. Your analogy of once the jack is played, how the K108 left in dummy become the eventual source of the game going trick, emphasizes bridge concentration, or the numeracy required to effect the necessary result.

Furthermore, since the bridge writer has his choice of creating entries by choosing the cards placed in the correct hands (dummy’s trumps), he can relieve the reader of some difficulty by only pointing to one main theme (in this case, trick development) instead of sometimes multiple problems which in real reported hands sometime exist.

Little did you and others realize that the reader is subject to thought manipulation, but I think your answer will be, “Are you kidding me, of course I do”.

Patrick CheuJanuary 3rd, 2013 at 7:40 am

Hi Bobby, it is the ‘poetic licence’of every bridge writer to change a card here or there to illustrate a theme or themes of play in this wonderful game of ours.Hence I enjoy so much reading Right Through The Pack,especially the tale of the Ten of Hearts.Each card has a story to tell, and an important role to play in each bridge hand.Best Regards-Patrick.

bobbywolffJanuary 3rd, 2013 at 10:08 am

Hi Patrick,

Yes, that “poetic licence” you discuss is very evident in the masterpiece Robert Darvas created with his “Right Through the Pack”.

Although I do not have a copy of his classic book in front of me, I will assume that his tale of the ten of hearts was really special. If he had been hungry, (and he was Hungarian) my bet is that his 52 examples could have been multiplied by 3, making his sequels of every card rising to the occasion add up to a total of 156, by coincidence (or is it?) the most common average score in many bridge movements with 12 top, 13 rounds and 26+ boards in play.

Since he died at the way too early young age of 54, in 1957, he probably didn’t have the time available to do the above, but perhaps the task is still available to others who have the talent, determination and industry to try.

Thanks for this trip down memory lane, especially since brilliance in bridge writing is your subject.