Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 24th, 2012

A verse may catch a wandering Soul, that flies
Profounder Tracts, and by a blest surprise
Convert delight into a Sacrifice.

William Wordsworth

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


In four spades it looks natural to win the diamond lead in hand and lay down the spade ace, planning to cash the trump king. Remarkably, after one top trump, the game can no longer be made against the 4-1 trump break! West will ruff in on the diamonds, draw dummy's trump, and cash three hearts.

Suppose instead that you play a heart after cashing one round of trump. East will win and deliver a diamond ruff. The switch to the club king will then set up a fourth trick for the defenders, to go with West’s trump queen.

Since the contract will be easy if trumps break 3-2, you should assume a 4-1 trump break and direct your efforts to countering that. The answer is to lead a low trump at trick two!

What can the defenders do now? If West wins with the queen and crosses to his partner’s hand with a heart to receive a diamond ruff, you can draw trump when you regain the lead. If instead West ducks the first round of trump, you can duck another round. West has to win his queen this time and can do nothing to harm you. Whether he plays a club, or plays two rounds of hearts to force dummy to ruff, you will be able to draw his remaining trumps and run the diamond suit.

The message: When you can afford to lose a trump trick, lose it at a time when the defenders can do you no harm.

The question is whether you should lead trump to stop heart ruffs, or diamonds to prevent declarer from discarding his diamond losers on clubs. My instincts are that my club stopper should be good enough to prevent declarer from running the clubs, so I should kill the ruffs while I can. I would therefore lead a trump.


♠ 5 2
 A J 6 2
 9 8 6
♣ Q 10 4 2
South West North East
1♣ 1 1♠
2 Pass Pass 2
Pass 2♠ All 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


jim2January 7th, 2013 at 1:07 pm

ToCM ™

West —– East
S 752 ——–S Q3
H KJ10542 –H AQ8
D 2 ———–D 875
C KQ2 ——-C J10873

The hand WAS “easy if trumps break 3-2”, but only until declarer tries to take a safety play in case trunp were 4-1.

bobbywolffJanuary 7th, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, you are as right as anyone can be, but in doing so, you have hurt my feelings, not to mention my pride.

I neglected to mention that South was worried that at the other table his counterparts sitting NS, are very aggressive players who were sure to be in 6 spades and with your layout would surely score it up (5 spade tricks, 6 diamonds and the ace of clubs) so that his only chance to not lose 13 IMPs (750+ points) was to find a line of play which would make 10 tricks but, of course, had no play for the would be slam. The second reason is that if normal breaks would occur, the hand would not be written up for him to star, and thirdly his line of play would be the toast of the tournament, if he so chose it and found this card combination waiting. Still a 4th reason is that when a defender leads a side singleton he often has trump control and if that is true with this hand, he needs to make the safety play (OK, call it an unsafety play with your proposed layout) for success.

Is there any doubt whatsoever, that you agree with the above explanation and so find the declarer not guilty, but instead rather brilliant, but just unlucky to find such a horrible lay of the cards (with the awful 3-2 trump break and the queen being with the doubleton, onside to boot)?

Besides, after your comment, my head has started to hurt, especially my tongue, which is now embedded in my cheek.

Iain ClimieJanuary 7th, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

I recall SJ Simon noting a hand where a cautious expert found a safety play vs a 4-0 trump break. They were 2-2 and he went off. There but for the grace of God…



bobbywolffJanuary 7th, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, I know but, at this point in time, want to forget SJ’s story except to recall that cautious expert’s first name, which I believe was Unlucky.

jim2January 7th, 2013 at 3:49 pm

🙂 🙂