Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 18th, 2013

Great things are done when men and mountains meet;
This is not done by jostling in the street.

William Blake

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


In today's deal North made a jump raise in hearts at his second turn rather than show spade shortage — he would have needed something like an additional trump honor to make that call. South also took the discreet route when he made one cuebid, then jumped to five hearts to ask for a spade control. North had enough for a grand-slam try now, but South declined to cooperate. He knew his partner could not have as much as five good diamonds, the spade ace and the club king. If he did, he would have cuebid six clubs over the jump to five hearts. (North could only make a grand-slam try if he had the spade ace.)

When dummy came down, South thought that his side might be cold for a grand slam, but that was no reason not to be careful. He won the spade lead, immediately led a low heart from dummy, and ducked East’s six. That player shifted to a club, and declarer won the ace, ruffed a spade, crossed to hand with a trump, ruffed a second spade, came to the diamond jack and drew trumps, with four diamond winners to take care of the two club losers in hand.

As the cards lie, with trumps not breaking and the club finesse losing, the only line to make the hand is to duck the first trump. Try it for yourself and you will find that if you win the first trump trick, you can no longer make the hand.

In this position an overcall of one no-trump shows the equivalent of a strong no-trump, but since your hand is at the minimum end of the range with such bare honors and without a diamond stop that it is probably a bit of a stretch. While the choice appears to be to bid one no-trump or to pass throughout, maybe on this occasion discretion really is the better part of valor.


♠ 8 5 2
 A K Q 2
 J 7 5
♣ A J 2
South West North East
1 Pass 1

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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Jane AFebruary 1st, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Why did north open one club when he has a lovely five card diamond suit? Looks like the final contract would be the same, but just curious. Very tricky hand. I would have tried ruffing out spades first and hope for the best, but who would ever duck the first heart trick to the six? I would take this player to the casino and back him at any card game. (Just kidding, I think?)

Thanks, as usual.

ClarksburgFebruary 1st, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Non-expert intermediate club player thinks: “hmm… providing the trumps are no worse than 4-1 this is cold. I just have make sure that I win the fourth trump trick, so as to be able to safely run the long diamonds”.
This player is no doubt missing / overlooking something additional or more subtle.
Further enlightenment would be most appreciated.

bobby wolffFebruary 1st, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Hi Jane,

Apologies are in order since 1 diamond was supposed to be North’s first bid, certainly not 1 club. Yes, the declarer play turned out to be technically correct, catering to the timing needed to withstand a 4-1 break.

No doubt that you will have made a good choice with backing the right person (him or her) who would decide to play this hand the correct way.

bobby wolffFebruary 1st, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Since entries to the long diamonds, after 2 spades are ruffed in the weak trump hand (dummy) can get the job done, by eventually being able to discard 2 losing clubs on the long diamonds, special consideration needs to be given to controlling trump, if, indeed, a 4-1 break occurs.

Thus the immediate duck is necessary to effect that safety play. Yes, high-level (excellent) bridge needs to be planned and this hand is one of the more difficult to play.

For most aspiring players, the good example of what needs to be done and the consequences of going set without, sometimes contributes to the enthusiasm of a hand well-played.

Unless I am missing something important the hand cannot be made without the early duck in trumps, since West would then be able to ruff the 3rd diamond and tap the dummy causing a 2nd loser for declarer.

jim2February 1st, 2013 at 9:51 pm

“As the cards lie, with trumps not breaking and the club finesse losing, the only line to make the hand is to duck the first trump. Try it for yourself and you will find that if you win the first trump trick, you can no longer make the hand.”

Does not ducking the SECOND trump transpose?

(AS, trump to hand, ruff spade, duck trump)

jim2February 1st, 2013 at 10:14 pm


Now I see the flaw. West can return a trump, depleting the Board of trump and thus preventing the ruffing of declarer’s last spade.

David WarheitFebruary 1st, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Jim2: No. West wins the heart and returns a heart, denying you a second spade ruff. You now have one spade, one spade ruff, 3 hearts, 5 diamonds and one club, so you need the club finesse, but that doesn’t work.

bobby wolffFebruary 1st, 2013 at 10:22 pm

Hi Jim2,

Methinks you do not need Falstaff to talk to like Shakespeare used him to talk and listen to Henry V????

You’ve got your very own bridge expert and none other than yourself!

bobby wolffFebruary 1st, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Hi David,

You are very much appreciated as being ever present with your accurate analysis–both for all comments and as security for my mistakes.

GregFebruary 1st, 2013 at 10:36 pm

I think it would be worth to mention form of scoring on this one. This is excellent play in IMPS or Rubber but you will end up on the losing side more often than not in match points since field would be making 7 on normal 3-2 harts break

David WarheitFebruary 2nd, 2013 at 1:12 am

Greg: Maybe not. Since 7 hearts is almost a lock on a 3-2 heart break, it might well be wise to play for hearts to be 4-1. Either way, you will lose to the slam bidders (6 or 7 hearts) if hearts are 3-2 or beat them if hearts are 4-1, but not everyone will be in slam. This way, you beat virtually everyone if hearts are 4-1, and you lose only a little if they are 3-2.

bobby wolffFebruary 2nd, 2013 at 2:23 am

Hi Greg,

First, welcome to our blog site.

Second, The prose doesn’t discuss whether the game is IMP’s, Matchpoints, or rubber bridge, but usually when the specialty is omitted we can assume either rubber bridge or IMPs.

In any event, while you are completely right in what you are suggesting at matchpoints, perhaps you may agree with me, that the other forms of the game emphasize the right thing when the declarer is focused on making his contract, rather than the elusive pursuit of matchpoints.

Sure, duplicate bridge is a game all its own, but in truth, it is just too difficult sometimes and it is my opinion that the other two forms of the game are fairer representations of where the skill factor should lead us, e.g. making our contract.

Thanks, however, for contributing to the danger of making the safety play at matchpoints, but I think we all need to appreciate what a marvelous winning safety play this declarer made, when he ducked the first heart.