Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, February 7th, 2013

There are who teach only the sweet lessons of peace and safety
But I teach lessons of war and death to those I love.

Walt Whitman

West North
Both ♠ 9 4 2
 A 10 6
 A K
♣ A K J 10 3
West East
♠ J 10 8
 K Q J 8 5 2
 10 4
♣ 8 6
♠ Q 5
 J 9 8 6 5 3 2
♣ 9 4 2
♠ A K 7 6 3
 9 4 3
 Q 7
♣ Q 7 5
South West North East
2 Dbl. Pass
4♠ Pass 4 NT Pass
5* Pass 6♠ All pass

*Two of the five keycards, including the spade king, but no trump queen


When West led the heart king against six spades, declarer took it and played the two top trumps, both defenders following. He then turned to the club suit. If East had held the last trump, the slam would have been made. East could ruff in whenever he chose, but he would have no heart to return. Declarer could then discard both his heart losers on dummy's clubs. But today it was West who ruffed the third club, and he cashed two hearts to put the slam two down.

Since you are booked to lose a trump trick, even if the spade suit breaks 3-2, the critical trump trick must be lost to East, who is known to be the safe hand. After winning the heart lead, you should play a trump toward your hand and win with the ace. You then return to dummy with a diamond to lead another trump. When the queen appears from East, you must duck. You can then win East’s return, draw the last trump, and discard your two heart losers. This play is indicated because hearts are known to be 6-1. Had West not bid, the line found at the table would probably have been best.

Incidentally, you would make the same sort of play if your trumps were A-Q-7-6-3. After finessing the spade queen, you would return to dummy to lead a second round of trumps. Whenever the spade king appeared from East, you would duck it, keeping West off lead for the duration of the deal.

The double of a no-trump opening or overcall is for penalties, so you have no reason to remove it. Your partner knows you opened third in hand (when traditionally a few liberties can be taken) and you have no reason to be ashamed of your values. Pass, and await developments.


♠ A K 7 6 3
 9 4 3
 Q 7
♣ Q 7 5
South West North East
Pass Pass
1♠ 1 NT Dbl. 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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Bill CubleyFebruary 21st, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Good analysis based upon the bidding. Loses only to a 4-0 trump break in either hand.

Whos was the successful declarer?

bobby wolffFebruary 21st, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Hi Bill,

Almost right, but would lose if West had the Qxx of spades or if West would have opened two hearts with only 5, even though he was vulnerable (not likely) or, of course, as you mentioned, a 4-1 trump break.

It is always a high to find a way to make a difficult contract, especially when it works.

Thanks for writing.

bobby wolffFebruary 21st, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Hi again Bill,

I didn’t answer your concluding question.

No one we know, since this was a contrived hand, which we often use when we feel an important lesson can be learned

Bill CubleyFebruary 22nd, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Almost right seems to well describe why you write the article and I read or misread it, 😉

At least I made a Vienna Coup finally and meant to squeeze LHO. That is still a thrill.

Perhaps sitting at the table all these years has me learning by assmosis.