Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, March 28th, 2013

He was in Logic a great Critic,
Profoundly skilled in Analytic.
He could distinguish, and divide
A Hair ‘twixt South and South-West side….

Samuel Butler

South North
Neither ♠ K 10 3
 J 3 2
 Q J 10 8 3
♣ 9 3
West East
♠ 8 7 6 5
 K 8 4
 A 7 2
♣ Q J 10
♠ 4
 Q 9 7 5
 6 5
♣ K 8 7 6 4 2
♠ A Q J 9 2
 A 10 6
 K 9 4
♣ A 5
South West North East
1♠ Pass 2♠ Pass
4♠ All pass    


Against four spades West leads the club queen, which holds the trick. West then thoughtfully continues with the club 10 to your ace. Everyone follows when you cash the trump ace. What now?

At the table, after winning the club ace, one declarer drew two rounds of trump with the ace and king, discovering the 4-1 break. Next he played on diamonds, but West held up his ace until the third round, then exited with a trump to the dummy’s 10. The contract could no longer be made, since dummy had no more entries and West was poised to ruff a fourth round of diamonds. Declarer had to try a heart, hoping that East held both honors, but it was not to be, and so declarer could not avoid losing four tricks.

The declarer at the second table showed better technique. The first two tricks were the same, but instead of drawing two rounds of trump, he cashed the trump ace, then played on diamonds. Like his counterpart, this West held up the ace until the third round, then exited with a trump, taken by dummy�s 10. Declarer now played a good diamond and threw one of his heart losers. West could do no better than ruff and try a heart. Declarer took East’s queen with the ace and crossed to dummy by playing a trump to the king, drawing West’s last trump. He then cashed the fifth diamond to dispose of his remaining heart and claimed 10 tricks.

Once you overcall, you can never have a hand good enough to want to play no-trump in a competitive auction if facing a passing partner. So what does your partner have, if the call is not natural? Surely he has both minors with longer clubs, and enough values to want to compete, probably a 4-5 or 4-6 pattern. Bid three diamonds and be prepared to compete to four diamonds if necessary.


♠ K 10 3
 J 3 2
 Q J 10 8 3
♣ 9 3
South West North East
1 2♣ 2
Pass Pass 2 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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitApril 11th, 2013 at 9:27 am

At the third table, play went as at the second table until west won the DA. West then shifted to a heart. Somehow magically at this table the ten and nine of hearts were switched and thus declarer was defeated. Okay, the last sentence was a lie, but west must shift to a heart as his only hope of defeating the contract.

Iain ClimieApril 11th, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Hi Bobby, David,

Should west be playing the second club? If East has long clubs headed by the AK and nothing in hearts surely he would take T1, possibly cash a second club, then play a heart through. South could have both diamond honours and West the HAQ when this would be essential.



bobbywolffApril 11th, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Hi David,

Yes, West should shift to a heart at trick two, but South would never have ducked the first club, breaking the defensive communications, if, though while holding both the heart and club aces, but without possessing at least the heart ten or instead, only a doubleton heart ace.

Sometimes high-level defense is much easier to execute against a good declarer, at which time the defense will be able to understand and count on that worthy adversary for making a logical counter to what has happened earlier, instead of some play which could be considered mindless. One of the difficult problems of progressing swiftly through the classes of bridge players, is falling victim to playing against lesser players and then countering those sometimes illogical moves.

jim2April 11th, 2013 at 3:50 pm

The Trick 2 heart shift appears to make the hand cold, but only if South now draws trump before attacking diamonds.

bobbywolffApril 11th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes my answer to David confirms, at least agrees with, your suggestion of West now switching to a heart at trick 2, but, do not expect miracles from such a switch, because I, 100%, agree with partner not possessing the AK of clubs, so why would South be making a play at trick one which could lead to his immediate demise? It would be possible if he was hoping for a defensive mistake and had to plan for a club ruff in dummy and just had to hope that the defense would not switch to hearts, but my point is that the above conversation could be the only reason why any worthy declarer might subject himself to being at the defense’s mercy at this critical part of the hand?

bobbywolffApril 11th, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Hi Jim2,

Well analysed and even assuming that no living, breathing bridge player, no matter how talented, usually can ever be anywhere near 100% convinced of where all the important cards are located, but being realistic enough to know, when playing against an experienced and otherwise capable declarer, that he will find a way to play that hand to its best advantage.

Relying on the above assumptions, the defensive options then usually only center on finding a way, depending on how the other cards are distributed, to legitimately defeat the contract.

As a sidelight, but perhaps worth mentioning, the above is the most important reason for considering the playing of matchpoint (duplicate) bridge, instead of IMPs or rubber bridge, just too difficult, and with too much luck involved, to rank it up there with the beauty of those last two types of the game.

For precisely the above reasons, games of baccarat, roulette, and craps, (often called games of chance) though extremely exciting, begin and end with the house odds insuring an eventual victory for the casino, but poker, bridge, backgammon and to some extent blackjack could well be considered games of skill, pitting the mind and ability of the players against their opponent as a principle reason for victory or defeat.

bobbywolffApril 11th, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Hi Jim2,

Please excuse my omission of the best pure mind game of all, chess, with absolutely no luck at all involved, as a game of skill.

jim2April 11th, 2013 at 5:04 pm

I was just amused by the change created by a Trick 2 shift.

That is, if a non-heart is led at Trick 2, declarer needs three diamond tricks and can accept a diamond ruff to get them. If a heart is led, however, declarer needs only two diamond tricks, but must take precautions against a diamond ruff.

jim2April 11th, 2013 at 5:55 pm

I found that there was an element of luck in chess. It’s just not where one might expect it.

For example, I knew who I would be facing in one match and tried to prepare for the game. My research revealed that my opponent preferred to play the Ruy-Lopez as white, and either the Open Morphy or one particular Dragon variation of the Sicilian Defense as black.

I had enough time and personal memory to refresh/master only one of those Sicilian Defense variants. So, I had to choose one and hope that either he drew white or that I drew white and he chose the one I selected to prepare for. Alternatively, I could elect to make a Queen’s Pawn Opening as white.

I chose Dragon, drew white, opened P-K4, and … he played the Dragon.


Iain ClimieApril 12th, 2013 at 10:28 am

Hi folks,

I used to play quite a lot of chess and found cases of good luck but not bad luck in many games. If my opponent blunders, this is my good luck. If I then fail to take advantage of the goof, blundering in turn, then he has had the good luck returned. No bad luck is involved in either case, though. Curious!

There is still bad luck in the way that can occur in any game or sport e.g. if you are playing a knock-out competition and are up against a player who “has your number”. Victor Korchnoi, aka the Leningrad Lip, gave a circle of fine players who had disproportionate scores against each other – if I remember rightly, he had a huge score against Mikhail Tal who dominated Lajos Portisch but Portisch had a big score against Paul Keres. Keres, however, was Korchnoi’s bete noire. Curious.


Iain Climie