Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

When you know what you want, and want it bad enough, you will find a way to get it.

Jim Rohn

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


When this deal came up at the rubber-bridge table, where the priority is to make your contract, not struggle for possibly irrelevant overtricks, declarer played too fast and suffered the consequences.

After a Stayman auction, North-South identified their heart fit, and the opening lead was the spade king to the ace. Declarer immediately won and led a diamond to the queen to play a trump to the king. When this held, but West showed out, declarer was doomed to lose three trump tricks and a spade, since East was left with the A-Q-9 of trumps poised over dummy’s J-10 of hearts.

The best policy on the deal is to focus on what you can afford to lose. The answer is that you do not mind losing two trump tricks, just so long as you do not lose three. After the initial spade lead, the defenders are not threatening a ruff, so you can afford to tackle trump safely.

Win the spade lead, then immediately lead a low heart at trick two toward the J-10. This limits declarer’s losses to two trumps and a spade, no matter which defender has the four trumps. The point is that once you discover who has the long trump, you can take the appropriate evasive action to negotiate the hearts, and the defenders can score only their two high trumps whatever they do.

Since you'd double with any strong balanced hand, any action you take in a suit will be somewhat limited in high cards. A simple call of two spades (planning to come again in hearts) would be sensible enough. An alternative approach (if you trust your partner to be on the same wavelength) would be to cuebid two clubs to show both majors and a limited hand.


♠ 10 9 7 5 2
 A Q 9 5
 10 2
♣ 7 5
South West North East
1♣ Dbl. 1 NT

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


Iain ClimieApril 23rd, 2013 at 9:32 am

Hi Bobby,

Although declarer is doomed as the cards lie, what did he play after the HK held? He should at least try bashing out diamonds as he can dump the spade loser if East has 3 or more then just feed east minor suit winners, losing just the 3 trumps.



Iain ClimieApril 23rd, 2013 at 10:27 am

Sorry, wrong again – you can’t use the DQ twice and the suit is blocked. Note to self – engage brain before clouting keys; it may also help with the day job.

bobbywolffApril 23rd, 2013 at 11:40 am

Hi Iain,

You hit on just another advantage of leading a low heart to the jack, preserving the flexibility of that approach, for a diamond 3-3 fallback.

However, since this line is also inferior to safety (declarer may need a diamond entry later) it was not mentioned.

Even at matchpoints and catching East with AQ9 of hearts and diamonds 3-3 it would still not enable declarer to make more than 10 tricks, since in order to get to dummy and lead a heart to the king, the diamonds would still be blocked.

Sometimes it can become a satisfying experience to know that leading a low heart from hand is clearly the thing to do on this hand, even at matchpoints, except when East has AQ doubleton or A9x and only 2- diamonds.

Sometimes, especially in a grueling match against good opponents, it feels good to play a hand and not have to worry about alternate lines, which all turn out to be inferior, except perhaps when West has A9x of hearts and a void in diamonds or clubs.

As a sidelight, Victor Mollo made a mark by finding just such hands to upset logic by having one of his well thought out characters to either be a goat or a hero to either the thrill or consternation of one of his other stereotyped dupes.