Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, April 19th, 2013

Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error.


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


Nobody likes to do the wrong thing at the bridge table, but West was curiously pleased with his activities in this deal. As he subsequently explained, he knew he wasn't ever going to achieve perfection, so he thought it was a good idea to fit as many mistakes as possible into one single deal, to improve his chances of performing competently on the rest.

The auction gave West his first problem. East had competed with a double of two hearts (an unusual two-no-trump call was also a live possibility, given his honor distribution) and now, over South’s jump to four hearts, West might well have bid four spades and escaped with the loss of 500 points. Five diamonds would have cost only 200, but he chose to pass.

West then led the spade king, giving declarer some chances, as East contributed the six. It looked to South as though the club ace was surely wrong, so his contract would have to depend on finding West with the club queen. Just in case the cards did not cooperate, declarer went for the cunning approach. He won with the ace, drew trump, and followed with the spade four. West, caught unawares, played the seven. Now East was forced to overtake and try to cash his top diamonds. South ruffed, ran the spade jack, and now one of dummy’s clubs went away on the spades.

To set the game, West had to rise with his spade queen and find the club switch.

Normally in this situation I would advocate bidding the major (and indeed in a heavily competitive auction one spade might work well). But if, as you expect, your LHO will simply raise to two hearts, you might do best to mention diamonds first, then bid two spades over two hearts. This way you get your suits in economically and bid your long suit first.


♠ K Q 7 2
 10 7 5 4 2
♣ 8 4 3
South West North East
1♣ Dbl. 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


David WarheitMay 3rd, 2013 at 9:18 am

As an alternative, south can duck the first spade. West must now shift to a club, or the same result ensues. I think this is a better play than what south did (counting on west either carelessly playing low or, as was the case, having specifically KQ72). What do you think?

bobbywolffMay 3rd, 2013 at 10:18 am

Hi David,

South, ducking the first spade, should not succeed, since East’s spade six is the lowest spade out and even if East held the Ace, his low signal, playing standard, would indicate that he preferred a switch, which should look to West like a club, since with the diamond holding in dummy it would appear that partner instead would want a club through the king.

Further, since East should certainly be counted on for at least 3 spades (considering the bidding) his playing the lowest one instead of higher (with three or more originally) should certainly indicate a switch is wanted.

Ergo, the play which took place, wins my vote, and West, in spite of its awkwardness should probably rise to the occasion and hop with the queen of spades, fearing the actual holding or similar, which any of the adverse spades yet to be played might endplay East so, simply speaking, by ducking, East was going to have to win the trick.

Not easy to do by West, but no one has said defending in bridge, especially against a good declarer will be easy.

Thanks for bringing up for discussion what you did, since in order to rise in bridge stature, one needs to encounter every day (or differently said, unusual bridge logic) which needs to be thought out, not just guessed at.

In conclusion, when one makes a great play in chess, most all avid chess players and enthusiasts know it immediately, but often as here, if West does rise with the queen and then makes the necessary club switch, it indeed is an excellent play, but it might just go unnoticed because of its subtlety, having to do with the spade spots dealt.

jim2May 3rd, 2013 at 4:36 pm

South can still duck the first trick and have the spade six not be the lowest missing spade card.

bobbywolffMay 3rd, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Hi Jim2,

I suppose you are suggesting that declarer falsecard the 10 at trick one, but in order to do that, the declarer is resting all of his chances on West being misled and continuing spades.

Clever?, of course, wise? who is to say?
Might West reason that, if his partner had the ace wouldn’t he have overtaken (since the opening leader is very unlikely to be leading from Kx, considering the bidding and lead it back, virtually, by inference demanding West to now switch to a club.

All of the above is somewhat subtle, and is a good example of the games within a game which bridge defense often features.

Are am I missing your point which has nothing to do with declarer falsecarding, but not winning the ace at trick one?

David WarheitMay 3rd, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Jim: excellent comment! There is also the possibility that west started with king doubleton of spades (why not? east presumably has something in spades, given his takeout double), in which case the only possible way for south to succeed is to duck the king.

Bill CubleyMay 3rd, 2013 at 8:04 pm


We are back in town after a month of retirement community visits in TN, SC, and GA. Finally got to play in Gatlinburg – good news. Bad news is Shannon did not play there for the first time in several years. I was going to have a drink/brunch/dinner with here and introduce Annie.

Weird scoring experience. With one round to play, true opp Mike Cappelletti Sr. led the section with 65.32%, second had 65.31% [VERY ODD], and we were next at 65.07%. How can there be a 0.01% difference in a one session event? Anyway, won the Flight B and got a $2 bill for a prize. Better than a coffee cup!

bobbywolffMay 4th, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Hi Bill,

It seems impossible for there to be only a .01 difference within the same section, unless there is an adjusted score creating an artificial comparison, which, at least on the surface, is unlikely to happen.

More likely it is a scoring snafu, not picked up by an official unfamiliar with numbers.

Congratulations on winning the Flight B, with the $2 bill for a prize, which might be better than a coffee cup, but still, with their usual enormous attendance, still seems a little stingy.

As master points awards go up, money gets scarce. To each his own.

bobbywolffMay 4th, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Hi David,

If West started with the doubleton king of spades and upon receiving only the six from partner plus, and more importantly only a doubleton spade in dummy, should definitely switch to clubs since if East had the ace of spades and the AK of diamonds without the ace of clubs (and probably not the QJ) East should play his highest spade below the ace to make sure West does not switch to the losing club play.

It takes a high-level bridge partnership to be able to communicate via legal signals in order to not have defensive disasters such as the one you and Jim 2 are possibly conjuring up.

Of course in a random game with carefree opponents anything is possible, but, at least for column and our discussion purposes, the theory discussed is always assuming reasonable opposition.