Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 20th, 2013

It shouldn't be easy to be amazing. Then everything would be. It's the things you fight for and struggle with before earning that have the greatest worth.

Sarah Dessen

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


Against three no-trump West leads the spade queen, and, as expected, East has to discard; he chooses a heart. Is there any way to make nine tricks against the best defense?

You need East to have begun with three clubs headed by the king and jack. At trick two, you should cash the club ace. East’s best defense is to unblock the king. You then cross to dummy with a diamond to the ace to lead a club. If East plays the jack, you will play low from hand. After winning the red-suit return in hand, you will cash the club queen and claim nine tricks: a spade, two hearts, three diamonds and three clubs.

You should note that it would not have been a good idea to cross to dummy at trick two to lead a club. East would play the jack, forcing you to play the queen. Now, when you played the club ace, he would drop the king, and you could not set up your third club trick without letting West on lead.

Incidentally, on the club-10 lead, you would have set about clearing the club suit at once. Then you would have cashed three diamonds and two hearts, hoping to exhaust West of red-suit cards. Finally, you would have ducked a spade to West, forcing him to give you a ninth trick in spades.

Finally, did you spot the winning defense? West begins with the spade ace and queen, allowing East to unblock the club king and jack!

My instinct is to pass, though I admit that since a call by partner of three clubs at his second turn would have been game-forcing, partner could easily have up to a 16-count. There is something to be said for giving false preference to two diamonds, but surely a 4-4 club fit will play much better than a 5-3 diamond fit, since you may be able to discard losers from either major on diamonds.


♠ 9 6 4
 A 6 2
 A 8 4
♣ 8 6 4 3
South West North East
1 Pass
1 NT Pass 2♣ 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


Michael BeyroutiJuly 3rd, 2013 at 12:00 pm

West leads the A-Q of spades while East dumps the K-J of clubs… Spectacular!
People should not be allowed to wear Google glasses while playing Brdige. For each player can take a photo of his cards and text it to his partner who can then see it on his screen… all at the bat of an eyelash.

Bobby WolffJuly 3rd, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Hi Michael,

Yes, bridge unfortunately issues challenges, particularly updated technology, which offers possible despicable opportunities for illegal information to be gleaned, as you have deftly pointed out, through electronic transmission.

Because bridge is a partnership game, highly unusual if not one of a kind, wherein specific ethical considerations are necessary, forbidding unauthorized communications, especially in illegal, forbidden and contrived ways.

However, ever since our wonderful mind game was created, along with chess (mostly with outside computer help piped into a player’s ear), there have been attempts (and much success along with it) to denigrate the game (and of course themselves) below the minimum level of humanity and decency.

Once caught, forever humiliated and then lifetime banned, should be our creed, but bleeding hearts, shrewd, but not well meaning lawyers, political connections and financial considerations have contributed to their salvation.

Life goes on, but, at least to my knowledge, no competition requires more rules and therefore strictures than does bridge as to its responsibilities, not only on beefing up our penalties and our enforcement, but also immediately ostracizing offenders forever.

Along with the above, our official lines of defense, with competent, well educated, willing tournament directors and unyielding committee members who only concentrate and rule for what is good for the game and thus interpreting hard to write laws to favor equity at what is best for our sometimes complicated fact situations, has become our immediate task, and, at least from my perch, much too much politicizing and inconsistent enforcement with lack of precedents and accountability are, as we speak, threatening the very existence of our expert game, at the very least, of what most of us, want it to be.

Time will tell, but we, at least in my opinion, will demand at least a very knowledgeable demanding and energetic leader (and probably worldwide) to insure fairness who is totally dedicated to slay this ugly dragon for us to raise our game to the status we all know it deserves. This leader then, must then teach others by creating an organization to follow in his (her) footsteps.


Iain ClimieJuly 3rd, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Hi Bobby,

On a lighter note, can I admit to reflrecting today’s quote by admitting to doing something amazingly bad last night at pairs.

The uncontested auction went 1D – 1N – 3N and my key assets were CKQ10xx opposite Axx in dummy but my only other potential entry in hand was first established by the opponents then knocked out by repeated leads. Around T6 I started clubs but had a moment of madness, playing the K first. Naturally LHO had CJ9xx and I’d scuppered things.

If I’d played the CA first then small back towards hand, east would have showed out and I could have ducked to get the extra club trick. If east followed and west showed out, I could have returned to dummy and picked up the CJ. It was a painful reminder that, even at pairs, there are no cost extra chance plays often available, at least if you are awake. As I’d earlier counted one suit as being distributed 5-3-1-5 round the table, it was one of those nights.



Bobby WolffJuly 3rd, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Hi Iain,

You deserve much sympathy, not because of your less than perfect technique on the subject hand, but rather your abject discipline for total honesty in your confessions.

Long ago and far away when I, in the very early 1960’s, was running a bridge club in San Antonio, Texas and started what was named a junior duplicate, not concerning age, but as a prelude to mixing it up at regular duplicates which sometimes included the best players in town.

After many weeks there was only 1 score sheet (almost always used in those early years) which accompanied each board and on this rare occasion in a nine table game had all nine score as 4 spades, NS all making 10 tricks, e.g. +620. This result of all the same scores and over 9 different tables never had been seen before and I can continue, since, so at that time I decided to check out what happened it possible.

My result was enlightening, although it took be several weeks to accomplish. In at least 5 of those 9 results at one time, the normal path of both declarer and defenders varied between making +650 and even down 2, but other mistakes entered leveling off the result to par. Although by that time the bidding to arrive in 4 spades had long been forgotten, but you get my point.

You are comparing yourself against always performing at 100% efficiency, no less.

For most, Dame Fortune tends not to punish players for mistakes (witness the 4-1 break offside which was required for being punished), but you leave no stone unturned to admit to fault.

If only more of us were like you, the world would be a better place, at least to be able to live with oneself, instead of to rationalize oneself as consistently unlucky.

Iain ClimieJuly 3rd, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Hi Bobby, I’m flattered by your kind comments but my wife wants to know more about this mythical nice person you mention. She hasn’t started penning a “Best behavior at home” guide (the bridge one works of course) yet but watch this space!

Seriously, though, anyone who can tolerate me for nearly 25 yrs (on Sept 2nd this year) deserves a medal.