Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 29th, 2013

The more things man is ashamed of, the more respectable he is.

George Bernard Shaw

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

*Two-suiter, game-forcing


In a team game, West opened one spade, was passed around to South, who was willing to risk bidding at least six hearts, but had no way to let North know what was needed for seven. By bidding only hearts and clubs before jumping to slam, he tried to give the impression that he was worth a drive to slam, but was missing a trick in one of those two suits.

North got the message that his partner had longer hearts than clubs, but felt obliged to pass six hearts in spite of his diamond ace because he could not be sure his partner’s hearts were entirely solid. Of course, seven hearts can be made with a 3-2 club split, but on the lead of the spade king, it was up to South not to waste his energies on what might have been and to focus on making the contract he was in.

South found the solution when he ruffed the opening lead and, before playing any trump, cashed one high club, then led a low club, and eventually ruffed a club in dummy with the heart nine to make his contract.

By playing one high club and one low one, South guarantees the contract unless clubs break 5-0. This is clearly the best available play, since if declarer draws even one round of trumps, the defenders can arrange to prevent the club ruff in dummy. The overtrick is irrelevant unless South is playing pairs — and maybe even then!

With partner limited in his possible high cards (he didn't act over one club despite apparently being short in clubs), your best chance looks to be in diamonds. Leading the diamond queen may cost a trick or solve a guess for declarer, but nothing else is likely to give you a chance to set the game.


♠ J 10 3 2
 J 3
 Q 3
♣ J 9 6 5 2
South West North East
1♣ Pass 4
All 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


Iain ClimieAugust 12th, 2013 at 9:50 am

Hi Bobby,

On the play hand, did East say something “helpful” afterwards I.e. “It goes off if you lead a trump, partner”? If so, did West throw something heavy at him?

Less flippantly, on LWTA, is a spade worth a look? Partner needs some high cards in spades or diamonds, possibly coupled with a round suit winner or a trump holding e.g. Qxx. If he had the DAK or KJ (and probably 5+ cards) he might have bid but could have SAK (or AQ over the king) and 3 or 4 cards when a spade lead might be effective. He is more likely to have diamond length than spade length I feel, but his silence suggests his diamonds (if he has 5+) are weak. He might even overcall on DAKJx

A perfect scenario is dummy with Kxx x Kxxx AKQxx and part with AQx Qxx 10xxxx xx although this is obviously very exact. A diamond may still be more likely to work but a spade is worth considering – or is it?

Any thoughts?



Iain ClimieAugust 12th, 2013 at 10:28 am

PS West could also retort “It doesn’t” as diamonds are 5-4 and the H7 onside. Declarer wins T1 with H6 then plays DA then Q throwing clubs, later cashing two more winning diamonds using H9 as an entry. MONDAY, I hate you.

If South suspected a 5-0 club break, he could try something similar, leading the H2 to the 6 unless an alert West hopped up with the 7. All easy with 52 cards to look at of course.

Bobby WolffAugust 12th, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Hi Iain,

When I was young, too long ago to remember, there was a song, “Some think the world was made for fun and frolic, and so do I, and so do I”.

Such is the nature of our hand today, and yes, a trump lead does (probably) stand out. However, the somewhat clever expert technique suggested by declarer, then goes down the drain, causing us to dream up another theme.

We, in the kitchen, have to eat too, so please quit attacking us with good bridge and the reasons why. And yes, your spade lead suggestion in the LWTA also makes sense, but what’s a bridge writer to do?

Please, just understand your role as a wide eyed bridge player who offers encouragement rather than as a superior teacher. However, you may, of course, possess a wry smile as you do it.

In every case though, it is always a pleasure to hear from you.

Bobby WolffAugust 12th, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Hi Iain,

And just like President Harry Truman’s plane kept circling the landing field so that Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s plane would have to arrive before him during their ego filled meeting (who is boss?) way back during WWII in the Pacific for your alternate plan of finessing the 6 of hearts, we would make sure East would hold the singleton 7 instead so that you, knowing West was too good a player not to play the 7 when you offered the deuce of hearts toward the 96, the declarer would decide, since that would be folly, he instead would lead the 8 to the 9 catching either East’s or West’s singleton 7 so that his deuce could later be led to the 6 for his slam winning cashable diamond tricks.

Who do you think you are jousting with? Children? and non bridge playing children at that.

Bobby WolffAugust 12th, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Hi Iain,

And furthermore if the not so bland and grand Victor Mollo would have gotten hold of the subject hand with the late Johnny Crawford, one of America’s best way back in the 1940’s and 50’s in the USA and an ego to match, when asked a bridge question, he inquired as to how good the other three players (including his partner) were and was told, “let’s suppose that all three were named Johnny Crawford”, he then retorted, “I, of course, would never chance playing in a game that tough”.

In any event Victor, with the above hand would have his alter ego, “The Hideous Hog”, the declarer, while playing in a game surrounded by the three little pigs who had grown up to match their illustrious 4th and only then would lead the eight of hearts to the nine.

bruce karlsonAugust 12th, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Lain- Your bridge thoughts are, as noted by our host, on the mark and help to make the game more interesting…even though they often remind we unwashed club players how lazy we can be. Oh, well. In any event, I always look forward to your “take” on the master’s hand and his analysis.

As to Truman/McArthur however, you are off a conflict/war. Truman did not take the reigns on FDR’s war until 1945. The incident you cite did occur but it was during the Korean “conflict” (’50-53) which is still not settled.


Bobby WolffAugust 12th, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Hi Bruce,

Thank you for your important and necessary correction.

Believe it or not, although it doesn’t help my credibility, I actually prefer that correct history trumps careless loose lips (or fingers). It is more prideful to me that someone else not only cares, but also brings the subject to attention.

Iain ClimieAugust 12th, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for this, and I see Monday-itis is not confined to myself and Garfield, the cartoon cat (you know it’s Monday when a Landmine explodes in your breakfast or sharks circle in your waterbowl).

Hi Bruce,

Thanks for your kind comments – I just wish I could play at the table anywhere near as well as you credit me for analysing me away from it. As Victor Mollo said “a theoretician is a player who knows exactly the right bid or play ten seconds after doing something else!”

All the very best to you both,