Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Unto the man of yearning thought
And aspiration, to do nought
Is in itself almost an act.

Christina Rossetti

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

*Game-forcing spade raise


In today's auction North should not jump to four spades immediately (which is essentially a pre-emptive bid) lest he shut his partner out of a slam. East should restrain himself from competing at too high a level without the highest ranking suit at unfavorable vulnerability. A takeout double of two no-trump looks completely reasonable, however. South has an absolute minimum opening bid, so jump to game to deny slam interest and no one will have anything more to say.

The lead of the club seven marks South with at least K-Q-8 in that suit, so East should resist the temptation to play third-hand high. He should withhold his club ace to avoid setting up two discards from dummy. There is no hand South can hold, consistent with the bidding, whereby East can let the contract through by holding up his club ace. However, even after that start, the defense still has work to do. When East wins his spade ace, he must lead a diamond to avoid setting up an extra trick for declarer.

Equally, when West eventually wins the diamond king, he must lead a heart to avoid a throw-in play against his partner. (If he does not do so, then after eliminating diamonds, declarer could throw East on lead with the third club and force a heart lead back into dummy’s A-Q.)

After all this work, the defense gets back two tricks in the red suits in exchange for the club ace and defeats the game.

I'm often asked if I could include the vulnerability in the bidding problems. This deal is certainly one where your action might be different depending on the vulnerability. I'd bid two spades in second seat vulnerable, but would open one spade if nonvulnerable. By contrast, in first seat a one-spade opening looks right at all vulnerabilities.


♠ K J 10 9 8 7
 A Q 3
 6 5 4
♣ 2
South West North East

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


LeonSeptember 3rd, 2013 at 9:19 am


After club to the king in trick one, shouldn’t south play as follows:
2) club ruff
3) diamond to queen and king (South wants to try finess of course)
4) heart (otherwise a throw in) to the ace
5) diamond to ace
6) club ruff
7) diamond ruff
8) now a spade to east who has to give a heart to north (or give sluff/ruff).

EW only make a diamond, a heart and a spade. Or do i miss something?


Bobby WolffSeptember 3rd, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Hi Leon,

By George, or I should say by Leon, you did it and missed nothing.

Not only that, but when the diamond finesse failed, you will be surprised, but that setback will result in you scoring up a game which may not be scored up at other tables, especially with a club lead which this East rightfully chooses to duck, but those at different tables may not.

The real test of character for you as declarer will be when your teammates come back to your table to compare scores, get to this hand and say -420 and you say push, but then not ask them how the defense went, but your partner could (should) come to your aid and explain how you overcame East ducking the same opening lead of a club which possibly your teammate did not.

It would then be a good idea for your pair to then not ask for a description of what happened on this hand at their table, and only let your teammates say what they want. Possibly this behavior will only be practiced in that future bridge game in the sky with beautiful clouds and harp playing in the background.

Thank you for your very thoughtful and significant creative thinking and a good lesson in declarer play.

LeonSeptember 3rd, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for your nioe reaction, but I think I missed something in my line of play. Although in trick 4 most West would return a heart to keep east out of the placing, West can actually return a spade! East will take his ace and exit with the ace of clubs (after which no placing is possible anymore)…
This nice line of defense would make the defence again the winner of this board.

Is that all? No! If we play the diamond queen in trick 2!!, then I think the declarer prevails. Now west has to commit himself too early:
If west plays a trump, east will end up being thrown in with the club ace (loser on loser play).
If west plays back a heart, declarer will succeed by the line I proposed in my previous comment.

But if I would find the diamond queen play in trick 2 (I think the only way to succeed against best defense) it would be difficult to let it go unnoticed when comparing scores…..

There are so many ‘layers’ to this hand, so many resources both to declarer and defenders that it would make a good hand in “(do you want to) declare or defend”.
Thx for sharing.

LeonSeptember 3rd, 2013 at 2:29 pm

First line of the previous comment should of course have been “Thanks for your nice reaction…..”

Iain ClimieSeptember 3rd, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Hi Leon, Bobby,

Fascinating stuff, but how many Wests (giiven the double) might try
a diamond at trick 1? Not a success, but possibly understandable.



David WarheitSeptember 4th, 2013 at 7:33 am

Assume E ducks the opening C lead. S wins, ruffs a C, crosses to the DA, ruffs his last C, and leads a D to his Q & W’s K. W returns a H, but S wins with dummy’s A & leads a S, endplaying E. Making 4. Could this line of play fail? Sure, if E has DK, HK & singleton S5 or if W has DK, singleton SA, & no more than 4H without the K. But I believe my line is the best, assuming E ducks the opening lead.

BTW, if E wins the CA at trick 1, S makes 5? Win the D return, cash the CKQ discarding Ds, ruff the DQ & lead a S. E wins and must either lead a H up to dummy’s tenace or give S a ruff sluff.

Bobby WolffSeptember 4th, 2013 at 11:24 am

Hi Leon, Iain & David,

All of you had something constructive to say, whether it be a specific line of play and defense, a proposed sensible lead of a diamond (which doesn’t work in spades, despite being a tempting choice, especially in game on this hand and in that suit), or in a summation of how the immediate play of the ace of clubs defensively will get one less trick, a death wish in matchpoint duplicate.

No doubt, when West is in with his king of diamonds it seems right to lead through the AQ of hearts instead of a spade, but then why didn’t declarer lead a spade to his theoretical ace instead of taking a diamond finesse (perhaps it was only Qx in diamonds to which he was leading and if it was, the possession of the 10 and 8 of hearts by West can be critical in later play by preventing a successful duck into East as a consequence of West not loosening his partner up in hearts earlier, when in with the diamond king).

All worth discussing, but not negating the main point of the whole hand and that is East’s imaginative duck of the original club lead in order to set in motion a possible best defense.