Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, September 28th, 2013

We are easily shocked by crimes which appear at once in their full magnitude, but the gradual growth of our own wickedness, endeared by interest, and palliated by all the artifices of self-deceit, gives us time to form distinctions in our own favor.

Samuel Johnson

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

*Three key cards, counting the trump king as a key card

**Showing the spade queen and heart king


Today's deal is a constructed hand. Although the details of the deal's genesis are lost in the mists of antiquity, it is believed that it comes from a par-deal contest dating from at least 80 years ago, in which pre-composed deals were set to challenge competitors' ingenuity.

If you hadn’t seen it before, and just looked at the North-South cards, you would assume that it was extremely easy to make the grand slam on a heart lead. However, you are given fair warning that if you run any unnecessary risk, you are doomed.

The best line to bring home your contract requires you to protect against as many bad breaks as possible in all four of the suits — I will give you the tip that if East is ruffing the opening lead, you are in very poor shape!

The secret is to plan to jettison your club honors — and once you decide this is necessary, you can only make that play on winners from dummy. To void yourself of trump, you win the first heart and ruff a heart high, West discarding his club. You lead a low trump to dummy and ruff another low heart high, then draw all the trumps, discarding one top club honor on the fourth trump.

The remaining high heart from dummy takes care of your other high club, and now dummy’s five club winners can be taken without interference.

Paradoxically, when you showed spades and diamonds and your partner indicated no interest in spades, that made your hand better for diamonds. After all, you may be able to make a slam in the minor suit by ruffing out the spades. Don't commit the hand to slam though. Bid four diamonds, guaranteeing slam interest and a fifth diamond, and hope partner can move on from there.


♠ 10 9 5 3 2
 A Q 8 7 5
♣ A K
South West North East
1 NT Pass
2 Pass 2♠ Pass
3 Pass 3 NT 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


David WarheitOctober 12th, 2013 at 9:27 am

There is another (inferior) line of play that works. Win the HA, cash the SA, getting the bad news, then cash one club and draw trump. Now cash the HK, discarding the remaining club & run clubs. The last 2 tricks are a trump and the DA. Back to the drawing board!

Bobby WolffOctober 12th, 2013 at 10:59 am

Hi David,

Thanks for the alternate line, which works at least almost as well, as the somewhat bizarre, but effective column par line suggested.

Even before I got seriously interested in bridge, well known magazines (at that time) such as Cosmopolitan (back in the 1930’s) had pages devoted to bridge double dummy problems (meaning seeing all four hands but still having difficulty figuring out a winning line). In those days, bridge was ever in the news, thanks mostly to the publicity generated by Eli Culbertson, with Charles Goren soon to arrive on the scene, and, of course, the absence of television and other sensational options (Ipads, cell phones as well as video games and such) which later came into direct competition with first learning and then playing our wonderful game.

I will always think that learning bridge and its fascinating logical nuances would have produced a more intelligent society.

Today’s column is an exercise of being precise, with the nameless author (at least to me) of the problem itself, no doubt, working backward to create such a sensation.

Also, much thanks for your continued interest and for your thoughtful contributions which will undoubtedly help others, understand the concepts.

Iain ClimieOctober 12th, 2013 at 11:15 am

Hi Bobby,

In similar vein, I recall a problem where declarer is in 7H holding S None H 109876 D AK C A95432 and dummy has S AQ8 H AKQJ D QJ10982 C None. The CQ is led so, assuming east has at least one club, the contract always makes. A diamond has to be thrown from dummy, declarer takes the CA, crosses to the HA, ruffs the small spade, back to the HK, ruffs the SQ, then back to dummy with another trump. The last top trump and the SA dispose of the DAK unblockign the suit.

Needless to say, trumps are 4-0, while the hand with 4 trumps has a diamond void. I think the hand has a specific title (cf the Duke of Cumberland hand, used in Ian Fleming’s Moonraker, where a player holding SAKQJ HAKQ DAKQ CKJ9 or similar has 7C Dbled made against him) but can’t remember it – sorry!



David WarheitOctober 12th, 2013 at 4:29 pm

It just occurred to me that if declarer had the S8 instead of the 9, my suggested line is vastly superior to the column’s line and indeed is the only line that works on the given lie of the cards.