Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Eternal law has arranged nothing better than this, that it has given us one way into life, but many ways out.


West North
Neither ♠ Q J 7 6
 10 9 8 3
 A 2
♣ 10 8 3
West East
♠ 5 3
 A 5 4
 Q 8
♣ K J 9 7 6 5
♠ A 10 9 4
 K J 10 9 7 4 3
♣ 2
♠ K 8 2
 K Q J 7 2
 6 5
♣ A Q 4
South West North East
1♣ Pass 1
1 Pass 2 3
Pass Pass 3 All pass


The winners of the Midweek Senior Swiss Teams Championship at the 2010 Brighton Summer Festival of Bridge were Rhona and Bernard Goldenfield, Kath Nelson and Jim Luck. Bernard Goldenfield found a loser-on-loser play here, which produced an extremely satisfying result.

Against three hearts West led the diamond queen, taken in dummy by the ace. A heart to the king was captured with the ace and West returned his last diamond. On winning, East switched to a club. Suspecting from the bidding that this was a singleton and that West must hold six clubs to the king-jack, Bernard rose with his ace.

There are five potential losers; one in every suit and two in clubs. But as you can see, the defenders have no communications in any suit except diamonds, and that lifeline has already been cut.

Declarer drew the rest of the trumps and continued with a low spade to the queen and ace. East returned the spade 10, won by South’s king. A third spade went to the jack, West showing out. Had spades split, life would have been easy, but when they did not, Goldenfield played dummy’s last spade, on which he discarded a club from his hand.

Declarer by now had a complete count of East’s hand, and his club queen was poised to be jettisoned on East’s forced diamond return. The ruff and discard gave South his ninth trick.

Following your responsive double, your partner's cue-bid simply shows a good hand. You have been asked to bid your suits up the line regardless of suit quality, so simply bid three hearts. The objective here is to find a 4-4 major-suit fit, not necessarily the best fit.


♠ Q J 7 6
 10 9 8 3
 A 2
♣ 10 8 3
South West North East
1♣ Dbl. 2♣
Dbl. Pass 3♣ 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


AndrewOctober 24th, 2013 at 1:18 pm

The play is much more interesting if West makes the strange guess of leading the doubleton spade, threatening a spade ruff if East knows to duck on the first round. There are a lot of choices involved, but I believe North-South can still always prevail with an endplay of some kind if South makes the heads up play of the Queen or Jack from Dummy at trick one and ducks in Dummy when West leads his second spade.

Iain ClimieOctober 24th, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Hi Andrew,

Interesting but if declarer plays trumps after the first spade is ducked then west wins, gets his spade ruff and exits with a low diamond to ensure either defender can win the next diamond if the ace is played. If declarer ducks, another spade ruff occurs or the spade winner is killed.

if declarer plays diamonds at tricks 2 and 3, east wins and plays a club, delaying the spade ruff. Sadly, who is finding that lead ?



AndrewOctober 24th, 2013 at 4:00 pm

In the first case, declarer can take the Diamond Ace immediately, then draw the last trump. Due to his careful play in spades earlier, he has the Qx in dummy opposite the K in his hand, so he can cash the spade K, cross to dummy with a heart, and discard discard a diamond on the good spades.

He can then ruff a diamond in his hand, leaving him with 1 heart in dummy and 1 heart in his hand as well as stripping dummy of diamonds. Leading a club to the 10 then endplays West even if he doesn’t have a doubleton diamond. In the end, South loses 1 spade, 1 heart, 1 spade ruff, and only 1 club; making 3 hearts.

I must confess I didn’t consider how the play progresses if South plays 2 rounds of diamonds immediately, but I suspect he would in fact go down in that case, probably losing 1 spade, 1 heart, 1 diamond, 1 club, and a spade ruff.

Iain ClimieOctober 24th, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Very neat indeed, and well spotted!

bobby wolffOctober 24th, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Hi Andrew & Iain,

Thanks for the variations. However I think that declarer with good play can always score up 9 tricks, losing only 1 heart, 2 spade tricks, but then zero diamond tricks regardless when and if the defense gets their spade ruff. If only 1 spade then a diamond trick, but not both a diamond trick and a spade ruff, and then a club endplay which would be marked (on the bidding) and relatively easy to execute.

It is very neat indeed, well spotted, but nine tricks will be bid and made in hearts by NS.

AndrewOctober 24th, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Thanks. Anyway, that’s just my 2 cents about today’s hand. I thought it was interesting play question, so I brought it up.

As you pointed out, almost nobody would lead spades anyway, so it’s all just for fun. But who knows, maybe someday a lucky West in a similar situation would catch South napping. If South isn’t careful and lets the opening lead go around to his King, then South is down no matter what he does!

AndrewOctober 24th, 2013 at 9:43 pm

As always, our esteemed host is right. I apologize for mistakenly suggesting that South goes down if he plays the wrong spade at trick one, which is of course false. I couldn’t possibly summarize it any better than it has already been summarized, so let me just say thank you for correcting my errors, and next time I’ll triple check my work instead of just double checking.

Bobby WolffOctober 24th, 2013 at 11:25 pm

Hi Andrew,

Please feel secure in the fact that if you haven’t already, you joined everyone above and ever to in the future offer a comment on our wily game which has humbled everyone many times and for all I know, plans on keeping up its mysterious ways.

If you only suffer this fate once a day, consider yourself fortunate and way above average.

Thanks for your contribution, don’t be a stranger and welcome to the struggle.