Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, October 14th, 2013

Behold, I do not give lectures or a little charity,
When I give I give myself.

Walt Whitman

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


A few years ago a charity bridge event was held at Mosimann’s Restaurant in London in aid of the Variety Club. The total raised for the charity was £30,000.

On the morning of the event Zia Mahmood was sick and couldn’t play. His replacement, Nicola Smith filled in, and she and her partner won their section. The following slam caused her no problem. While the play should be straightforward, it floored a number of players.

Although South has only 10 high-card points, his hand is strong in distribution and well worth an opening bid. (A two diamond opening would be wildly misleading.) After that start, there would be no stopping North, and the final contract would be six diamonds after the obligatory use of Blackwood.

On a spade king lead, declarer needs to set up dummy’s hearts, using trumps as entries. The simplest line is to win the lead, play a trump to dummy and ruff a heart, play another trump to dummy and ruff another heart. Now ruff a spade and try the ace and king of hearts (discarding a spade and a club). If hearts break, declarer can claim the rest. On the actual layout declarer ruffs another heart, setting up dummy’s 10, which he can reach with a second spade ruff. The remaining heart winner allows declarer to discard a second club, and the slam is made without needing to guess which opponent holds the club ace.

The choice of leads is between the singleton diamond and a fourth highest heart. I'm going for the singleton lead — now the route to the target of four tricks is somewhat easier to predict, while finding partner with good hearts is not necessarily sufficient to beat the game.


♠ 6 4
 J 8 5 4 2
♣ A 7 6 4 3
South West North East
1 Pass 1♠
Pass 1 NT Pass 3♠
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


AndrewOctober 28th, 2013 at 1:40 pm

I may be missing something, but it seems like on the actual layout, South can also ruff spades in dummy with high diamonds. That line would involve ruffing a spade with the Diamond 4 at trick 2, then Discarding clubs on the AK of hearts and leading the club K at trick 5.

East wins the Ace and whatever East returns, South has 3 entries to his hand with the Diamond 7 to a diamond honor, a club ruff low, and a heart ruff high, which still leaves him with two high trumps in his hand to draw trumps with. In particular, he can ruff two spades in dummy with the AJ of diamonds and still get back to his hand to draw trump.

My two questions are, 1) does this line actually work, and 2) if it does, how does it compare to the column line?

Bobby WolffOctober 28th, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Hi Andrew,

If East upon winning the club ace, now leads a low heart back (after the AK of hearts have been used for discarding clubs) the declarer must ruff high to keep a diamond overruff from occurring then after another spade is ruffed with the jack, South is then apparently “cooked” since he has no safe transportation back to hand, with that 98 of diamonds looming with West.

If the above is correct, and I’ll appreciate it, if you agree, it is not I who is missing something, a good learning tool is that when faced with a choice, developing a trick, such as the 6th heart in dummy (for a third discard), often contributes to a success because that extra trick protects against dastardly distribution which is too often present.

Now it is your turn to use your bridge acumen to agree or “gasp”, not.

AndrewOctober 28th, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Not to belabor the point, but could South not regain access to his hand with a club ruff? One of the clubs went on the King, and 2 of the clubs went on the AK of hearts, so South is now void of clubs. He gets back to hand with a club ruff, then ruffs his last spade and still has the 7 of diamonds and two high trumps in his hand.

That being said, I certainly do agree that establishing the sixth heart is a much better line which caters to more distributions, though it shames me to admit that I would have followed my knee jerk reaction to ruff spades in dummy instead of setting up dummy’s hearts. In the future, I’ll have to work on finding the best line first instead of improving an inferior line!

jim2October 28th, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Andrew –

I am not Our Host (nor an expert, for that matter!), but I believe your line does work. As you said, you would ruff East’s low heart return high, ruff a spade high, return to hand with a low trump to the K/Q, ruff a spade high, and ruff the Board’s last club low and draw trump.

This makes the sequence (including the heart return by East):

– KS – won by AS
– spade ruff low (I recommend the 7, BTW, not the 4)
– AH (club pitch)
– KH (club pitch)
– KC – won by AC (East)
– xH – ruffed high (West pitches)
– xS – ruffed high (East pitchs)
– low D to high D in hand
– JS – ruffed high (East pitchs)
– JC – ruffed low (declarer breathes sigh of relief when West follows suit)
– draw trump

Your line needs hearts not worse that 5 – 2 and an even trump split, but so does the column line.

If your line is inferior to the column line, it may be because it needs West to have three or more clubs when West holds two trump. (West will have a pitch chance when declarer ruffs the low heart return high, and could use that opportunity to divest the last of a doubleton club.)

Bobby WolffOctober 28th, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Hi Andrew (and Jim2),

Apologies for my being wrong on your line of play not working, it (as both you have said and Jim2 has confirmed) does work and I missed it with my description.

There are reasons, however, for declarer’s line being better since if hearts are terrible (6-1 or worse) we will find out in time to still be lucky enough to survive with a good club guess (if it is possible).

However, I should have analyzed better the first time.

Thanks for writing and please continue to do so.

jim2October 28th, 2013 at 9:40 pm

I am so sorry – I reallllly am! – but I think your hearts 6 – 1 statement means that declarer must ruff the second heart high.

The column did not say that but, of course, declarer certainly can do that (and probably should). For that matter, the column line would even allow declarer to ruff the first heart high, since the route to dummy is two trump leads.

I’ll be quiet now. Promise!

Bobby WolffOctober 28th, 2013 at 10:41 pm

Hi Jim2,

Of course, after a trump to dummy which confirmed a 2-1 split, it could be, probably should be, written, “ruffed high” on the second one, but since this was a real hand, we were not there, but considering the caliber of the declarer, no doubt she did.

However, at least to me, the educational value of this hand to others, regarding suit establishment, is the reason it was chosen (I think but cannot remember exactly) and, although the comments made were all justified and discussable you need not feel sorry, much less apologize, that you are more thorough than most, although in real life sometimes writers, and I am one of them, who unintentionally sometimes forget duty to their readers to make things as crystal clear as I can.

Bridge can be tedious enough, all by itself, without gilding the lily, but none of the above is a good enough excuse for not emphasizing the correct way to play every card, which should have been done.