Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, October 19th, 2013

There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?

Woody Allen

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


Against your contract of four spades West leads the heart 10, East overtaking with the jack and continuing with the heart ace, which you ruff, as West follows with the six. How do you plan to insure your contract?

If spades and diamonds are both 3-2 you could make 12 tricks. However, as you are in four spades it will pay you to focus your attention to the possibility that either one or both of these suits could be 4-1.

After ruffing the second heart, you should play a diamond to the ace, followed by a trump to the king. Next you ruff a low diamond with the jack, setting up the suit against a possible 4-1 break. Even if a defender shows out on this trick, the diamonds are now established — but how do you get back to hand to run the suit?

The answer is relatively simple, when you think about it. You must overtake dummy’s bare trump queen with the ace to return to your hand and run the diamonds without forcing yourself. These plays have given the defenders at least one natural trump trick — indeed on today’s lie of the cards East has two trump tricks now. But in return you have retained control of the trump suit.

When you run the diamonds, East will ruff in and play a heart. However, you simply trump and continue the avalanche of diamonds. All you will lose is two spade tricks and one heart.

This hand falls into the gray area between a simple heart raise and a cuebid raise to three diamonds (remember, a jump to three hearts is shapely and weak). On this hand despite the singleton in the opponent's suit my bad trumps suggest going low, so I'd simply raise to two hearts. But if my partner had overcalled in spades I'd upvalue my hand and take the more aggressive position.


♠ Q J 5
 8 5 2
♣ K 10 8 5 4 2
South West North East
1 1 2

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 ClimieNovember 2nd, 2013 at 10:45 am

Hi Bobby,

Can you think of any way of getting near the good 6D contract on this hand (although the 4-1 trump break wrecks it as the cards lie) or even 5D which is safer?

Also, with regard to Woody Allen’s comment, I’d sometimes put my warped and macabre sense of humour up there. I once had to give someone CPR at a bridge club; even while hammering away until the medics arrived, I couldn’t help thinking (but mercifully managed not to say) “what did your partner bid, for goodness sake?” Inappropriate does contain all the letters of my forename.

On a more serious note, many older people play bridge; is it worth encouraging clubs to have at least one or two people who’ve attended a first aid course, or even to fund such measures? Failing that, the more doctors we can get playing, the better.



pod12@msn.comNovember 2nd, 2013 at 12:09 pm

HBJ : A highly instructive hand. It’s one in which the focus is not what tricks you should be making as declarer, but deciding what three tricks you are prepared to give the defence without jeopardising the contract.
By giving the defence 2 spade tricks instead of one in order to set up diamonds and retain trump control is masterly. Overtaking the queen of spades is just an obvious move but not so obvious to all those faced with this awkward contract.
I might have got there in the end….but at the table under pressure who knows ?

Bobby WolffNovember 2nd, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Hi Iain,

You talk of saving lives, Woody Allen’s funny comment, gallows humor (sometimes necessary to take a sick and horrified patient’s mind off of his plight), and ways (para-medics present) of taking out safety plays, but in reality, only impractical dreams.

The playing of bridge encourages all of those emotions, via, “Unless you play better, you won’t live to see tomorrow”, “Don’t waste my time with such a juvenile question about bridge”, bridge safety plays which per se are much more important, because they save contracts, not just people.

How dare you bring up minutiae when the art of bridge can be the subject?

Can Madame Curie, Jonas Salk or Louie Pasteur really be compared with Charles H. Goren, Ely Culbertson, or Harold Vanderbilt? You must be kidding?

Bobby WolffNovember 2nd, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Hi Iain,

Sorry for omitting your question about NS getting to the good contract of 6 diamonds.

It is difficult, nearly impossible, since South cannot foresee partner’s holding the specific ace of diamonds and the QJ of spades, both of which are necessary to allow a mere 22 HCP (with the king of clubs wasted) combined hand to usually, but not always (witness the diamond break) score up 12 tricks.

Maybe bridge partners should be allowed to sit on the same bench, comparing their hands, instead of having to use code language (bidding) to describe them.

Bobby WolffNovember 2nd, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Hi Pod12 (AKA HBJ),

You are right in everything you say and imply.

This hand perhaps should be included in a 4th or 5th year bridge class for youngsters under the class heading of, “Declarer not losing control and the management of trump”. Since the contract is only 4 spades, not a slam in diamonds or spades, declarer needs to take proper precautions to not lose control, but being careful to not allow a poor trump break plus the same for a vital side suit, to allow an opponent to secure a “beachhead” in having more trump than does the declarer in his master hand.

It is a classic demonstration of how the hand should be played when only 10 tricks are contracted for and if you worry about not seeing it at the table, stop, since my guess of the number of world wide (even superior players) would be fewer than anyone could imagine.

Bridge is the master and all players, both great and small, need to understand that and if thought is not put into the play, the earned result obtained, will remind all of us.

GarnApril 17th, 2014 at 4:09 pm

I always enjoy Seth’s inhgists as a breath of fresh air especially with CBS embracing people like Billy Packer, whose over-stated commentary got old quickly then his replacement Clark Kellogg’s his faux-Clyde routine One of the things Seth conveniently forgets is that some of the cupcake games are regionally politically correct I think that UCONN being on the bubble might be more of a reality with Coach Calhoun’s medical leave of absence Coach Blainey was a genius hire but he’s not Coach Calhoun I am hoping the American Sports Vatican (aka Notre Dame) falls off that bubble they need to establish a reputation of athletic excellence, not just a memory of the Digger Days !!!Glad to see someone speaking nationally about Da Hall and I agree with his evalaution !!!Lastly, I certainly hope Duke’s Singler stays for his senior year it will help the team and recognize that he’s not an NBA calibre player now and might never be