Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, November 21st, 2013

I now delight in spite of the right
And the might of classic tradition,
In writing and reciting straight ahead,
Without let or omission…

Robert Graves

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


For 20 years Patrick Jourdain, President of the International Bridge Press Association, presented problems in Bridge Magazine. Prior to that, he prepared problems for UK television. Now over 150 of these have been featured in book form — "Problem Corner," published by Master Point Press of Canada. Here is one of my favorites.

Imagine South is in three no-trump and West leads the spade three. Since the club suit will need to supply four tricks, South assumes that West must hold the ace.

On winning the spade lead in hand, South plays a club to dummy’s king, which holds. One possible continuation is dummy’s low club, playing West for a holding of ace and just one other club. But if West has ace-third of clubs, this play won’t work. To cater for all eventualities, you need to re-enter your hand to play another club toward dummy.

Should you return with a diamond, West will play the ace on the next club, blocking the suit. A spade return will then leave the clubs permanently entangled, with no re-entry to your hand. Instead, you just return to hand at trick three with the other top spade, strange as that may appear at first sight.

The spade lead suggests that spades are breaking 5-4, so the defenders will be able to cash at most three spade tricks. But apart from the club ace, that is all the tricks they will take. Any return can be won in dummy and the clubs unblocked — with the diamond ace still in place as an entry to the clubs.

It may look dangerous to balance here — and indeed it is — but does that mean you should stay silent? No; "too dangerous" is no excuse. The upside of bidding (pushing the opponents up a level or finding your side's fit) is counterbalanced by the occasional large penalty you will run into. Double two spades and let the chips fall where they may.


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


Howard Bigot-JohnsonDecember 5th, 2013 at 11:29 am

HI there , HBJ reporting in.
Yes my view is that ” give to Caesar what is Caesars “. The diamond Ace must not be touched. The return to hand for the second club has to be a spade ( relying on a 5-4 split and keeping spade losers to 3 ) West can go up with the Ace of clubs at trick 4 to cash out spade winners, but declarer has no problems from that point onwards.
Lovely instructive hand on maintaining communication to hand by careful preservation of crucial diamond entry )

bobby wolffDecember 5th, 2013 at 1:10 pm


It is always a constant pleasure for you to chime in.

Yes, whatever belongs to Caesar should be given to Caesar, if for no other reason than he would seizure it anyway.

Bridge is known to take some strange twists and this hand represents one of them. We are necessitated to set up the long spades for the defense, in order to accomplish the greater mission of scoring up our contract.

“Fair trade” I would say, and although the opponents will feel rewarded initially, they, in fact, have been fixed by a rather good bridge player who sees the forest for what it is, trees.

Thanks again for your uplifting comment.

Iain ClimieDecember 5th, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Hi Folks,

Can I suggest a paranoid possibility (Myopia meets TOCM (TM)). West has CA9 and SJ97432 but has briefly mislaid his glasses and puts the spade 4 into the clubs, then leads S3. He finds the glasses when declarer is thinking at T1 and hurrield yresorts his cards. The results can be imagined.

I mention this as I was playing a hand a few months ago where I (reasonably enough) assumed that LHO would have led a side suit (hearts) against a spade part score in which she held AKQ and placed the cards accordingly. Later on, her partner played a high diamond (the DK, I think) which he “couldn’t have” based on my card placing and led a heart back. She sat bolt upright, then started apologising to me before playing 3 top hearts, having realised that the DK in her hand was the HK. The result was about 30% for our pair but I saw the funny side. “Sorry partner”, I said, “I just didn’t place her with all the top hearts”. “Neither did I”, she admitted even though actually holding them.



bobby wolffDecember 5th, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, I agree. We are not in control, human (if I may be so kind) error plays a part in funny stories (not so amusing for everyone) but if psychiatrists dealt (pun) with more bridge players they likely would change professions and quickly since some bridge partnerships take fixes at the table about the same as people take to sharks and not to the ones who play cards.

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 5th, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Hi Bobby:

Can’t ever recall responding to your column hands — but this one really hit home.

If I had taken the time to count the number of tricks that the DEFENSE could take (3 spades and 1 club .. if the club ace was on side), the correct play of reaching my hand with a spade would have been so obvious. The opponents are always gonna get those tricks — so do what you must do in an advantageous tempo. It is just a matter of the sequence in which you choose to concede them.

In reality, this hand is a mirage — and since you don’t get extra credit for losing tricks later rather than earlier, it is easy now to see you must reach your hand with a spade to lead up to the club honors again — preserving the vital entry of the DA after playing the club honor and returning to your hand to cash out.

The bad guys are always gonna get three spades (deducing that from the lead of the S3 — if it is likely from a four or five card holding since you are missing the S2). If they are six/three, there is nothing that can be done about it.

This is a real attention-getter .. causing us to accept the fact that one (including moi) doesn’t always zero in on the crucial issue .. simply giving the enemy four tricks and making the contract. Timing is everything.

Comeuppance is not always bad in bridge if you learn from it. The ego suffers but your game improves. Thanks for this fabulous opportunity to cause us to put on our thinking caps!

ThomasApril 17th, 2014 at 11:09 pm

It doesn’t get cuter than porcelain fiugnires decorating the house. Love the little calling bird! I never know what to ask for for Christmas until I start gift shopping for others and then my list seems to multiply every day.