Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

People who have no weaknesses are terrible; there is no way of taking advantage of them.

Anatole France

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


Consider the play in five diamonds, on the lead of the top spade. You appear to have one heart and at least one club to lose.

You could cross to the heart ace and simply take a club finesse for the contract. However another possibility is to win the spade and play ace and a second heart — trying to duck the heart into West, so that you can establish the suit without letting East on lead for the fatal club shift. If you follow that line, you might duck the first heart if West follows with the king.

An alternative approach that has a lot to recommend it is to play West for all three spade honors. Instead of requiring the heart king to be well-placed, try winning the first spade, crossing to the heart ace, then leading the spade 10 and discarding your heart loser. West wins and can do little but play a trump back. You win in dummy, ruff a heart high, go back to a trump to ruff another heart high, and use the diamond nine as the entry to dummy to cash the three heart winners to pitch club losers. You end up scoring one spade, six diamonds and four heart tricks.

If the spade jack turns up in East, you can always fall back on West’s having the bare heart king left. If that is not so, then the defenders will win, play clubs, and you are little worse off than before.

The question of what you consider to be forcing here and what is not may indicate how old you are! In the modern (post 1970's) style, simple raises of partner and a jump to three spades are all invitational, not forcing. To start a force, bid two hearts, which sets up an unequivocal game force. Then bid three spades, showing a forcing one-suiter.


♠ K Q J 9 5 2
 J 4
 7 3
♣ A Q 10
South West North East
1 Pass
1♠ Pass 2♣ 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


jim2December 18th, 2013 at 11:48 am

What if West plays the king of hearts as you lead towards the Board?

Iain ClimieDecember 18th, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Hi Jim2,

I duck so west plays a club to east’s ace (he has the queen too) and west ruffs the heart return. If I win the heart and play a spade, east has SJ and plays it while west has HKQ(J). If I win and play another heart, west has HK but no queen and a club comes through to the AQ or I misguess. Accusations that I’m getting paranoid are probably fair.


jim2December 18th, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Not at all!

It simply shows that you now fully understand TOCM ™!!!

Bobby WolffDecember 18th, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

As so often happens when good bridge players play against one another, Iain, you directly fell into Jim2’s bridge trap, not at the table, but as a perfect example of his now well known malady.

To you it could be your paranoia, but to him it is real life, proving the old advice of how difficult it is to walk in another’s moccasins.

Iain ClimieDecember 18th, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Thanks Bobby, Jim2,

I found a variant tonight in the club individual / Christmas party. I was winning with 3 boards to go but second with one left. Partner was in 4S and got a helpful club switch of CJ from KJxx on her left through CA108 on table round to her CQ9. She pulled the wrong card and lost the trick, then missed a possible recovery. Bang went a vulnerable 4S and first place! Is there a TOCM equivalent for partnrs?



Bobby WolffDecember 19th, 2013 at 12:04 am

Hi Iain,

I’ll pull a David and mention that your partner’s play is at least as good as RHO ducking the king and then playing it when, after winning the queen which she did not do, then finessing to an entryless dummy on the second round.

TOCM is a germ free disease which only affects players who want to win too much.

It is not contagious, but is nature’s protection against falling too much in love with the game itself, therein preventing great players from taking too many tricks.

Sort of like keeping the population balanced.