Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 5th, 2013

It's the same old same old.


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


As today's quotation suggests, there is nothing new under the sun. Likewise, in bridge most themes have been seen before. I am however indebted to Jean-Paul Meyer for the idea of this deal, which sees you reach four spades in the teeth of a strong no-trump overcall by East. Given the vulnerability, you would assume he therefore has at least a decent 15-count.

When the club 10 is led, East overtakes and cashes his club winners. You ruff the third, and would presumably settle down to a quick count of the hand, which suggests East has all the missing high cards.

When you play the spade king, you are hoping West has two spades or a bare 10. No luck today; East wins the third spade and exits in clubs. Whatever you do now, you won’t succeed.

The winning line is counterintuitive, but essentially fail-safe. Instead of leading a spade to the ace, give up the first spade to East by leading to dummy’s jack! Win the likely spade return, cash the two top hearts (a maneuver known as the Vienna Coup, setting up your heart jack as the threat in that suit). Then run the spades, and you can guarantee that East will be squeezed in the red suits. After five rounds of spades, three clubs, and two hearts, you will have the heart jack and two diamonds in hand, the ace-king-jack of diamonds in dummy, and if you haven’t seen the heart queen appear, you will play diamonds from the top.

Before I answer the question, let's clarify that a jump to two spades would be a high-card invitation. One can, however, play the jump as shapely, not limit, if your RHO has redoubled — when there cannot be enough high cards in the deck for a true invitation. That said, a simple bid of one spade seems to be enough now; the auction will surely not end there, and you can compete as appropriate.


♠ A 9 7 6 5 2
 J 10 3
 8 6
♣ 8 2
South West North East
1 Dbl. 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


Iain ClimieDecember 19th, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Hi Bobby,

I think the key point here is the need for a re-entry to hand after the Vienna coup. Playing a spade to the king, then ducking a spade fails as east just exits with the 3rd trump he holds. A trump loser is near certain (west could have singleton 10) but it is all a question of timing.



Bobby WolffDecember 19th, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, you serve as the great communicator, coming to the rescue of a bridge writer explaining the inner workings (cannot afford to have the declarer entry used prematurely) of the possible foibles of executing the winning line.

Also we all know (or should) East could have a possible solid 5 card club suit to compensate for not having one of the red queens and if having such, might not hesitate to overcall 1NT with possibly only 14 HCP’s. However a case can be made for East to have all the outstanding HCP’s and so I, or at least, Jean-Paul Meyer does.

Thank you Iain for filling in the gaps and together we have perhaps reminded all would be experts, that rarely does a particular winning play not have some pitfalls, but all a hopeful declarer can expect is to play it the best way he thinks necessary to succeed.

Furthermore that ability to be right more than other top players is, at least to me, the difference between them. So add intuition or call it “card sense” to perhaps the most important commodity in rising up to becoming an oft times winner instead of only sometimes.

jim2December 19th, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Iain Climie –

Note that since declarer is in hand (after ruffing third club), playing on trumps begins with a lead towards the Board. Hence, if West does have a singleton ten, it will show up. Thus, declarer may have intended to duck the spade jack to East, but can switch lines should West play the ten.

That is, win KS, AH, KH, AD, JS (picking up trump), run spades.

East would have to come down to two cards from QH and Q10D. So, if the QH has not been played, the QD should drop for eleven tricks.

Bobby WolffDecember 19th, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Hi Jim2,

That is, if East has all the outstanding high cards and since match points rather than IMPs or rubber bridge, is a game unto itself (with the 11th trick so very important), although on this hand not all NS’s would be in 4 spades, then not making the overtrick quite as significant.

The rap against matchpoint bridge is that bridge is difficult enough as it is, without adding the extra caveat of overtricks and the temptation to try for tops sometimes adversely affects the declarer into being too greedy.

Some like it that way, others do not.