Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 9th, 2013

The guardian spirit of the place
She seemed, and I some ghost forlorn,
Surprised by the untimely morn
She made with her resplendent face.

Ambrose Bierce

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


In today's deal South plays in four hearts after West has opened one diamond. West's opening lead is the diamond queen. How should you plan the play, seeing just the North and South cards?

One declarer won the diamond lead, drew trump, and exited with king and another diamond, hoping to endplay West. This line would have been successful had diamonds broken 5-2, or had East been unable to beat dummy’s diamond spot. Alas for South, East’s possession of the diamond 10 meant that he could win the trick. He played a spade through and declarer had to go down, eventually losing two spades, a diamond and one club.

Better is to endplay West to give you a trick in the black suits. You cannot avoid a diamond loser, but losing the trick to West is very much in your interest. The way to do that is to duck the first diamond, then win the diamond continuation, draw trump, and take the club finesse.

Next, you cash all your minor-suit winners and exit withthe club ace and another club, knowing that West will win. That player is forced to lead a spade, whereupon all your worries are over, or he has to give you a ruff-sluff. If he does that, you pitch a spade from hand while ruffing in dummy.

Of course, if diamonds break 6-1 and West had the doubleton or singleton club king, you would have to prepare your own excuses — or blame me. My shoulders are broad.

Partner's failure to support hearts means he is probably short in the suit. That doesn't in and of itself mean the lead will cost a trick though — and it may be that the trick will come back one way or another. The other choice is to lead a spade — but here the risk of losing a trick with no return is too high. On balance, I will lead a heart. But you could certainly tempt me to lead a club if my holding were J-10.


♠ K 9 3 2
 A 10 7 5 4
 K J
♣ J 6
South West North East
1 Dbl. Pass 1 NT
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


jim2December 23rd, 2013 at 11:36 am

It is probably worth noting that in this hand that “… and take the club finesse” means specifically small to the jack.

That is, if one advanced the queen, West could cover it and later allow East to win the nine (or ten, if East had that card instead) to play a spade through declarer.

bobby wolffDecember 23rd, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, of course, you are correct, and at times (perhaps too many), I give an incomplete description of the play, improperly expecting better execution and therefore more sophisticated understanding by various stages of readers.

Even, at my local club where I play twice a week, there would be some relative regulars who would advance the queen of clubs to their ultimate demise.

Bridge is the one highly competitive sport which is played tournament style, by all classes of players, from beginners and downright novices, to close to the best, all under one roof.

Thanks for reminding me of my responsibility to make clear what needs to be.

Iain ClimieDecember 23rd, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Hi Bobby, Jim2,

I still wince at the memory of one partner with QJxx opposite Axx needing tricks in notrump and leading the queen when the next hand had stiff king. That was in 1976 but clearly some things don’t change.

Scrooge Moment apart, however, can I wish you and all the column’s correspondents a Merry Christmas and a happy & healthy new year.



Iain ClimieDecember 23rd, 2013 at 4:06 pm

PS And readers – my manners are failing again!

bobby wolffDecember 23rd, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Hi Iain,

And the top of the season back at you, with happy & healthy leading the pack.

Say what you wish, but I, for one, rather like your manners and find them invigorating and never boring.