Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 30th, 2013

It is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.

Bertrand Russell

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


There are few truly original bridge writers, whose deals not only make you think but also are a pleasure to read. One author whose work I never fail to enjoy is Julian Pottage of Wales. Today's deal comes from a relatively recent book of his called "A Great Deal of Bridge Problems."

Imagine the play in five clubs after you have ruffed the opening lead of the spade king — there are two quite plausible approaches. Say you cross to a trump and lead a diamond to the king and ace. Back comes a trump, and you win in dummy to play a second diamond, won by West, who leads a second trump. Twist and turn as you might, you can no longer make the hand.

You would never do that, would you? You would lead a heart to dummy at trick two and play a diamond to the king and ace. However, the defenders now play back a heart and East will win the second diamond to give his partner a ruff unless you draw trump. If you do that, there will be no diamond ruff in dummy!

The trap to avoid is trying to get to dummy to lead up to your diamond king. However you try to do this, you will go down as the cards lie. But the solution is simply to lead a diamond from your own hand at trick two. Now you cannot be prevented from making 11 tricks.

Facing a third-in-hand pre-empt (which you can infer to be relatively light, given how the opponents have brushed it aside and bid to three no-trump), you have the choice of a heart lead or a club lead. My instincts are to lead a club — if I'm wrong, I probably have given up no more than a trick in that suit. But my heart jack may become a trick if declarer misguesses how to play the suit.


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


Iain ClimieJanuary 13th, 2014 at 10:21 am

Hi Bobby,

The trap here (at imps or rubber, anyway) is the DK. The play is much easier with DJxx.

Back in the 80s I played in the teams at the EBU summer congress with Julian one year and John, his younger brother, the next. John doesn’t play now and lives in the USA, but Julian has “trained on” nicely to use a horse racing term. I remember him being quite excitable in his younger days, though, even though his analysis has always been good.



bobbywolffJanuary 13th, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, sometimes bridge mirrors life, when riches, the king of diamonds rather than a low one, reaches out to possibly be useful (when the ace is right, but here, it certainly figures not to be) and that temptation causes declarer to seek out what ultimately does him in.

You have had an interesting life, especially with having creative friends, many of which played bridge. In America, possibly because of its size, we tend to lose track of former school buddies or friends, never to know what happened to them. The above has often made me wonder, but lack of time and effort has caused me to not investigate, likely never to know.

It does appear though that where you live, bridge played a big part, at least as entertainment, and there was always a presence of it.

Here, it has faded out, particularly with the generations which succeeded me (particularly my two children), which only proves, at least to me, they do not know the worth of what they have voluntarily missed.

Iain ClimieJanuary 13th, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for this but returning to the game has helped restore some contacts as well as making new friends. Someone I hadn’t seen in nearly 30 yrs recognized me at a Swiss teams event last year and I met someone at an inter-club event whom I knew at university but hadn’t seen for 25 yrs. The human contact side of bridge is still one of its best features.


Senren LiuJanuary 13th, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Hi Bobby,

After south lead a heart to dummy at trick two and play a diamond, south should play low instead of king. then on next diamond play, south insert king cut off the defense communcation, then defense can not ruff heart.


jim2January 13th, 2014 at 9:07 pm

Senren Liu –

The reason to lead towards the diamond king is for seeming extra chance that the ace is onside. Doesn’t playing low on a small card from East defeat any such extra chance? Why not just lead low from hand?

For example, if East does have the ace and ducks it, then whichever defender wins the trick can lead a second heart putting East in position to lead the third heart upon winning the diamond ace. Another would be that West is 5-4-3-1 (instead of East) and wins both diamonds to lead hearts.

bobbywolffJanuary 13th, 2014 at 10:11 pm

Hi Senren,

And to even add more credibility to what Jim2 says (he is 100% correct), he, more than anyone else, would never take the trouble to go to a different hand while declarer, especially to finesse, since he would know, because of TOCM tm, that the key card had either always been offside, or if originally not, had relocated.

The above is sort of an inside joke, so please do not feel that you are among aliens. To explain that, one must understand that there are some players who are just always unlucky and this Jim is a member of that clan.