Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided. It is sometimes better to abandon one's self to destiny.

Napoleon Bonaparte

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


In today's deal your best slam is six diamonds, but at matchpoints it is frequently hard to locate minor suits. In six no-trump you receive the lead of the heart queen. It is worthwhile giving the right approach a fair amount of consideration; the answer might well surprise you.

Let’s look at three approaches. The fair-weather player cashes the club ace and king and tries to run the club suit for four tricks. If that line succeeds, he moves on to the next deal, oblivious to his own failings.

The more cautious player notes that if West has a singleton honor, he can cash a top card from dummy, then lead a low club toward his 10 to hold his losers in the suit to one. Nice try, but when you win the first heart with the ace and cross to a club to lead up to your hand, East would win his honor and return a heart, removing dummy’s entry to the clubs while the suit is blocked.

In summary, after the heart lead, if either defender has a singleton club honor, there is nothing that you can do, assuming best defense.

But there are precisely two singletons you can cope with — the bare club eight or nine in East. Win the heart lead and immediately advance the club 10, planning to run it if West plays low. If he covers, win and lead back to your seven, insuring four club tricks for your side.

Your hand is far too good to pass, but competing intelligently is not that easy. Doubling for takeout will persuade partner that you have hearts, while a call of three clubs takes you dangerously high without a known fit. I'd settle for an idiosyncratic raise to two spades. (Tell your partner you had a club in with your spades.)


♠ J 8
 K 5
 7 6 4 2
♣ A K 6 3 2
South West North East
Pass 1 1♠ 2

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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitFebruary 6th, 2014 at 10:45 am

The same line of play works at 6D, but after winning the HK at trick one and playing one round of D, getting the bad news, S can play E for specifically 3-3-5-2 distribution, ruffing the third round of H & S, running his trumps, and cashing the CAK and smiling as both opponents win trick 13. Note that E has an easy play of the Q on the third round of S. Which do you believe is the better line of play?

David WarheitFebruary 6th, 2014 at 11:39 am

Oops, I’m wrong. I was thinking S could win the first 3 C tricks and lose the 4th, but he has to lose the 3d C trick, so I believe that his only hope in 6D is the 3-3-5-2 distribution for E. Sorry!

Iain ClimieFebruary 6th, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Hi Bobby,

One extra chance is that west has CJ98x and has a brainstorm when the ten is led. He shouldn’t, of course, but autopilot can still cause crashes.


bobby wolffFebruary 6th, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Hi David & Iain,

Yes David, your 3-3-5-2 distribution will justify making your 6 diamond contract, in spite of the Jim2 TOCM trump break.

I suspect, that when one has what looks to be a likely cover, such as Q10x when the Jack is led from dummy, or in your specific case J98x over the 10 in dummy, a clever declarer has no intention of passing the card he leads from dummy, but rather his intention is to bait the defender to fall for the ruse. For example when declarer has Jxxxx opposite AK9xx or several other similar combinations, he might as well lead the Jack from dummy since he is going to play for a 2-1 distribution, unless he is gifted with a cover from an inexperienced defender. No doubt, through the years those are so-called tricks of the trade, learned in order to be a better player, which ALL really top declarers make routinely and ALL really top defenders refuse to cooperate.

Immediately afterward there will usually be what could be called a wry smile, on the face of the defender, who did not take the cheese offered.

For those untrusting students who insist on more evidence, a defender should ask himself, would declarer really be leading the jack while holding only AK8x opposite his Jxxxx, risking a singleton queen being at large? There are many more card combinations, but almost all of them (and I am talking (90%+) the declarer will go up with a major honor and that applies to Jxxx in dummy or even Jxx and for that matter, usually Jx. A singleton jack is different, but there are just too many combinations to get into all of them, but, if in doubt, work them out.

On a lighter note, a player will know that his reputation has arrived, when a top declarer eschews the bait and doesn’t bother to use it on you. Let’s call it the congratulatory non-jack.

jim2February 6th, 2014 at 3:59 pm


Iain ClimieFebruary 6th, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Hi Jim2,

I had the oppossite of TOCM the other night – one club where I play still hand deals boards and I realsed a few tricks in what had happened. After calling the TD, who suggested we play on, I determinedly played the obvious single dummy defence instead of the cunning ploy available which could have given declarer a chance to go off. The board was near flat, with someone wangling an overtrick on a lucky lead, so honour was satisfied.


Iain ClimieFebruary 6th, 2014 at 5:17 pm

PS The bd was undealt, of course, and card placing not a problem.

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