Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

There are times to stay put, and what you want will come to you, and there are times to go out into the world and find such a thing for yourself.

Lemony Snicket

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


The contract of four hearts has nine top winners, but the 10th trick is harder to find. The defenders have to steer clear of leading diamonds, but a normal line of defense will see West's spade-king lead going to the ace. The spade four is ruffed; now how should declarer advance?

The first key-play is to cash the heart ace and lead a heart to the king. Now, as declarer expects West to have the bulk of the defenders’ high cards and East has turned up with the spade ace, he should assume the diamond ace is offside. Since South needs a diamond trick for his contract, he must assume West does not have two out of the diamond queen, jack and eight.

South leads the diamond 10 from dummy (maybe East will forget to cover from honor-third or honor-fourth?), planning to let it run, but covering East’s honor if necessary. After the jack, king and ace have been played, a third spade comes back. South ruffs, crosses to the dummy with a club, and leads a diamond. He must guess whether to put in the seven or nine.

Say he gets it right and puts in the seven, forcing the queen. No lead can hurt South now, since dummy still has a small trump left on a spade return. Declarer makes five hearts, four clubs and a diamond for 10 tricks.

This is the same auction as in our featured deal, except that South is a passed hand. The choice is a two-spade cue-bid raise, or a fit-jump to three clubs, for which you would really need either a fifth club or a fourth heart. Without the club jack, a simple raise to two hearts would suffice.


♠ 8 5 2
 K 6 5
 10 5 4
♣ A K J 2
South West North East
Pass Pass 1 1♠

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 WarheitApril 17th, 2014 at 9:57 am

In BWTA, you don’t say what S should bid. I gather, however, that you would bid 2S. Am I right?

Bob KiblerApril 17th, 2014 at 10:43 am

Would you consider a double, followed by a correction to hearts?

jim2April 17th, 2014 at 12:14 pm

In the column hand, perhaps the first tricks should go KS then QS. The defense should be able to figure out from the start the need to obscure the high card layout.

In the above sequence, declarer would be left unsure which ace West was hiding.

bobby wolffApril 17th, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Hi David & Bob,

Yes, I prefer a 2 spade cue bid which is implied to be stronger than a 3 hearts jump, which today is often used as a preemptive measure with long hearts and only about 5 or 6 HCPs.

While a negative double is possible, the danger becomes a raise of spades by LHO which will leave partner in the dark about your good trump fit. Always keep in mind, when fitting partner (especially his major suit), the sooner the better to tell partner since the danger of preemption by an opponent will often put an end to intelligent bidding by your side if not done.

Your risk then switches to risking partner opening a 4 card major in 3rd position, but then 4-3 fits sometimes play well and should not be feared.

bobby wolffApril 17th, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, sometimes (more often than thought), obfuscation on defense, like Smoky the Bear preventing forest fires, magically provides wrong views from a good declarer by causing him to miss guess the cards.

Although overlooked at times by the defense, who likely are not privy to declarer’s exact problem, but still know the less declarer knows about the defensive hands the better it is for them should do as you say and practice legal deception with little or no cost, unless partner unduly hesitates, which should never be done, especially when it almost could not matter.

Sometimes, easier said then done, but your imagination is, as usual, right on the money.

TedApril 17th, 2014 at 10:20 pm

At the table as East, I think I’d find it very difficult to duck the AS in a tempo sufficient to mislead declarer. I’ve probably seen too many textbook hands where East is told he must overtake and find the killing shift at trick 1.

After all, this is likely to be your one time on lead, and a diamond switch needs to be considered (particularily if the 10D and 9D positions are reversed so you don’t know who has the 10).

bobby wolffApril 18th, 2014 at 4:01 am

Hi Ted,

First of all you are probably as right as you can be by wanting to overtake partner’s king of spades at trick one for a diamond shift.

However, depending upon the diamond position around the table it could be right or wrong to do so. Considering the bidding, declarer certainly is a favorite to have a singleton spade plus a club fit (his 4 club raise) so that his hand is likely either 1-5-3-4 or 1-5-4-3.

The ten of diamonds in dummy forces East, if taking three defensive diamond tricks is necessary for success (two may be enough if partner happens to have a trump trick, Q10x), to somewhat deceptively lead the jack of diamonds, hoping declarer will play you for QJ9 and thus not cover the jack, allowing you to con him out of the setting trick.

This combination is popular among the world’s very good players and anyone who has played for many years and has scalps on the wall to prove it, will be familiar with this ruse.

My main purpose for writing is to agree with you, leaving it up to the individual reader to realize just how much is involved in trying to best one’s worthy opponents in winning the psychological poker battle which is often involved in who eventually wins the war.

Yes, the jack of diamonds may win fair lady, but so might a fast duck of the 1st two spade tricks with partner pretending to have AKQ, just in case the defense goes differently. Once East overtakes at trick one, everyone at the table will know where the ace of diamonds is located, but the lesser diamond honors may still need to be guessed, all because of that big casino (diamond ten for youngsters not familiar with the old game of casino) which lurks in dummy.

Thanks for writing and adding positive logic to our discussion.