Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, April 5th, 2014

There are men in the world who derive as stern an exaltation from the proximity of disaster and ruin, as others from success.

Winston Churchill

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


Today's deal demonstrates that one should always go for that slim extra chance. You never know when the card gods are going to reward you for digging around to find a way to overcome a bad break, or an unfriendly lie of the cards.

When you declare four hearts, the spade queen is led to the first trick. It seems that you must rely on the diamond ace being onside. Can you do better, though?

There is indeed an extra chance when the diamond ace is wrong, and this is that East holds either the club king-queen or a doubleton club honor. To prevent East from gaining the lead when he has both club honors, you must duck the opening lead in both hands — a strange-looking play but one that can hardly cost since you have plenty of other losers to discard on the spade winner. After winning the next spade in hand, cross to dummy by leading the heart jack to the queen, then playing the club two, intending to insert the jack.

East must therefore split his honors, and you take East’s queen with the ace, play the heart two to dummy’s seven, then throw the club jack on the spade ace and lead the club 10. After ruffing away East’s king with your trump king, play the heart two to dummy’s seven. You can now throw a diamond on the good club nine, and can even lead a diamond to the king in the search for the overtrick.

Stayman or a simple raise to three no-trump? The balanced shape argues against looking for a major-suit fit, and in the process giving away your shape to the opposition. In favor of investigation are the three small cards in two suits, either of which could be a fatal weakness at no-trump. Put me down for Stayman, but it is a close call. If you made the diamond six the jack, I might go the other way.


♠ A 7 3
 A Q 7 4
 6 3 2
♣ 10 9 2
South West North East
1 NT 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Shantanu RastogiApril 19th, 2014 at 9:17 am

Dear Mr Wolff

This deal appeared on April 5, 2014 (March 22, 2014 on newspapers) column as well.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

bobby wolffApril 19th, 2014 at 10:35 am

Hi Shantanu,

Yes, it is a major gaffe with our distribution and although I am not directly responsible for preventing that, nevertheless it is definitely my fault for it occurring.

To make matters even worse is that there is an error in the description in using the same entry (2 of trumps to the 7 in dummy) instead of a higher trump to the ace which, although easy enough to accomplish, is still confusing to the reader and only adds to the embarrassment concerning this column.

Although there is no excuse for this to occur, please forgive, and whatever caused it to happen with both gaffes we are determined to add an extra proof read from a competent bridge player.

Unfortunately, at least at 90%+ of our client newspapers even though they receive the hands at least a month in advance, the so-called “bridge editor” of the specific newspaper, often in the features section, does not even play the game and so would have no way to legitimately check out the hands before typesetting them.

Our small staff is now making a renewed commitment to not letting this happen again.

We already knew of what to expect, but by the time we learned, it was too late to rectify it at most of our locations.

The good news (if there is any), is that the lesson on this hand is a unique one and an eyeopener to even some very experienced players on how to execute a critical “avoidance play” (trick one) and give a creative declarer a 2nd opportunity to make his contract in case a specific card (ace of diamonds) is in the wrong hand, without much risk.

Thanks for your “eagle eye” in remembering when the original column appeared.

Dave Memphis MOJOApril 19th, 2014 at 6:47 pm

A great bridge deal, so maybe it is worth running twice after all!!!

bobby wolffApril 19th, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Hi Dave aka Memphis MOJO,

You must be a disciple of Marty Seligman, the well known psychologist (and bridge player) who believes in and wrote a classic book, “Learned Optimism”, but in any event, I appreciate your kind support.