Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 5th, 2014

For ever most divinely in the wrong.

W.B. Yeats

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

*Checkback Stayman


Today's deal comes from a head-to-head encounter in a match between two New York country clubs. At one table the North-South pair had missed their respectable slam, but were delighted to find that they had picked up a big swing when the player in the South seat had chosen the wrong time to apply expert technique.

If you simply focus on the heart suit, you have probably been taught that the right way to guard against a 4-1 break is to cash a top honor from hand and lead up to the king. However, that play would only be critical if there were no side-entries to dummy — and here the entries to the North hand plentiful.

So you can focus your energy on other problem distributions. Since you will never guess to play West for four hearts and are not bothered by East’s having four hearts to the jack as we have seen, all that remains in the way of problem distributions are the 5-0 breaks.

Correct technique in the slam after the club-jack lead runs around to the king is to lead a heart to the king. Now you can pick up East’s trump with ease because your spot cards allow for two finesses. Of course, if West had followed to the first heart, you would play a heart to the queen, then cross back to dummy with a spade for the marked finesse, if necessary.

No lead looks very attractive. My best guess would be to lead a low club, thinking that declarer does not rate to have any honors in the suit, and partner will surely be able to work that out. But declarer might easily misguess if dummy has the king and jack — or he might not put up an unsupported king.


♠ A J 4 2
 K 10 3
 J 9 8
♣ A 7 5
South West North East
1♣ 1 NT 2♣ 2
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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMay 19th, 2014 at 10:23 am

Hi Bobby,

A painful reminder of the need for attention to detail – after all, with AQ10xx opposite K98x or similar, the Ace first clearly is right. Can South still get home double dummy, though?

Play the HA, say something rude under your breath, H to K, run H9. The cash DA and play DJ – except east then throws a club and gets a ruff. Without the club lead, though, south might get undeservedly lucky.



bobby wolffMay 19th, 2014 at 11:14 am

Hi Iain,

Thanks, as always, for your comment.

Also for your analysis, which indirectly compliments my team for its ingenuity in giving East a doubleton club, which, in turn allowed us to give North the J109 of diamonds to tantalize off-the-charts bridge inspectors, the game, not the structure, like yourself.

The trap was set, and you didn’t bite or at least correctly changed your mind after perhaps doing an 180 degree turn.

I have to wake up pretty early in the morning to stay on your level, and BTW, I did. It is now 4AM in LV.

David WarheitMay 20th, 2014 at 1:11 am

It is interesting to note that although 6H is a very good contract, depending only on W not having J fourth or fifth of H, 6N is better, depending either on the same lie of H or W having either three or fewer D to one honor or having KQ of D. Just switch the actual E & W hands and 6N makes but 6H goes down. Do you think NS should have reached 6N and if so, how?

bobby wolffMay 20th, 2014 at 2:14 am

Hi David,

Yes 6NT is a better contract, at either IMPs or rubber bridge, but especially at matchpoints where the extra 10 points scored would IMO represent about 40% of a better score. On a 12 top, in a good field, and assuming normal non-harmful breaks, I would estimate 6NT to be about a 10 1/2 with 6 hearts about a 5 1/2.

While playing in an IMP event it would be hypocritical of me to suggest I would reach 6NT, since my deep down beliefs are that any player or partnership, no matter at what level, would be most of the time just kidding themselves to be able to find the magic hand (considering all 4 suits) where 6NT is worth gambling once the trump suit is 8 cards and substantial, as is true in this case. Granted, that the AJ109 of diamonds is notrumpish by nature, just as Axxx would be suit oriented, but that fact, although to be considered by North, should not be enough to compensate by gambling 6NT.

Of course, the possibility of 5-0 breaks do occur, but you show me a thoughtful player who both considers such things and then acts on that impulse and I’ll show you a thoughtful loser. I know that a few of us thrive on doing creative things, but only a few players in my long career have probably had plus results by so doing and if so, I do not know who they might be.

The very top players of all time are no doubt overrated by many, but all of them play very seriously, are wonderful and compassionate partners and take what is given to them by those who bow to the great intensity involved in very important final matches.

I apologize for being somewhat vague, but whatever I have said I firmly believe, and it is now only up to you (and perhaps others) to either likewise agree or instead differ as one sees fit.