Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

I am little concerned with beauty or perfection. I don't care for the great centuries. All I care about is life, struggle, intensity. I am at ease in my generation.

Emile Zola

South North
Neither ♠ K 5
 Q J 6
 A Q 3
♣ K J 9 7 4
West East
♠ 8 7 6
 K 10 8 4
 10 8 6 2
♣ 8 2
♠ 3
 9 7 3 2
 K J 7 5
♣ Q 10 5 3
♠ A Q J 10 9 4 2
 A 5
 9 4
♣ A 6
South West North East
1♠ Pass 2♣ Pass
3♠ Pass 4 Dbl.
4 Pass 4 NT Pass
5♣* Pass 5 NT Pass
6♠ All pass    

*Three keycards


In today's deal the North-South bidding was no more than adequate, but it was South's play that left room for significant improvement.

At his final turn North might well have converted six spades to six no-trump to protect his diamond tenace. When West obediently led the diamond two, declarer optimistically inserted dummy’s queen, but of course the finesse lost. At this point East did well to return a diamond, removing an entry from the table, rather than the more obvious heart shift. After winning with the diamond ace, declarer tested the clubs by cashing the ace and king, then ruffed a club high. Since the queen had not appeared, all that was left was to cash the two top spades, ending in dummy, and fall back on the heart finesse. Down one.

Can you see a better approach to the play? Suppose that declarer simply plays low from dummy at trick one. East wins with his jack but clearly cannot return the suit without conceding the 12th trick. Say that he switches to a heart; South wins with his ace and follows with three rounds of clubs as before. Then comes the spade ace, and another spade to dummy’s king allows another club to be ruffed high. The key difference is that after South draws the last trump, the diamond ace is still in dummy as an entry to the long club.

Finally, I leave my resourceful readers to work out what might have happened if West had found the lead of the diamond 10.

I would sit for one no-trump doubled, since partner might well have run if he were weak and had a long suit (particularly if he was short in hearts). The danger with bidding two clubs is that the opponents may be able to take heart ruffs against that contract. And one no-trump is a level lower, after all.


♠ K 5
 Q J 6
 A Q 3
♣ K J 9 7 4
South West North East
Pass Pass 1
1 NT Dbl. Pass 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


David WarheitMay 20th, 2014 at 9:54 am

Don’t read this until you have answered Mr. Wollf’s question at the end. OK, here goes: Play the Q. E wins the K…and returns the DJ. And if that had happened to me, I would immediately take up another game, such as tiddle-de-winks.

David Warheit

ArunMay 20th, 2014 at 10:16 am

Of course, there is a double dummy solution.

Win the lead with Diamond Ace. Run off all the spades, cash Heart Ace – East has to come down to 3 clubs and DK. Now cash club Ace and throw in East with DK.

Would you play for a squeeze or a club finesse or spades 2-2 and clubs 3-3 is anybody’s guess.

bobby wolffMay 20th, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Hi David,

Of course, since the only plausible reason for West leading the 10 of diamonds, instead of 4th best is his holding the 109 and when he did not, was because he did not hold the nine. This, in turn would allow East to kill the crucial later diamond entry by playing either the jack or a smaller diamond back (jack is clearly best) when declarer erred by playing the queen from dummy at trick one.

The game of contract bridge is an excellent game to begin with, but when top players compete, matching their techniques, systems and judgment against each other, it becomes off-the-charts superior in nature.

David, do not despair when great opponents (or even not so), play very well against you since by doing so, they will force you to play your best, and, after all, that is why most of us take up the game to begin with.

On today’s hand, once declarer mistakenly inserts dummy’s queen at trick one (East did double for a diamond lead), the dye is cast and no longer do we deserve to eventually score up our intelligent slam. Unfortunately bridge justice is achieved and the declarer must bear the responsibility for its failure.

bobby wolffMay 20th, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Hi Arun,

In answer to your question, after playing the queen of diamonds at trick one, I would rise with the ace of hearts (since East with both red kings would probably not double diamonds since he could stand either lead and would not (should not) try and influence one lead or the other). Then I would give up on both a 3-3 club break and a 2-2 trump break and instead run all of my trumps coming down to the queen of hearts and KJx in clubs left in dummy. If West holds the queen of clubs and the very likely king of hearts he will be squeezed and after West discards on my last trump the queen of clubs will magically appear which also works, when it doesn’t but East has been dealt only the Qx in clubs. This play is known as a show up squeeze which in this case also will work when West began the hand with 4 small clubs.

However Arun, declarer should not be congratulated but rather (in private) criticized for his poor play at trick 1, which directly led to his having to be lucky instead of good.

Iain ClimieMay 20th, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Hi folks,

Can I chuck in a flippant piece of TOCM plus a touch of the Victor Mollo’s RR. East actually had DJ10xx but the HK in the diamonds so both red suit finesses were working. Oh, and west had 5 clubs. If that happens, David’s suggestion is not only recommended, but I’d take the cards from the board and put them through a shredder.

If this seems too far fetched, I once totally misplaced the opposing cards as declarer when LHO didn’t lead a top diamond in a suit where I was missing the 3 top honours. Then she realised that dummy had the HK yet she thought it was in her hand. I admitted I just hadn’t placed her with all the top diamonds; the problem was, neither had she.



bobby wolffMay 20th, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Hi Iain,

For ones who believe in reincarnation, you will come back as Victor Mollo. I definitely do not want to be the Rabbit, and requests are now open to bridge players who would prefer to be the Hideous Hog (yes, HH himself).

No doubt Jim2 will trade identities with Karapet.

After playing too much professional bridge in my early life, I’ll be able to contribute to the real life horrors with such excuses as, ” Bobby, I know I should have trumped the dummy’s ace, but I was just too tired”.

jim2May 20th, 2014 at 8:16 pm

If my pard let the 10D and it went QD – KD, the 9D would be the TOCM ™ card!


Did I tell you what happened to me last ….

Iain ClimieMay 20th, 2014 at 11:06 pm

Has Jim2 got Scots blood? The D9 is known as the curse of Scotland. Reasons vary but some say the order to kill Jacobite survivors from the battle of Culloden was written on it by Butcher Cumberland.

jim2May 21st, 2014 at 2:31 am

I do, indeed!


Iain ClimieMay 21st, 2014 at 9:53 am

Likewise, my father was from Falkirk near Stirling.

jim2May 21st, 2014 at 11:03 am

Mine was born in Largo, and left as a prisoner after the Battle of Dunbar.

Iain ClimieMay 21st, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Ouch! The aftermath is described on one website (scotwars) as one of the most unsavoury episodes in British history with a forced march of over 5000 prisoners taking a severe toll.

bobby wolffMay 21st, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Hi Jim2 & Iain,

All of this sordid history (perhaps in this case even too personal) is totally unknown to me, however I have fairly recently learned that the American Civil War (circa, 1860’s) was known by some American historians to possibly be among the most brutal wars ever and that includes WWII with its genocides, death marches and atomic bombs.

Even with today’s sometimes horrible headlines, perhaps our generations are perhaps lucky not to have suffered greater indignities and pain.