Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 30th, 2014

From my tribe I take nothing. I am the maker of my own fortune.


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

*Short hearts, club fit


It looks as if six clubs is an excellent slam, against which West leads the heart king. You win the ace and advance the heart jack, ruffing out West's queen. So far so good; but when you cash the club king, West shows out. Can you see a way to recover?

The way to look at this type of problem is to think about what your desired end-position is going to be. You will succeed only if you can reach an ending in which you play a plain card from the dummy and force East to ruff in with a high trump to stop you from ruffing low. You discard, and now East is forced to lead a high trump. You will be able to win in the dummy, then finesse against his remaining trump honor.

To achieve this ending, you can’t afford to take any more ruffs in the dummy. It is also important that you exhaust East of everything but trumps before he ruffs in. (Otherwise, he would exit with a plain card, and your plan would fail.) So East must have at least three diamonds.

Therefore, after winning the club king, cross to hand with the diamond jack, and play the heart 10, discarding a spade. Now play two more rounds of diamonds, followed by the spade king and ace. When you play the diamond queen, East must ruff high, and you discard your last spade. Whichever club East exits with lets you make the last three tricks.

It would be pardonable to jump to three clubs, driving to game, and planning to bid three no-trump if your partner bids a red suit next. But that is excessive when your partner's response has made your hand worse. A simple call of two clubs, planning to bid again at your next chance, is far more disciplined. Had your partner responded one spade, a jump to three clubs would have been fine.


♠ A 5 4
 A K Q 3 2
♣ K Q 5 3
South West North East
1 Pass 1 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 WarheitJune 13th, 2014 at 11:22 am

So W found the killing lead. Of course, the victim was the defense; a lead of either S or D would defeat the contract. What would you have led and why?

BryanJune 13th, 2014 at 12:57 pm

What happens if West ducks the Jack Hearts?

Bobby WolffJune 13th, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Hi David,

Not sure, probably the King of hearts since the queen of spades is more likely to give a trick away or make it easier for declarer and a diamond has no real appeal to me, although I fully agree that the King of hearts lead will also be unlikely to be the crusher, but only the card god knows for sure.

A more complete answer by me would be:

It is an illusion for any of us to put ourselves in West’s shoes and be able to come close to envisioning what may happen. Sure, declarer has shown the likely ace of hearts but does that mean he also has the jack ten and needs a heart lead rather than a contract breaking (as you mentioned) other suit lead, which just happens to destroy the timing for declarer and the extra heart trick.

Again, in the early days of the Aces our group would start discussing subjects like this and before long, all of us would begin laughing at the futility of predicting what Dame Fortune has in store.

The above could be thought to imply that the discussion of so many topics in bridge sometimes becomes surreal and not worth the time. I agree to that and instead fly to other subjects which are not so speculative, but more practical with the group’s conclusion valuable.

Thanks for asking and at least you have my opinion, where I try to be consistent (probably not as often as I would like) on related subjects.

Bobby WolffJune 13th, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Hi Bryan,

Just let it ride and then should notice what heart East played at trick one (usually giving count) which then helps declarer ruff the next heart probably after he discovers the horrible trump break.

The lesson here is that at the top and while defending slams, rarely do high-level opponents help the declarer (thinking they are helping partner to discard later) but rather with the motive of leading an extremely competent declarer astray.

It should now be mentioned that very good players, especially while defending a close slam, will usually know early in the hand what cards being where will be necessary to have a chance for success and then, when a guess by declarer is involved, he will feel alone on an island since the defense will not be trusted to help him.

Only common competitive sense but very true, making bridge the off-the-charts game it is rather than the totally cerebral game of chess where there is no room for obfuscation since the whole board, with all of the pieces (cards) in clear view.