Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 12th, 2014

I began to suspect that the ultimate sacrifice isn't death after all; the ultimate sacrifice is willingly bearing the fullest penalty for your own actions.

Orson Scott Card

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

* Playing four-card majors


Berry Westra and Enri Leufkens of the Netherlands were the first and so far are the only pair to have won both a World Junior Championship and a Bermuda Bowl in partnership. They combined well on this hand from the World Championships in Beijing 20 years ago against Venezuela.

The sacrifice in five diamonds looks sensible, as it would not have been at all easy for South to lead the spade ace at trick one against four hearts, and take the spade ruffs needed to defeat the game.

However, the sacrifice turned out to be far more expensive than it might have appeared. Westra led the heart jack against five diamonds doubled, and when it was ducked all around, he switched to a trump. Now declarer made the slightly careless play of drawing three rounds of trump at once, ending in dummy; however, against most people he would not have been punished. It looks simple for declarer now to give up two clubs, but when Muzzia led a club to his queen, Westra found the fine play of ducking.

Westra hopped up with the ace on the next club play and led a second heart. Now there were no longer enough entries to dummy to establish the club suit. With the spade suit similarly dead, declarer finished three down, for minus 500.

Had declarer simply played the club queen at trick three, then the duck would have been countereffective and the defenders would have had to settle for down one.

I can see a reasonable case for passing, retreating to three diamonds, or bidding game. It feels like landing on a pinhead to pass, so one should either opt for safety or go for the big prize. My choice would be to bid three no-trump because of that diamond 10 and the aces, which argue that partner might come to nine tricks even when we only have a single guard in one of the side-suits.


♠ A 10 6 3 2
 A Q 10 4 2
♣ Q 6
South West North East
1♠ Pass 1 NT Pass
2 Pass 2 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


Patrick CheuJuly 27th, 2014 at 9:40 am

Hi Bobby,guess the right play here is just to draw two rounds of trumps and play on clubs,after West switches to a trump..which means trumps are unlikely to be 4-1?As regards the bidding,would you double on East’s hand over 4NT by North?Does it imply a willingness to bid on to West or just a balanced defensive hand? Against 4H by East,are you saying a heart lead is the more likely scenerio than the ace of spades?Wonder what the poll percentage would be if the hand was given to a panel of experts?Ace of spades or others?Regards~Patrick.

Patrick CheuJuly 27th, 2014 at 9:44 am

Sorry,declarer knows trumps are not 4-1 after trump switch by West..therefore a second round then play clubs..

Bobby WolffJuly 27th, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Hi Patrick,

Your reference to 4-1 should of course be, 4-0.

You bring up two distinct and quite different questions, each to be discussed separately. Yes, once it is determined that trumps are not a probable devastating 4-0, clubs need to be attempted, in order to not fall victim to the difficult, but clearly correct, defensive club duck.

Bridge, at times being complex, often demands, and at high levels, a technical analysis of how to set up suits as a source of tricks, sometimes resulting in more than one trick difference (this hand being a good example). The defense needs to recognize what declarer intends to do and therefore look for ways to defeat his plan. In this case, when declarer decided wrongly to draw all three adverse trumps from East he lionized the defensive counter (crucial duck).

Of course, without the cooperative defense from both East and West, the declarer would have succeeded. Delving deeper into why will result in the necessary numeracy required by all players attempting to play at high levels, since visualizing the counter plays to declarer attempts to coordinate suit establishment with eventual entries to the good tricks is necessary, if one expects to seriously compete with good players.

Regarding your bidding question, yes, East’s double should just suggest a balanced hand (frequent while playing 4 card majors) in order to keep partner from bidding one more and instead give more attention to defending, rather than trading on more offense (a four card major opposite) than a partner will usually envision opposite a five card one.

I also agree that the ace of spades is a likely lead vs. an EW heart contract, thereby limiting that contract to only nine tricks. No doubt, regarding four card majors (my first and lasting long time love) bidding (especially contested auctions) requires different handling, not automatically felt by long time 5 card majorities, who then, in turn, sometimes have a difficult time making the adjustment, because of their lack of experience.

Patrick CheuJuly 27th, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Hi Bobby,I gather you prefer four card majors opening to five carder,why this preference?I having played Acol and four card majors,for many years,would seem to prefer 5card majors and strong it a case of ‘variety is the spice of life’? Regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffJuly 28th, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Hi Patrick,

Not exactly “variety” being the spice of life, but rather winning is preferable to not.

At least to me, and at all levels of bridge (and most all sports) winning and losing is determined by how well one plays and just as importantly, how well the opponents play. Four card majors, percentage wise a more likely occurrence, tend to get the bidding up higher earlier, making life FAR more difficult for particularly worthy opponents. That factor in itself convinces me that 4 card majors (used intelligently, which requires detailed explanations) is instrumental in getting that done with little or IMO no loss, in overall constructive bidding, especially when a partnership also plays a forcing club along with.

No question five card majors is very popular, but my take is that the comfort of choosing it, somehow clouds the mind and makes many rush to it. There is so much more to be said, but it would take just too much time to cover it, in its entirety.