Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Nature never deceives us; it is always we who deceive ourselves.

Jean Jacques Rousseau

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


Today's deal comes from a Swiss Team event earlier this year. For the winning team, the North-South pair bid to four hearts, and West led the spade three to dummy's queen. In desperation, declarer played a low diamond toward his jack, and that went to West's ace when East did not put up his queen. After a club to the king and ace, East returned a spade. When the diamond king dropped East's queen, South turned to trumps and made his contract, losing only one heart, one diamond and one club.

In the other room, on the given auction, North underbid slightly with his three-heart call, ending the auction. Jeff Aker as West inferred that his partner had to have values, but had not overcalled at the one-level (which he might have done with spade values) so he made the first good move for the defenders when he led a low club.

Victor King (East) won with his ace and thoughtfully led back a low club. Declarer naturally put in the nine, and ruffed West’s 10. Then he played dummy’s heart queen, and when it held, he led a low diamond from the dummy. King put up his queen, knowing declarer couldn’t have the ace, then cashed the heart ace and played another heart to dummy’s jack.

When declarer ran dummy’s diamond king, discarding a club from his hand, West won with his ace and led a club to his partner’s queen for down one. Plus 620 and plus 100 gave the winners a huge swing on the board.

I'm torn in two directions here. The simple action is to bid two hearts; the more complex plan is to bid two clubs, planning to compete to two hearts when the opponents rebid diamonds. In abstract I prefer the second plan though partner might imagine I had only three hearts for this route, I suppose. Still, I prefer the route that gets both suits in efficiently.


♠ J 7 2
 K 7 6 3
♣ J 9 8 3 2
South West North East
Pass 1 NT Dbl. 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 ClimieSeptember 23rd, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Hi Bobby,

In 3H, even after the good start to the defence, shouldn’t declarer just play a diamond at trick 3, intending to either get a cross ruff going (cashing 3 spades early) or setting up the diamonds? It is the sort of hand where there are varied options, few losers but not necessarily enough tricks. Clear thinking is essential but playing one round of trumps early can often rebound as here.

On a single dummy basis, how would you have played it?



bobby wolffSeptember 23rd, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Hi Iain,

As what always seems to me, you tend to immediately jump to the apex of the play problem.

Yes, by merely playing the queen of hearts first, a tempting choice (to just try and get the kiddies off the streets), by the queen holding, it had evidently convinced that East, Victor King, to rise with his diamond queen since the previous play by declarer probably showed the king of hearts in hand. Those loose lips, the discovery of who held what, sometimes results in a lethal result administered to the side which passed very useful information to his (in this case) very worthy opponents.

From a practical bridge standpoint, it is hard to judge just how good or bad the heart queen play really was. All we can do is decide that it enabled Victor, and most certainly would have included Iain (assuming he would have been East) to make a devastating defensive play which, of course, went on to win the hand.

Playing bridge against fierce opponents is quite a different experience than just competing against journeyman players and should alert us all to that huge difference. That is not to say that the East at the other table should not have done, if given the chance, the same thing.

However the playing of bridge comes in all shapes and sizes and we are lucky to be in a position of being able to discuss both.

At least to me, the top level game MUST be preserved, but the alternate of what could be called “high card wins” becomes someone else’s decision.

Obviously the lower choice includes many who love to participate and play it, but the powers that be, (particularly the countries who do not have bridge in their schools), such as the ACBL, needs to take a hard look at our future, because without which, bridge as we know it, is in an extremely vulnerable position.

Iain, thanks for your always probing personality. Never stop your analysis and then sharing

Iain ClimieSeptember 23rd, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Thanks Bobby, and it should be clear to east that 3H will surely if declarer has the DA and HK. Whether east should have found that play defending 4H in the first room is perhaps a harder question. If declarer held (say) Jxx xxxx Axx J9x or similar, pard may say something less than polite.