Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 30th, 2015

My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don't know.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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


Today's theme is one that was first created by Terence Reese, in one of his outstanding collection of deals where he encourages you to play 'over his shoulder' and experience the problems in real time.

When West leads a low trump against four spades, your first thoughts should be to win in hand and continue drawing trumps. If they broke 3-2, you could knock out the diamond ace and end up taking 10 tricks by losing one diamond and two clubs. But you knew the hand couldn’t possibly be that simple; and it isn’t – the 4-1 trump break rears its head.

Now if you ruff a heart to dummy to draw the fourth trump you run yourself out of trumps and let the defenders cash hearts when in with the diamond ace.

You might consider drawing just three rounds of trumps, then playing on diamonds. Alas, that doesn’t work. West ducks the first diamond, wins the second and gives East a diamond ruff, which again results in four losers for your side.

The problem is: how to draw trumps and not end up losing too many hearts? The solution is to draw three rounds of trumps, then lead a low heart from hand. Either defender can win, and the best defense is another heart. Ruff that in dummy, draw the last trump, then play on diamonds. You have retained the heart ace, and the three losers are one heart, one diamond and one club. Your other club loser can be discarded on the heart ace.

This is one of the rare positions with 4-4 pattern where in responding to a double you should bid the higher suit first. By bidding spades then competing in hearts if necessary, you get both suits in efficiently and make sure you find the best fit possible in the major suits, and at an efficient level.


♠ 10 6 4 2
 K 6 4 2
 6 5
♣ K 9 4
South West North East
1♣ 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitFebruary 13th, 2015 at 12:22 pm

What would your opening lead be? I would have led a H; down one.

bobby wolffFebruary 13th, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Hi David,

It is somewhat difficult for me to be objective, but I would never lead a singleton spade for fear of helping declarer cope with a bad trump break.

However, since I shy away from leading an unsupported ace (diamonds) or away from it (horrors), it would come down to hearts or clubs, and since partner did not double (very unlikely for him to be able to double hearts, because of the strong balanced hand by declarer and, of course my five to the K10).

Close choice, but likely I would have selected a club which would have only muddied up the analysis with probably the best play for declarer to win it, test the spades, and then fire the jack of clubs back at them, trusting the deuce from 4th best. What would then happen is subject to imagination and then proper execution from both West and then South.

Iain ClimieFebruary 13th, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Hi David,

It works, but could be running round into AQx with South or north having HQx opposite Axx or AJx. I can understand the trump lead with isolated honours elsewhere but it could still be killing pard’s trump trick. I wonder what Bobby would have led? Ironically a diamond (which won’t happen) also works.



Iain ClimieFebruary 13th, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Hi Bobby,

That answers mine – I was interrupted part way through posting. After the club lead, though, can’t declarer accept a diamond ruff?


bobby wolffFebruary 13th, 2015 at 5:43 pm

Hi Iain,

Oh yes. I guess it proves as long as I choose the lead, I’ll always be able to make the hand as long as I am the one who makes the opening lead against.

Say what?

jim2February 13th, 2015 at 5:54 pm

Our Host is channeling Lily Tomlin again?

AlexeyFebruary 14th, 2015 at 1:56 am

Here any lead is 10 tricks.

bobby wolffFebruary 14th, 2015 at 5:47 am

Hi Jim2,

There is also a bridge connection with Lily since Julie Key Harding, a long ago stunningly beautiful girl from Houston, who worked for a while as a bridge TD, later became Lily’s girl Friday and her press agent. Unfortunately I lost touch and have no updates nor any further reports.

bobby wolffFebruary 14th, 2015 at 5:48 am

Hi Alexey,