Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Think what our Nation stands for,
Books from Boots’ and country lanes,
Free speech, free passes, class distinction,
Democracy and proper drains.

John Betjeman

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


The South hand has enough slam potential for it to be right to open two clubs, and after the temporizing response of two diamonds, North can bid two no-trumps to show scattered values, (using three clubs as a second negative) then raise three spades to four. He might consider cuebidding four clubs with the ace instead of the king, or better trumps.

After the club queen is led to the ace, declarer cashes the spade ace to find the bad news. Next he plays a low spade from hand. East takes the spade jack with his queen and tempts declarer by shifting to the heart two. If declarer finesses, a heart return will sink him, leaving him with two diamond losers at the end. But South has a sure trick play if he is careful. He rises with the heart ace, rather than finessing, then draws trump (throwing clubs from the table) and exits with the heart jack.

If this holds, he has 10 tricks. If it loses, the defenders must give him a 10th trick one way or another. A heart or club is clearly fatal, and leads to his making an overtrick. Equally, though, if they touch diamonds, declarer makes his 10th in that suit, since he can hold his losers to just one trick there.

This play would almost certainly be right even if South did not have the heart jack – East would have exited with a trump rather than lead away from the heart king, would he not?

In third seat I can see the logic of opening one heart, or even preempting to two hearts. It does feel right to bid though. Yes, you have only a nine-count but quite a lot of offense, and no reason to assume your side cannot get into the auction and make your opponents' life more difficult.


♠ —
 K 9 7 4 3
 K 9 3
♣ Q J 10 7 6
South West North East
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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


ArunFebruary 18th, 2015 at 9:26 am

A slightly different line of play would be to play S 10 at trick 2 and when West shows out play as written in the column.

Iain ClimieFebruary 18th, 2015 at 10:02 am

Hi Arun,

East might duck the spade 10 so presumably declarer plays off trumps to throw him in. A heart through then reverts to the column, while a minor suit won’t help either. I slightly prefer SA at pairs as TOCM will give someone a stiff SQ if I try the S10 first.



bobby wolffFebruary 18th, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Hi Arun & Iain,

Well analyzed by both, with right-on annotations.

As long as South is careful to hang on to the eventual heart loser for the winning throw-in he will survive. And the kicker is forcing the defense to either a bridge to dummy (likely reason, in totality, for our great game’s original name, beginning with Whist and then Auction, its grandfather and father) or to break a suit by them having to play (diamonds) 1st and 3rd rather than 2nd and 4th, often a significant disadvantage and here a critical one.

This hand, in a bridge curriculum, would be a classic to show advantage to declarer for being able to clearly see all 26 assets (especially that golden 10 of diamonds in dummy) instead of only 13. Also, all 4 of North’s meager assets, queen of hearts, king of clubs, jack of spades and that glorious 10 of diamonds combine, together with declarer skill, for the contract winning trick.

Would younger, but enthusiastic students appreciate that magnificence?

jim2February 18th, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Iain —

Have I infected you with TOCM ™ ?? If so, sorrreeee!


bobby wolffFebruary 18th, 2015 at 2:05 pm

Hi Jim2,

I guess if we can instantly communicate succinctly from thousands of miles (or kilometers) away we can then, or perhaps in the future, also contract diseases while doing so.

Maybe then, we will one day need to either get inoculated or simply wear protection against or otherwise run the risk.

As perhaps Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill, or George Bernard Shaw might have said, just transmitting stupidity is OK since it is not a disease.

Iain ClimieFebruary 18th, 2015 at 6:08 pm

Hi Jim2,

Tests suggests I haven’t got it yet, although partners have noticed an increased twitchiness and attempts to find extra chances to cover key cards being with either defender. Maybe fear of the beast can reduce contract failures!