Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, February 9th, 2015

Suspicion is the company of mean souls, and the bane of all good society.

Thomas Paine

South North
Neither ♠ A Q 2
 A K 10 9
 A J 5
♣ Q 6 5
West East
♠ J 8 7 4 3
 7 3
 K Q 8
♣ A 7 3
♠ 6
 Q 6 5 4
 9 7 3 2
♣ K 8 4 2
♠ K 10 9 5
 J 8 2
 10 6 4
♣ J 10 9
South West North East
Pass 1♠ Dbl. Pass
1 NT Pass 3 NT All pass


All the deals this week come from the NEC tournament held last year in Japan. The tournament is one of the strongest of the invitation teams event in the world, but also includes a large number of local Japanese teams.

In today’s deal, which was duplicated and played all round the room, it was common to play three no-trump from the North seat and to make it on a heart lead. With the diamond king-queen onside, declarer could eventually establish an extra trick in each minor.

By contrast, in Shanghai Financial versus China Shanghai both Wests (who had opened one spade playing a strong club system) led a top diamond against three no-trumps. Both Souths won the diamond lead, but there the paths diverged. The trusting declarer went after clubs, and the defenders cleared diamonds, letting East cash out when he got in with his surprise heart queen.

By contrast, the suspicious declarer, Liu Ning, found a very neat alternative after winning the diamond ace. He cashed one top spade and led the heart 10. East won and played back a diamond. West won his king, on which declarer unblocked dummy’s jack, then cleared diamonds, but declarer won the third diamond in hand and ran the spade 10. Now he cashed North’s top spades, then crossed to the heart jack, took the long spade, and ran the hearts for nine tricks.

The defense could still have prevailed in unlikely fashion had West simply covered South’s diamond at trick three. That deprives declarer of a critical entry to his hand.

All four suits look like they will or may cost a trick. My best guess would be that a diamond is least likely to be expensive; partner may have no honors in the suit or you may not do anything for declarer that he could not do himself. I'd lead the four – your partner will have a shrewd idea you won't be leading from a vulnerable honor, and once in a while the eight may be too valuable to waste.


♠ J 9 2
 J 6 3 2
 10 8 4
♣ J 8 6
South West North East
Pass 2 NT
Pass 6 NT All 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


Iain ClimieFebruary 23rd, 2015 at 9:49 am

Hi Bobby,

A very minor point (I think the diamond at T3 should be T4) and a more interesting one – can East duck the heart? If so, perhaps declarer then has to set up a club trick, but then the defence can maybe duck that (setting up 3 winners in the suit) or West can win and clear diamonds. I can see easy ways for declarer to make 8 tricks and EW to make 4, but the fate of the other one may still be in the balance.

Any thoughts here? There may be further options, as somebody sometime is likely to be endplayed, although that doesn’t detract from declarer’s neat play.



bobby wolffFebruary 23rd, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Hi Iain,

This gem of a hand has several twists, but I think and for a practical reason, a perceptive declarer might make it against good defense after East ducks the heart queen, but not immediately.

First trick, ace of diamonds. 2nd trick ace of spades, third trick 10 of hearts, but when East balks and ducks, overtake with the jack. 4th trick, finesse the 10 of spades then, 5th trick ace of hearts, 6th trick, queen of spades, 7th trick jack of diamonds (which West must duck).
8th trick, either a diamond or clearer, a low club, leaving the defense with only 2 diamond tricks and 2 club tricks.

Obviously, it could be very difficult for declarer, after leading the 10 of hearts from dummy and having East duck, overtake, since the declarer has seen fit to give up a soft heart trick in order to attempt to secure 4 spade tricks, but it will possibly be equally difficult for East to duck quickly. However once declarer has three hearts in tow (East ducking the ten) all he needs to do is get a 2nd diamond trick and one club before EW get 5 tricks and he can do that with careful play, but then cashing a top heart from dummy early (after the 10 is led) is good technique and may ward off the evil spirits later.

As a teaching hand, instead of real, it would be wise to give declarer the nine of hearts instead of North, allowing him to guarantee an entry to hand.

Yes, of course, the diamond came at trick 4, not trick 3, so thanks for that.

Iain ClimieFebruary 23rd, 2015 at 6:34 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for this, but a stray thought. West is RR, Mollo’s infamous Rueful Rabbit. He has SJxxxx HQxxx DKQx CA. The play goes as described but RR accidentally pulls a small heart when aiming for the Queen, at least assuming south hasn’t played the Jack. Declarer cashes a top heart before playing the DJ, ducked, then the DQ wins the next trick.

If W now cashes the CA and leads a heart away from the Queen. Declarer plays high, tries a club but east wins and cashes the 13th diamond, although west can’t make the HQ. West therefore tries the small heart retaining the CA, declarer plays the HK then a club but west cashes the HQ and exits with a spade – south can’t unravel his extra spade trick.

It looks like declarer has to cash dummy’s other high spade before the first club to beat such devilry.


bobby wolffFebruary 24th, 2015 at 1:06 am

Hi Iain,

In spite of RR being RR, his result would still be not RR like since he apparently would not be able to get in after his heart queen became poised to take the setting trick.

Sometimes, believe it or not, fate will not reward even RR his carrot and in spite of his heart fumble, no hero role for him. It’ll drive one bugs!