Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, February 21st, 2015

His imagination resembled the wings of an ostrich. It enabled him to run, though not to soar.

Lord Macaulay

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

*Two keycards and no trump queen


When West leads the club queen against six spades how do you plan to make 12 tricks?

Cashing the trump ace-king loses out to 4-1 spades. The ideal way to avoid taking the diamond finesse is by ruffing two clubs in dummy and pitching your diamonds on dummy’s hearts. You need to play the spades in such a way that you can draw all of East’s trump before running the hearts. The best way to do this is to lead the trump 10 at trick two.

If the 10 holds, play a spade to the ace, ruff a club, play a trump to the jack if necessary and cash the trump king. However, in today’s layout East will surely cover the spade 10 with the queen. This is the key moment: you must duck in hand or you won’t be able to draw all of East’s trump before you turn your attention to hearts, and will go down when the diamond king is offside.

After winning the trump queen, East will almost certainly shift to a diamond. You will take this with the ace, ruff a club, cross back to hand with the heart king and ruff a second club. Now you will draw all the trump, discarding dummy’s remaining diamonds on the king and jack of trumps.

Note that a trump lead defeats the slam. Also if it was West who had four trumps headed by the queen, plus the diamond king, he has to duck the spade 10 to defeat the slam.

It bears repeating that the flipside of playing negative doubles is that you are compelled to re-open in these sequences with shortage in the opponents’ suit. Here you have the perfect shape to double, and anything your partner does will be fine by you (though you are of course hoping for a penalty pass from your partner).


♠ 10 8 6 2
 A Q J 7 6
 Q J 10
♣ A
South West North East
1 2♣ 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


Iain ClimieMarch 7th, 2015 at 1:51 pm

Hi Bobby,

The hand looks familiar, but my reaction is the same as before – leading the trump 10 then ducking if covered just messes with my mind. It is one of the most counter-intuitive things I’ve ever seen.

Are there any alternative lines which equal it or run it close?



bobby wolffMarch 7th, 2015 at 3:17 pm

Hi Iain,

I, too, had seen this theme before, in a bridge book which emphasized both the correct way to manage card combinations and, of course, the importance of understanding what actually happens when honors are covered, which always is in search of the possibility of creating extra tricks for both sides. However, in this case, the timing of the hand rather than the promotion of the cards is at stake.

Naturally East would and likely should have covered since, by so doing, assured himself a spade trick he might not have gotten, if declarer was intending to let it ride. However, if declarer would have had all five of the missing spades (from East’s view) he likely would not have led the ten from dummy.

In answer to your alternative lines question, all I can reply is that, of course, if the game is matchpoints declarer may be giving up an easy overtrick if spades were 3-2 with no overruffs available to the defense in clubs before trumps can be fully drawn.

However, my immediate reaction is that the counter-intuitive duck (your right-on description) becomes the only road to the winning ending.

If so, no one, not even my worst enemy, can win an argument claiming it is the wrong play.

Years ago, at a relatively small town bridge club I use to co-own, in the heat of battle, a local bridge philosopher once cautioned, “Let the winner and no one else, explain” and ever since that day, I’ve basically agreed, but not without much consternation and backlash through the sands of time.