Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

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

The Government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.

George Washington

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


One of the recurring themes in my articles is that the opposition bidding frequently leads declarer to the winning line. This was true today, but only in theory, not practice.

Against three no-trumps West led a low spade to the 10 and queen, and now with six top tricks, declarer hoped that a 3-3 heart break, might provide the other tricks he needed. If not, the clubs were favorite to come in for no loser.

A heart to the jack lost to the ace and back came a spade, removing declarer’s last stopper in that suit. When hearts proved to be 4-2, South entered dummy with the diamond ace and ran the club 10. It lost, and the spade return saw the speedy demise of the game.

In view of East’s opening bid, South was unlucky to find the club queen offside. But, unless East’s opening bid was an out and out psyche, declarer could have guaranteed his contract by entering dummy with the diamond ace at trick two, and leading the heart four. If East rises with the ace, declarer has three heart tricks, to bring the trick count up to the requisite nine.

And if East plays low, the queen will win, whereupon declarer can go after clubs. Four tricks are always available in this suit by playing low to the 10. (At pairs one might cash the ace and king, playing for an overtrick if the queen were singleton or doubleton, but this line does not cater for most 5-1 breaks.)

Your partner has done a good job of forcing the opponents up a level, and it looks simple enough to lead a spade. But I would, I think, lead the diamond ace to have a look at dummy, and gauge whether a better line of defense is necessary. The defense are surely never going to take a ruff here so leading the trump ace rates not to be costly.


♠ K 9 8 6
 7 6 3
 A Q 3
♣ J 6 5
South West North East
Pass 1
Pass 2 Dbl. Pass
2♠ Pass Pass 3
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


leonMarch 23rd, 2015 at 11:31 am


In the proposed (and correct) line for this hand you have to start playing diamonds Kx vs Axxxx small to the ace and hearts HJx vs Qxxx small to the queen.
That is the only way to secure the contract. It is a true expert play or a true novice play.

Nice instructive hand to make sure you keep thinking with this game (no automatic plays).


Bobby WolffMarch 23rd, 2015 at 3:21 pm

Hi Leon,

Well described and to even be more clear, a common occurrence in engineering winning strategy.

Playing good bridge requires both knowing, when everything is equal, the proper technique in developing card combinations and, such as this hand, when not, how to deviate for success.

Like often in life, we need to look at the whole picture, rather than only snippets, in order to keep our nose in front.

Thanks for giving your thoughtful analysis, proving your days (if there were ever any) of being a novice are history.

Perhaps if contract bridge would have been flourishing in George Washington’s long ago days, he would have added to his quote, to improper action, no heed.

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 23rd, 2015 at 3:42 pm

To Bobby’s devoted friends:

Just wanted you to know that Bobby’s comments may be sporadic as we are down at the Tropicana Sectional about ready to enter the fray. It is always a welcome change to get away .. especially if I could snag someone to do the packing and unpacking.

MarthaMarch 23rd, 2015 at 3:44 pm

if my memory serves me correctly, you and Bobby were tied for 1st overall at the last sectional. Keep up the good work.

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 23rd, 2015 at 4:04 pm

Good morning Martha:

It seemed like an eternity ago, but it was not “tied for 1st overall ” .. but rather for total master points won. It was the usual five day jag and we placed well in all five events (playing with good teammates). However, you know the reaction. If we do well, they say “Sure she was playing with him”; if we don’t, they adjudicate our results as “what do you expect .. he was playing with her?” Sometimes you just can’t win, even look good!

Iain ClimieMarch 23rd, 2015 at 6:25 pm

Hi Judy, Bobby,

Best of luck, but does the situation Judy described count as Catch-22, Morton’s fork or a bit of both?



bobbywolffMarch 23rd, 2015 at 7:51 pm

Hi Iain,

Since a Catch-22 could be described as damned if one does, or damned if one doesn’t and not just to bridge, but conceivably to any of life’s dilemmas, I would suggest that to be a closer definition than to a Morton’s fork which is a bridge play when usually the declarer leads low from Kx or Qx toward his dummy which holds either Qxx, or Kxx, or a specific reversal of those two holdings, through his LHO who holds the Axx(x) contributing to LHO either rising with the ace giving declarer two total tricks (in that suit) or ducking and then having declarer throw away his loser(s) in that suit from dummy on just enough good cards in hand. Another unsoluble solution for the defense, but only specifically applicable to bridge.

Therefore her emotional situation would most likely be suggested as a Catch-22 since it is not a bridge play. If you disagree, I will be happy to argue your point against my conclusion.

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 23rd, 2015 at 7:57 pm

Forked again!

Iain ClimieMarch 23rd, 2015 at 8:09 pm

Hi Bobby, Judy,

The original Morton was Henry VII of England’s chancellor who was told to get money from the nobility. Those living wildly clearly could afford to pay, those living frugally were hoarding their wealth so could also afford more tax. I think Catch-22 has a circular element, based on Heller’s magic novel – you can only be grounded (as mad) from the suicidally dangerous flights if you apply to be but that is a sane action so you can’t be grounded. This is explained to one guy who says “but surely they won’t send a madman?”. “Who else will go?” comes the reply!