Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

There are always loose ends in real life.

Robert Galbraith

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

*Two-plus cards


The problem with being given a play or defend hand is that you are automatically put on notice to bring your ‘A’ game. Well, you have been warned!

At the table, during the Dallas spring nationals, can you spot the best line to make the optimistic contract of six hearts after a diamond lead? Would you play a round of trumps or do something else?

Best is to ruff a diamond with the trump ace at once, then draw a round of trumps with the king. If they split, you will cash the spade ace, draw trumps in three rounds ending in dummy, and take the spade finesse.

But trumps are 4-0; West having four. So you lead a club to the queen, forcing an entry to dummy in that suit. You then ruff a second diamond with a high trump, draw trumps ending in dummy, and now run the spade jack. This ensures the contract against five-one spades when West has a small singleton.

As declarer discovered to his cost at the table, if you play to ruff a club in dummy you cannot draw all the trumps before playing on spades, and West can ruff in on the second spade. (And even if West was 2-4-5-2 he could discard his second spade on the third club).

For the record: if you play a heart to your hand at trick two the contract becomes unmakeable — and a low club opening lead beats the contract by force.

When you have opened on skinny values and are facing a passed hand, there is always a temptation to pass partner’s response. Here the attractions of doing so are that you have a reasonable fit and are not especially worried about keeping the opponents out. You have the other major under control, so simply pass and hope to stay low.


♠ J 9 5
 J 8 6 3
 A J 10 7
♣ K Q
South West North East
    Pass Pass
1 Pass 1♠ 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


Mircea1April 1st, 2015 at 11:12 am

Very nice problem Bobby, but I’m not sure I understand the line of play given. What happens with the second club loser from declarer’s hand? I’m assuming West ducked on the first round of clubs.

jim2April 1st, 2015 at 11:59 am

Dummy has become the hand with the long trump (dummy reversal) so South’s last club will go on Dummy’s last trump. In other words:

four spades (4) + four dummy hearts (4) + ace diamonds (1) + two diamond ruffs (2) + one club (1) = 12.

bobby wolffApril 1st, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Hi Mircea1 & Jim2,

Thanks for your question and answer session.

Yes, a true dummy reversal will always produce an extra trick, (usually only 1 but possibly more) by, in effect, make the dummy the master trump hand.

Three most common forms of “tricks with trumps”:

1. Drawing the opponent’s trumps to get “the kiddies off the street”

2. Cross ruffing to make use of separate trump tricks instead of having to use two on the same trick.

3. Dummy reversal, always done before the opponents trumps have been fully extracted ruffing only in hand, reducing declarer to fewer trumps than remain in dummy and then eventually finish drawing them, using dummy’s master trumps to do the job.*

* will always need high enough trumps in dummy to eventually win tricks against the ones which remain with the opponents.

slarApril 1st, 2015 at 1:35 pm

As an aside, is that really an opening hand? With so many flaws I would be inclined to take a page out of Frank Stewart’s book and pass, awaiting further developments. Since it turns out that South has a great hand, you can get to the same contract anyway:
(2-way Reverse Drury)

Third hand (BWTA) I would happily open.

bobby wolffApril 1st, 2015 at 2:36 pm

Hi Slar,

To each his own.

However, it is not so much opening or not opening, it is the idea of being fairly consistent with choices. If one is not inclined to open a 12 HCP 3-4-4-2 hand with a useful 10, sometimes different obstacles occur, such as an opening weak 2 spade bid (yes, as awful as that looks) in the 3rd chair, probably followed by a 3 heart overcall by South.

After that the bidding can take different twists, but whether slam is bid or not, it is essentially on the spade finesse (usually with a 50-50 chance but here a virtual certainty), but in a vacuum and with a 4-0 trump break is, of course a slightly different proposition.

Summing up, bridge itself is a difficult game, with a wannabe good player facing many choices. Deciding on opening the bidding or not is one of those tough decisions, but whatever is decided should be discussed in detail by both partners including valuation and methods. From there, should come hopeful partnership commonality and much practice.

IMO, the human side of developing a winning partnership plus the time allotted, not the exact system chosen, often determines the results.

Good luck!

slarApril 1st, 2015 at 3:54 pm

I think I have a tendency to overlook useful 10s. I need to be more alert to them in the future.

Bill CubleyApril 1st, 2015 at 5:29 pm

I hope you have a good April 1 hand in 2 weeks.

bobby wolffApril 1st, 2015 at 6:12 pm

Hi Slar,

When a 10 has the jack next, it then assumes the same value as the jack.

Culbertson, not Goren, had the right idea in valuation with honor count, not points schmoints.

What most relatively inexperienced players must learn is that almost all valuation not only is somewhat random, but in actuality only applies sometimes. This, in turn, makes intuitive bidding and imaginative play and defense dependent on judgment gained from both experience 1st and judging the worthy opponents 2nd.

RESULT: The greatest competitive mind game ever with the premier life’s lessons closely attached.

bobby wolffApril 1st, 2015 at 6:14 pm

Hi Bill,

Of course, I am no April fool, although please do not consult my former partners for corroboration.