Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 11th, 2015

To fall into a habit is to begin to cease to be.

Miguel de Unamuno

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


All this week’s deals come from recent trials for the US National open team, since the trials are currently being held this week in Schaumburg, Illinois.

Against four hearts, Eric Greco, West, started off with ace and a second club, giving the defense the first two tricks, and signaling for the lower suit in the process. Now Geoff Hampson, East, knew that his partner had the diamond ace. It would have been right to play diamonds if he had a potential trump trick himself, but he knew that he did not, so he played the spade jack, correctly won by declarer’s ace.

South then made the mistake of drawing two rounds of trump, using high hearts from hand. Now when he led a diamond towards dummy, Greco covered the 10 with the jack (allowing declarer to win one, but not two diamond tricks). At this point when declarer surrendered a spade, Hampson could return a trump, killing dummy’s ruff. There was no way to come home now — although declarer could have succeeded by taking only one trump and then playing on diamonds, when he can arrange the spade ruff.

In the other room the club ace was led and a second club ruffed, again with West giving a diamond suit-preference signal. On East’s instinctive diamond return, West won the ace to lead a third club, but there was no trump promotion when declarer ruffed with the heart jack. Since two top diamonds could take care of the spade losers, the contract succeeded.

In situations of this sort you tend to lead the unbid suit unless your holding is hugely unattractive or some other lead stands out. In this case while a heart lead might well cost a trick, it could also easily be the suit in which you need to set up tricks or cash out winners before they are discarded. Equally importantly, nothing else looks attractive either, a passive trump being the alternative.


♠ 6 4 2
 K 9 6 5
 Q 7 6 2
♣ J 5
South West North East
  1 Pass 1 ♠
Pass 2 ♣ Pass 3 ♠
Pass 4 ♠ 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 ClimieMay 25th, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Hi Bobby,

Should declarer get home anyway after the SQ drops, assuming west has DA? Take SA, lead D ducked then ruff diamond and lead small spade, ruffed by west Riff next club high, H to Ace, spade to King, ruff diamond, then ruff spade.

Does this work?


bobby wolffMay 25th, 2015 at 6:10 pm

Hi Iain,

I’m sorry for the delay in answering but the good news is that you are correct, at least in my view, with your alternate line of making your contract, as declarer.

The errant declarer got off the rails when he, likely hoping for a more favorable trump break (after the initial ruff) lost his way. Of course Greco’s diamond duck of the ace, but by playing the jack, just in case the declarer had the temerity to ride that card, is an interesting exchange, one diamond trick to the declarer instead of the two the defense got back.

As you and I know, that exchange often happens, but rarely to lesser experienced defenders who tend to grab tricks when they can get them, especially when they suspect that, like in this case, declarer will have a singleton. However all bridge hands have 13 tricks to be garnered and just because the defense takes none in a specific suit, doesn’t at all mean that they won’t grab two back in another.

Thanks for your enlightening post and successful alternate line.

Iain ClimieMay 25th, 2015 at 6:43 pm

Hi again, Bobby,

Thanks for this, and there is another variation on the play. Suppose that west, after ducking the DA, doesn’t ruff the small spade led to the Ace either due to cunning or not having any trumps(!). Now declarer takes the SK, ruffs another diamond low and plays the CJ throwing the spade from table. East can ruff in and exit with a trump, but South can now ruff two spades on table and east is caught in the cross-fire even if trumps are 5-0.

Life is just so easy seeing all 52 cards, though!



bobby wolffMay 25th, 2015 at 8:50 pm

Hi Iain,

Still creative and indeed brilliant, but soon to become 40 years old when some unlucky players start showing a marked decline, (only kidding)!

However, I don’t necessarily agree that seeing all 52 cards makes things as easy for some as you are alluding . Without at least a touch of numeracy two players while playing bridge, both with very high IQs, could sit on the same bench together during the bidding and also have full view, through either fiat or just transparent cards, of the placement of the other 26 and still would find different ways to lose to just average players who are better suited talent wise to play our wonderful game.

Why that is, perhaps you will be kind enough to tell me.

Iain ClimieMay 25th, 2015 at 10:26 pm

Hi Bobby,

In terms of brains and numeracy, I used to play with a charming and brilliant young lady who had a first class degree in Maths from Cambridge but her skills were not so readily transferred to the bridge table. I behaved poorly and bang went the partnership, possibly in more ways than one. I’ve known people with limited academic ability, however, who’ve had real card sense, though, so you just can’t tell how well IQ will ink to bridge skills.

As for age, I reached 40 in 1998 but still feel 18 inside. Immaturity must be the secret of eternal youth!