Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.

George Washington

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

*Various strong hands



Roy Welland was once a regular in contention for the US International team – he lost the finals of three consecutive US team trials. But he now spends much time in Germany and in partnership with Sabine Auken he has recently made it on to the German team that qualified in Opatija last year for the 2015 Bermuda Bowl. Roy has a talent for the unorthodox in the auction, but is no mean card-player either, and he demonstrated it in today’s deal.

After a light but entirely understandable response of one heart to his partner’s one diamond opening bid, Welland found himself in four hearts on a top club lead. He won, played the spade king to the ace, won the low heart return in dummy and played the diamond ace and guessed well when he led a diamond to the eight. He had correctly assumed that West would not be able to bring himself to duck the king. East won the diamond 10 and exited with the club king. Welland ruffed in dummy, then played the diamond queen, covered by the king and ruffed, to bring down the jack.

He next led a trump to dummy, and, trusting the opponents’ count card in spades, he reconstructed the West hand to have a 3=2=3=5 original distribution.

Accordingly, he next cashed the diamond nine to pitch his spade, ruffed a spade to hand, and ruffed a club to dummy. To prevent this trick representing declarer’s 10th winner, East had to overruff, but he then had to lead a spade into dummy’s tenace, to concede the contract.

There are two sensible answers here, the first being to make a splinter-jump to four clubs, for which you are technically in range. The problem here is your weak diamonds and club ace – you would surely be worth that action if your ace were in diamonds not clubs. The simple pessimistic action, which I prefer, is just to jump to four hearts. Don’t be amazed if partner can’t make it!


♠ K Q 10 4
 A K 9 6
 Q 9 8 7
♣ A
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


David WarheitJuly 7th, 2015 at 10:03 am

I believe that if W returns a S after winning the SA, S cannot make 4H. An alternate line of play would have S lead a D to the A at trick 2, lead a S to the K, lose a D to W. Ultimately, S can ruff dummy’s last D or a S, but still only makes 9 tricks. In short, I believe that best defense beats 4H no matter what S tries. Do I have this right?

Bobby WolffJuly 7th, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Hi David,

My preliminary thoughts are that if after East, upon winning the 8 of diamonds leads the king of clubs, South ruffs in dummy and then draws 2 trump, followed by ruffing out the king of diamonds (setting up the nine), leading the 10 of clubs, forcing the jack from West and then ruffs a low spade in hand and cashes the good nine of clubs, discarding the last spade in dummy.

In all losing 1 spade, 1 heart and 1 diamond.

The winning diamond play is of course, crucial while leading a spade toward dummy is helpful also, but it is not as convenient to arrange a 2nd spade play from hand and is offset by manufacturing an extra club trick by the use of the 10, 9 after the opening lead.

Of course, an extra trick need be established one way or the other and I think I agree with Roy Welland that leading the spade from dummy (after the club Q lead) seems to be the lesser of evils in attempting (and succeeding) to set up that trick (could on another day be the jack of spades while knowing that with East on lead he is likely to get out with the King of clubs, allowing the nine of clubs to grow in value).

You, Jim2 and sometimes Iain (from time to time among others) have a great affinity for the very tedious exercise of finding winning lines of play. All of that has much to do with both crucial timing and, of course, playing card combinations to best advantage (often somewhat double dummy, by, as here, Welland realizing that West would have gone up with the king of diamonds had he held it.

No doubt, while at the table, these critical decisions need to be made, but are only part of the whole battle. For my 2 cents I love the psychological part of the game better than the trick by trick choices which, of course vary, but usually can be determined with the careful evidence of, bidding or not, opening lead choice, and the underestimated tempo which even the very top players cannot help but give away, since the cerebral part of high-level bridge often becomes that challenging.

A.V.Ramana RaoJuly 7th, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
In case as suggested by Mr. Warheit if West returns a spade after winning with S A, declarer can prevail as follows ( without touching diamonds on his own ) :
He wins with S Q, plays two rounds of trumps, ruffs a spade Just in case J falls and as it does not, ruffs a club bringing down the K and ruffs the 10 of spades and plays 10 of Clubs & if W covers, declarer ruffs. East can over ruff but is obliged to play diamonds. Declarer gets Three Spades , Three Hearts, Two diamonds and two clubs. If West does not cover, declarer passes 10 of clubs. East can ruff but declarer gets 10 Tricks via 9 of clubs

Bobby WolffJuly 7th, 2015 at 3:41 pm

Hi A. V. Ramana,

Much thanks for taking the time and making the effort to add your positive thoughts and excellent line of play.

Individually we are certainly at least OK, but together we are much better, proving that combining our efforts will, no doubt, solve our bridge problems and thus, make our day.

And so would international bridge become a beacon for proving the motto of the WBF, “Bridge For Peace”.

In the overall Bridge World, the players are respected for only one thing, how they play our great game plus of course the respect they show for it, by their attitudes, table ethics, and superior talent.

Race, religion, language, special intelligence or other skills pale in comparison to only the commonality of how we go about representing our equal countries by just competitively participating at the table, by merely honestly playing the game as well as we can.

If only the world powers could see it in action and the 100% cooperative enthusiasm, not to mention love and respect, bridge fosters with its fierce competitors.

To coin a phrase, “We have found the faithful and trustworthy friends of this world and they are, among others, bridge players”.

A.V.Ramana RaoJuly 7th, 2015 at 4:22 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
Honestly , I feel honored by your kind words and sentiments expressed
Thanks & Regards

jim2July 7th, 2015 at 6:23 pm

Hey! I avoid exercise!

David WarheitJuly 7th, 2015 at 7:31 pm


Thank you very much for your kind and complete analysis. What I missed was the power of the 109 of clubs.