Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, June 29th, 2015

There are no second chances in life, except to feel remorse.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon

East North
None ♠ K J 2
 A J 5
 7 2
♣ 8 6 4 3 2
West East
♠ 6 5 4 3
 4 2
 Q J 10 9
♣ J 9 7
♠ A Q 10 7
 8 6 3
 A 8 6 5 3
♣ K
♠ 9 8
 K Q 10 9 7
 K 4
♣ A Q 10 5
South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass
3 ♣ Pass 4 All pass


Would you make a try on the South cards after your partner had raised your major-suit opening? And would it matter if you had overcalled one heart and been raised to two?

Curiously, although the diamond king has become a more useful asset when you hear an opening bid of one diamond to your right, I’m not sure I would try again after partner had only raised my overcall to two. The fact that he had not produced a cue-bid raise might suggest game is unlikely to be more than a long shot.

Today, however, your game-try leads to your reaching a slightly pushy four hearts, against which West leads the diamond queen to East’s ace. East returns the club king. Plan the play.

If you win the club ace and find the king to be a singleton, you can be sure West will later get in with the club jack and switch to a spade, through dummy’s king-jack. But duck the club king, and you guarantee your side 10 tricks: one diamond, five hearts and four clubs. That is the winning play today.

Incidentally, while a spade lead would have beaten your game outright, can you see how the defenders could still have prevailed, even after the normal lead of the diamond queen? East simply ducks the opening lead and lets West win the next diamond to find the killing shift. Should East find this defense? I think so. West cannot have five diamonds, or he would have raised pre-emptively at his first turn.

Today’s problem comes from “Larry Teaches Opening Leads,” a new book by Larry Cohen. He advises that even though your clubs and hearts are better than your diamonds, you should lead the unbid suit when in doubt, as you certainly are here. This is good advice; declarer might easily have only one diamond stopper.


♠ 3
 Q 5 4 3
 J 7 6 5
♣ K 9 3 2
South West North East
    Pass 1 ♠
Pass 2 Pass 2 ♠
Pass 3 ♣ Pass 3 NT
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 ClimieJuly 13th, 2015 at 11:18 am

Hi Bobby,

A minor point on the play hand is to unblock the C10 under the King if east wins the first diamond. A more crucial point is east ducking the first diamond then playing the CK from Kx or KJ. Now I think South has to take the Ace and hope clubs are 2-2 or the SQ is right. Any beginner would make 11 tricks against such a false card; a better player has a losing option!



Bobby WolffJuly 13th, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, the column should have validated (in advance) the necessity for unblocking the 10 of clubs from hand, since, after the king is led from East (never would be done from KJxx or KJx since he will know declarer must have the ace, the club 10 becomes excess baggage, only still left in declarer’s hand to prevent scoring up the contract, not at all helping to secure it.

FWIW, the ability to quickly choose the 10 of clubs, when ducking, is an excellent example of what is meant by high-level bridge players all in possession of a heavy dose of numeracy (loving to think by accenting numbers) similar to all great athletes having superior physical prowess.

And finally, yes your example of a beginner making an extra trick, only magnifies the difference between matchpoints and IMPs or rubber bridge.

It then follows that bridge purists MUST accept that obvious flaw in accepting matchpoints instead of the real thing or else be deprived of what has become to represent the face of tournament bridge.

Iain ClimieJuly 13th, 2015 at 6:18 pm

Hi Bobby,

A further reason for east to consider ducking the DA if holding CK alone but A10xx in spades (so rather light) is that if declarer ducks the CK having not yet drawn trumps, then east can get a club ruff. Mind you, if east had 6 diamonds to justify his opening bid, TOCM would then give south DKJx. I do wonder how often such communication preserving plays slip under the radar, though.



Bobby WolffJuly 13th, 2015 at 9:40 pm

Hi Iain,

Your fantasy bridge aptitude test would show a very imaginative approach to our game, which includes all, or at least most aspects of our game.

Your specialty could be looking for card combinations (such as on the current column, ducking the first diamond in order to normally create an entry in the opening leaders hand) for whatever way to score another trick.

This imagination usually goes both unused and sadly, in most instances and therefore never considered and worse, never later thought effective.

However, we are all somewhat limited in scope, and as we glean more experience definitely tend to separate the wheat from the chaff as to what is possible, rather than the likelihood of having a positive lightening strike.

Great bridge is not about bell ringing plays nor about specialized brilliance, but rather concerns itself with consistency in always being at least close to the target and very important, making plays on defense to which your partner will understand and thus be an effective partner.

In other words, think about trying to achieve the best result possible, rather than the best possible result.

In no way did I intend the above to even imply that you didn’t belong to a very exalted category with bridge imagination, but rather it was only a caution against trying to rise above a practical ceiling, beyond which, at least IMO, it is dangerous to try and achieve.

Yes, because of following traditional bridge learning, many communication plays slip under the radar, most never to even being realized that they existed.

Iain ClimieJuly 13th, 2015 at 10:07 pm

Hi Bobby,

As someone once said “Many a beautiful theory has been killed by an ugly fact!”. I recall S J Simon making that point about best result possible vs best possible result too. Still, the scope for imagination and (especially) deception is one reason why I prefer bridge to chess, Go and backgammon. Discipline as a back up is crucial, of course, and I really must try developing some one of these days.