Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, July 3rd, 2015

Out of the crooked timber of humanity no
Straight thing can ever be made.

Immanuel Kant

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


Today’s deal offers a choice of lines in six hearts. After a top diamond lead, it is easy to count to 11 tricks, but where does the possible spade loser go? One possibility is to draw two rounds of trump and then play on spades. This works if spades are 3-3 or the hand with two hearts has two or fewer spades. This line of play comes in at about a two-thirds chance.

A better line is for declarer to win the diamond lead and play back a diamond. West wins and plays a trump, won in hand. Now comes a club to the ace, a diamond ruff high, a club to the king, and a club ruff high. Now you play two rounds of trumps. If they break, ruff a club with your last trump, cross to the spade queen, and draw the last trump, pitching a spade from your hand. You can take the last two tricks with the ace and king of spades.

However, at trick eight when you draw a second round of trumps, if you find them to be 4-1 all is not lost. You can still recover when trumps do not break, but one defender has four trumps and three or more spades. In the five-card ending you can cash your three spade winners and crossruff the last two tricks. This line comes in at close to an 80 percent chance.

As East may sympathetically point out to his partner, the lead of any suit but diamonds would defeat the slam!

Despite the quality of your diamonds, you do not wish to emphasize them again. Your partner sounds like he is angling for game, and with your spade stopper and minimum you can get your hand off your chest in one go with a call of two no-trump. Let partner take it from there.


♠ J 9 7 6
 7 4
 K Q J 9
♣ 10 4 3
South West North East
    1 1 ♠
2 Pass 2 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 17th, 2015 at 10:04 am

Hi Bobby,

An interesting hand today and there might even be residual chances if one defender had CQJ10 or any 5 plus 4 spades, although this is unlikely. I must take issue with the last sentence though. East is being sympathetic, that is just mean! It tells partner if he’d shuffled his cards and picked one at random he’d have been right 9/13 of the time but picking the seemingly sensible lead failed.

Tongue in cheek, of course and proving that bridge can still be a game of (bad) luck or ill chance on occasion. Nonetheless, is it really worth traumatising partner by telling him this? The serious point (if any) is what to say in such circumstances – is it better for morale to say nothing until much later or is it dependent on the partner?



Yasser HaiderJuly 17th, 2015 at 10:17 am

Dear Bobby
After you’ve won the trump return at trick 3 and ruffed a C and D in hand and then played 2 rounds of trumps, you are out of trumps in your hand so how can you ruff another club? Unless you meant to say play one round of trump not 2.

jim2July 17th, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Yasser Haider –

I believe you are corrects, as the rest of the text that follows is consistent with one round of trump, not two.

Yasser HaiderJuly 17th, 2015 at 12:15 pm

Hi Jim, at least no TOCM on this hand! 🙂

bobby wolffJuly 17th, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Hi Iain,

You are so right regarding East’s comment about his partner’s opening lead.

However, sometimes a valued bridge partnership and above all, one that respects their own game will intentionally make what all four at the table understand to only being a wail about the difficulty of bridge, since the diamond lead seemed so normal and, considering what West held, to lead anything else may seem ridiculous to everyone involved.

However, the one constant lesson present in my far flung past world bridge life are the differences evident in senses of humor within the immense number of cultures encountered.

What is comical and therefore water off a duck’s back, to some, is insulting to others and merely realizing this fact may not prevent its occurrence.

Thanks for your comment since perhaps others may now realize that the intent, often the melodic tone used, will resemble someone being just a comedian, not a critic.

bobby wolffJuly 17th, 2015 at 2:21 pm

Hi Yasser & Jim2,

Yes, Yasser, thank you for catching the error above.

When I was re-reading the prose this morning before tackling the comments, it occurred to me that there seemed to be more trumps present than the usual 13. Of course, sometimes my bidding requires more trumps than I own in order to make some too aggressive contracts that I’ve bid.

However, I apologize for the gaffe and thank you two (catching and corroborating). Of course, I wrote the above on purpose just to both see if all my readers are awake and to make Jim2 feel more at home when TOCM will, no doubt, at least in making close slam contracts, leave him under the wheels of his car.

Please believe that at your own risk.