Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 13th, 2015

Fate is never fair. You are caught in a current much stronger than you are; struggle against it and you’ll drown not just yourself but those who try to save you. Swim with it, and you’ll survive.

Cassandra Clare

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


In today’s deal you do well to reach a spade game rather than opting to play no-trump, since on a heart lead there are only eight tricks at no-trump.

Against your contract of four spades you are not upset to see a small club lead — until dummy comes down, and you realize the danger of a ruff. West’s club two goes to East’s ace, and he returns the club queen. Plan the play.

It looks entirely natural to put up play the club king, but you can work out what will happen. West will ruff your club king away, and will not find it difficult to switch to a heart at trick three.After drawing trump you will have to give up a club trick to East, who will cash his heart winner, and you will go one down.

Is there anything you can do to avoid your fate? Yes there is. Try the effect of ducking the club queen at trick two. If East continues with another club, as he surely will, West gets his ruff and shifts to a heart as before.

But the timing is different: you win the heart and draw trump ending in dummy. Then you have time to ruff out the clubs in order to set up a long club for a heart discard. Ducking the club saves you a tempo in establishing the suit. If the defenders do not take their club ruff at trick three but shift to hearts, you will even end up with an overtrick.

With a potential stopper in each side-suit, you have reasonable hopes that if declarer has a second suit, it won’t run and if does you probably won’t beat the slam! That being said, leading from any honor might well give up your side’s trick in the suit. So even though passive leads are not nearly as effective against small slams as grand slams, I would lead a trump here.


♠ 9 6 2
 Q 6 4
 J 9 4 2
♣ Q 9 5
South West North East
      1 ♠
Pass 3 ♠ Pass 6 ♠
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


Dave Memphis MOJOJuly 27th, 2015 at 4:08 pm

Great hand. I worked it out looking at the four hands, but I wonder if I’d ever see it at the table??

Bobby WolffJuly 27th, 2015 at 4:59 pm

Hi Dave (Memphis MOJO),

While modesty will always be becoming, I have no doubt that you would have risen (or rather ducked) to the occasion.

Your flattering description of great hand reminds me of why depicting adjectives are often used, to remind everyone (especially bridge loving ones like you) that divining out impressive plays are only similar to separating oneself from the herd (on this hand) by not attempting to take the trick when offered to him, because of not thinking the whole hand through.

Sometimes that timely advice, when not heeded, causes goats to emerge rather than heroes, but again in a relative but realistic sense, proves what a great game we have inherited, and how utterly ridiculous it would be to take a chance on losing our international connection with the WBF because of the green monster living in all of us, but, as we all privately know, would be better off muzzled instead of inviting it in.

Much appreciation and thanks for writing and please, don’t be a stranger.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 27th, 2015 at 7:02 pm

Hi Dave,

We really miss you! Slowing down on the NABCs (other than the last two Vegas ones) leaves a void in my heart .. not seeing old friends whose friendships we treasure. For the time being, we will have to settle for delightful memories of people like you that make the game so worthwhile.

When I read your prelude to figuring out how to fulfill the contract, it made me laugh. I halted and went to the hand first (before reading Bobby’s explanation). My reaction was identical to yours. If something is presented as a problem, you stop dead in your tracks and damned if you don’t come up with the winning bid or play. I suppose that is why Norman always teased me, calling me a “napkin champ” — but in a way that was a compliment.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 27th, 2015 at 7:06 pm


I should have added a “P. S” .. perhaps a backhanded one at that!

VirginiaJuly 27th, 2015 at 7:22 pm

Curious about the play if the King of Clubs and Queen of Clubs are switched. Could the defense find the right plays? Underlead the ace (or king) of clubs, West ruffs the club winner (assuming a duck by South) anyway and lead hearts? Is that best?

Bobby WolffJuly 27th, 2015 at 7:53 pm

Hi Virginia,

Yes, if by some card combination West or whoever can win both of the early club tricks and also eliminate South’s master card for the defense and then switch to hearts before the club suit has had a chance to be elevated for a discard, then the deed will be done.

Here, although declarer fell for the temptation to turn loose his control of the hand, only means that he didn’t analyze the hand correctly and paid an appropriate price.

Perhaps on Christmas a nice but not naughty declarer will by fiat be granted that gift.

And then if so, yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

No sarcasm is intended, but now everyone will now know how low I may sink, in an attempt to be funny.

Dave Memphis MOJOJuly 27th, 2015 at 11:15 pm

I come and read the column each day, but don’t always have a worthwhile comment to leave. Thanks for replying.

Herreman ROctober 25th, 2015 at 7:21 pm

What if you had:
♠ 3
♥ 7 6 4 2
♦ K 10 7 5
♣ Q 10 8 4 ?