Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Worth seeing? Yes, but not worth going to see.

Samuel Johnson

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


Does the theme of today’s deal seem slightly familiar? If so, it may be because it is one of the bridge-writer’s favorites. Just to let you into a not particularly well-kept secret, not every deal that appears in this column actually happened. Spot cards are manipulated, errors concealed, and sometimes the names are concealed, to protect innocent, guilty, and whistle-blower alike.

That said, plan the play in four spades as South after the lead of the heart king to your ace. If your first reaction was to draw trump to avoid accidents, you will escape the sword of Damocles two thirds of the time, and move on without realizing that you had run an unnecessary risk.

But imagine that trumps split four-one, which they will do often enough that you need to take precautions against it. If you draw all the trump and give up a club, you are forced for the first time. You ruff the heart and play a club, and the next heart leaves you without any trumps when you give up the third club.

However, at trick one you should calculate you have nine tricks and need to set up a club. Best is to play a club at once. Ruff the heart return and play another club. Then ruff the third heart and play yet another club. West wins the trick and has no answer now, because the next heart can be ruffed high in dummy. So you retain control and make the contract.

The hand offers a slightly awkward rebid whether you open one club or one diamond, if your partner responds one spade – and no, you cannot bid diamonds then clubs, as this virtually guarantees 5-4 pattern. Nonetheless I would open one diamond, bidding where I live, to make sure that my partner gets the defense right if he happens to be on lead to trick one. When in doubt, bid good suits.


♠ 10 6
 A 9 8
 A K 10 8
♣ J 7 5 4
South West North East

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 30th, 2015 at 12:33 am

At first, it seemed to me safer to draw one round of trump and then proceed as recommended, and that line of play works just fine on the given lie of the EW cards. But your statement calling your line “best line” is exactly right. If declarer cashes one S and then plays as you suggest, he goes down if W has 4-5-2-2, although he could still prevail if he cashes DAK before leading the 3d C. But why have to guess? Best is best.

Bobby WolffJuly 30th, 2015 at 4:13 am

Hi David,

Thanks for your, as always, high-level analysis.

Often it is prematurely thought that sometimes leading one or even two rounds of trump early in order to get more kiddies off the street is automatically best, but often that turns out to be a non-safety play instead of a percentage improvement.

Obviously every hand is different and subject to a specific analysis. However a rule of thumb may be merely to follow the theme of what appears best, rather than over analyze
since by doing so often only makes for more moving parts, leading to lesser results.

GinnyJuly 30th, 2015 at 4:27 am

Can you help me understand why the clubs don’t have the same percentage to be 4-1 as the spades? The play could be the same, except on the 2nd club, the cat’s out of the bag.

Bobby WolffJuly 30th, 2015 at 11:11 am

Hi Ginny,

Obviously you are correct that it is exactly the same percentage about the clubs breaking 4-1 as well as the spades.

However by playing the hand carefully, clubs first before the drawing of trump, declarer can stand a bad spade break (4-1), but, of course, not also a 4-1 club break.

It is, of course, always the declarer duty to choose the line of play which offers the best chance of success, and in this example, he certainly did, thanks to being able to trump the 4th heart in dummy without threatening declarer’s length.

And your comment about the telltale cat is also true, capped off, when the spades broke 4-1, the declarer should then realize that his line of play was necessary in order to succeed.

That feeling of triumph always is an underrated one, rather than playing a hand well and then finding out that all roads (both black suits splitting), even inferior ones, would have achieved the same result.

Thanks Ginny, for writing.

Iain ClimieJuly 30th, 2015 at 6:18 pm

Hi Bobby, Ginny,

Aren’t some 4-1 club breaks (e.g. East with KQ10x) unmanageable anyway, whereas you can cope with spades 4-1 either way as long as clubs are 3-2. It could still go horribly wrong is spades are 3-2 and west has CAQ10x, when drawing trumps and running the C9 works, but the odds favour guarding against bad trumps I feel.