Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, July 24th, 2015

I am a man more sinned against than sinning.

William Shakespeare

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

*Two-plus cards

**12-14 balanced, both majors stopped


In today’s deal from the Las Vegas summer nationals last summer North-South bid to three no-trump after an artificial auction, which has been simplified for the purposes of this column. Put yourself in West’s shoes: you lead the spade seven to partner’s ace. Trick two consists of the spade six, jack, queen, and the heart four from dummy. Over to you!

What happened at the table was that West played a low heart, and declarer won in dummy with the heart jack and ran the heart 10. When he didn’t overtake, West ducked. Now when clubs didn’t break, declarer had no legitimate play for nine tricks.

Had declarer overtaken the second heart, there is a defense (though West indicated that at the table he might well not have found it!) West would have had to duck the second heart, and now if declarer plays a third heart to set up his ninth trick, it squeezes dummy in the process.

So let’s revisit the best possible play and defense. After winning the heart jack, declarer cashes one club, overtakes the second heart and plays a third heart, pitching a club. If West has a club to play, the suit will break. If not, he must give declarer a trick from spades or diamonds.

And finally: if West had worked out declarer’s pattern at trick three, could or should he have found the Deschappelles Coup of shifting to the diamond queen? This devastating play creates an entry by force to the East hand, and defeats the game.

A penalty pass might work well – but it is an action I am very reluctant to take without trump tricks. A simple jump in clubs is certainly possible, but another possible way to go would be to bid four no-trump, to show the minors. Beware: some play that as natural, and indeed I play a jump to four no-trump as natural over partner’s double of a minor-suit preempt, though not of a major.


♠ 4
 J 10 4
 J 9 7 5
♣ A K Q 6 5
South West North East
  3 Dbl. 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 ClimieAugust 7th, 2015 at 12:20 pm

Hi Bobby,

At the table, I’m sure I would have cashed 2,clubs early after the H10 had won, then played another heart overtaking it but does a switch to the DQ work? South wins, plays a heart to the 10 which west has to duck, cashes two clubs then overtakes a heart. If west wins and plays a diamond now and east returns a spade, south has 3D, 3C, 1S and 2H. If west ducks the second heart, south plays a diamond but perhaps east can then lock him on table? Any thoughts?



LeonAugust 7th, 2015 at 1:05 pm


in the line you describe after DQ in trick 3:
When east gets in with the diamond king he should exit with a diamond (NOT a spade).
EW already have 4 tricks (2 spades, heart and a diamond) and the club will follow because declarer is locked in dummy.



Bobby WolffAugust 7th, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Hi Iain,

I’m with your line, mainly because of its practicality. First, it is important, not necessarily risk free, but helpful to find out that clubs are miss behaving.

Therefore, when East follows suit with hearts, he will very likely attempt to give his partner a valid heart count, therefore including the enemy (you) with that information therefore after overtaking I think declarer can be reasonably sure that the hearts are breaking.

Then when West hopefully switches to the diamond queen, your ten of diamonds is unlucky for him, but balances your bad luck in clubs. Therefore 1 spade, 3 hearts, 2 diamonds and 3 clubs add up to 9.

Finding out about the bad break in clubs enables clubs to be discarded on the 2 extra hearts from hand, therefore making use of that informaton which while vitally important at IMPs is also so at matchpoints because of the critical value of overtricks while playing this mundane contract.

Another special feature of the declarer’s play on this specific hand is a confident realization of the heart break determined by the psychological realization of what good players will almost always do in order to help their partner, signal accurately, not deceptively when, as here, in the middle of the defense to keep partner informed of what to do.

Perhaps in the distant future a born bridge genius will be able to deviate from this above trait, but up to now, at least IMO with perhaps only 1 or 2 possible exceptions in bridge history at the most, world wide), he hasn’t likely yet emerged.

Bobby WolffAugust 7th, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Hi Leon,

When I started my post to Iain, yours had not yet appeared.

I think, since clubs not even one diamond should be discarded after clubs are found to be 4-1.

Check it out and let me know if I, like Iain asked, am wrong. No doubt, the analysis of an individual complicated bridge hand can be difficult, not only in determining a winning line, but also in the exact explanation necessary to be accurate.

Thanks for your effort in getting involved.

Iain ClimieAugust 7th, 2015 at 1:56 pm

Hi Leon, Bobby,

Good point from Leon provided east isn’t on autopilot and plays a spade. Is there any case at all for dumping a club at T2 from dummy so you can set up 3H and get at them – 1S, 3H, 1D and 4C if clubs behave but extra chances if they don’t?

Bobby WolffAugust 7th, 2015 at 2:34 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt of the good case for dumping a club from the dummy at trick 2 in spades.

That problem of analysis is tied to the horror to some of throwing a likely good trick away with a more vague issue of finding its replacement.

However the very best players, represented by my classifying as the only so-called worthy “World Class moniker” will have their priorities straight, with many other qualified players not slithering past this significant detour.

Another common complaint revolves itself over the constant bastardization of our matchpoint cousin. (or probably brother, sister, parent, or worse, wicked witch) which pervades our phony bridge view and causes us endless near impossible problems of aiming for greatness in playing our “real” game.

I could now say, “Strong opinion to follow” but perhaps this is not a good time for levity.

Anyway thanks for your usual helpful, but provocative, statement.