Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 27th, 2015

Believe me, wise men don’t say ‘I shall live to do that’,
Tomorrow, life’s too late; live today.


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



Some rules are made to be broken – not on every deal, of course, but when the situation demands it. One of those rules is not to ruff your partner’s winner, but as we shall see, it may be the only route to success.

In today’s deal West’s jump to three hearts was preemptive rather than a limit raise. With the stronger hand he would have cuebid rather than jumped in his partner’s suit. East was happy to defend four spades, and in any event he judged correctly that a five-level sacrifice would be too costly.

The heart queen was overtaken by the ace for a shift to the diamond queen. Declarer preserved his entry to dummy by winning the ace and playing on clubs. East saw his partner’s club six, suggesting an even number, so ducked the first club to try to cut declarer’s communications. He won the second club to play the diamond 10 and set up a winner for his side.

Declarer won dummy’s diamond king and tried to cash a club, on which to discard his diamond loser. East ruffed low, forcing South to overruff, and now declarer needed to renter dummy to access the clubs without giving up the lead. The only practical way to achieve his target was to ruff his heart winner in dummy.

Now he led a fourth club, to neutralize East’s trump ace. That player could ruff in with his remaining trump, but South was able to discard his diamond loser and could claim the balance.

It is easy to see that any of the four suits might work here, but my instincts are to lead up to declarer’s weakness, in other word to try to avoid giving away a trick. Either a diamond or a spade might work but I think that while a spade lead might clear up a guess, it is also the suit most likely either to be passive or to set up a winner for partner. So I would lead the spade three.


♠ 3 2
 A 10 6 4
 J 9 4 2
♣ K 9 2
South West North East
  1 Pass 1
Pass 1 ♠ Pass 1 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


Joe1August 11th, 2015 at 12:36 am

What if E ruffs high, and leads D? Where else does he think the 4th trick will come from? Am I missing something? If you have the setting trick grab it when you can.

bobby wolffAugust 11th, 2015 at 12:50 am

Hi Joe1,

When East wins his ace of hearts and correctly switches to the queen of diamonds, South is careful to win in hand and, of course, because of tempo, must immediately lead to a high club. East then wins (does him no good to duck) and then continues diamonds to dummy’s king.

Declarer wins and leads a high club from dummy and then another hoping to dump his losing diamond. However East interrupts by ruffing low. Declarer then overruffs and trumps his good heart king in dummy in order to lead another high club which forces RHO to ruff with his ace of trump, enabling declarer to throw his losing diamond away and then ruff high when East tries to cash a good diamond.

After trumps are then drawn, contract is made. Declarer was lucky that East did not have another low trump to take care of that high club from dummy, but whether he was or not, declarer had to play the hand in this manner to succeed.

Sometimes the pictured play causes confusion, but eventually experience in playing many bridge hands will take away that confusion and these hypothetical situations will become clearer.

Thanks for checking in.

JeffAugust 11th, 2015 at 1:11 am

I think I get Joe’s question – it is an optical illusion that I also fell into at first. The question is what if East trumps high instead of low the first time? But, of course, South cannot overtrump so he simply immediately dumps his losing diamond under the AS and nothing essential changes. OK, maybe it is not an illusion for all the really good players here – but I doubt Joe and I are the only ones who tripped over it. 🙂

bobby wolffAugust 11th, 2015 at 4:14 am

Hi Jeff,

In some ways you are hinting or even more so explaining, how difficult it is for many to feel comfortable while playing card games.

Many games, while played with cards are not really card games, (poker, blackjack, and baccarat come to mind) simply because there is no playing involved, only using the symbols of cards to determine winners. Others, bridge IMO, is the prime example of a full fledged card game, where the language of in what order they are played, along with a key bidding attachment, determines the result.

I do not think overall intelligence has much, if anything, to do with the quality of the individual player, only the language of cards, much to do about numeracy and its wide range of applications, which actively determines whether the aptitude is present.

The above is what present day educators are finding out, all over the world, while the USA is sound asleep, as to the immense value of creating a game out of interpreting evidence, legal partnership communication, advantage of playing 2nd and 4th to each trick, instead of 1st and 3rd, face to face psychology, dealing with intimidation from both sides of its effect, partnership harmony with using sign language, problem solving, intense pressure trying to put it all together and perform. all within a strict code of ethics which does not permit unauthorized information to be transmitted.

No doubt you and Joe1 are far from alone from the occasional trip. The secret of coping is the same as for other hurdles in life, nothing ventured nothing gained, but when explored, the result may become a lifelong addiction, but unlike gambling, drugs and alcohol (to only mention a few horrors) can often mean infinite constructive innocent pleasure while being able to concentrate and think logically.