Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 17th, 2015

The half is greater than the whole.


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

*Short diamonds, agreeing hearts


When at first sight a contract appears to depend on a finesse – an even money chance – it is worth investigating for ways to improve those odds.

After North’s splinter raise to four diamonds (showing gamegoing values) South asked for aces then looked for a grand slam, by trying to find the club king opposite. He shut up shop in six hearts when North could not cooperate, and West led a spade against the small slam. Declarer rose with the ace, then immediately ruffed a spade. There was a two-fold purpose to this exercise. The first was to begin eliminating the spade suit. The second was to test whether a defender held king, queen and just one other spade, so that a club could be discarded on the spade jack.

No spade honor put in an appearance at trick two, so South continued with a trump to dummy for another spade ruff. Declarer cashed the diamond ace, ruffed the diamond three, then trumped dummy’s last spade.

Having eliminated all the irrelevant cards, declarer now played the diamond queen in the hopes that West held the king. He did, and instinctively played that card. Instead of ruffing the diamond, South discarded a club from dummy and faced his hand.

West was now endplayed into either returning a club into South’s tenace, or giving a ruff and discard, whereupon North’s last losing club could depart. Of course, had East turned up with the diamond king, there would still have been the club finesse to fall back on.

Auctions of this sort often suggest declarer has a source of tricks and relatively short hearts. Though East may jump to three no-trump with heart fit, that seems unlikely given your hand. The most active lead is a diamond, while the club sequence is less likely to cost a trick. But my choice is a low heart, which might work well here if partner has the heart length and declarer the shortage.


♠ K 2
 J 10 6 3
 Q 9 7 5
♣ J 10 2
South West North East
  2 Pass 3 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


David WarheitAugust 31st, 2015 at 9:25 am

Thanks for the hint (hint, hint, hint!) that W should calmly play low (actually the jack) when S leads the DQ. Even if W is that clever and that calm, S should still discard a C. The only advantage for S to ruff the DQ is if W has the CKx (ruff the DQ, cash CA, cross to dummy with a H & lead a C). But each defender has shown 1 S & 4H, leaving 8 cards for each in the minors, making the chance that W has only 2C highly unlikely, even if you think that this W wouldn’t be good enough not to play DK–maybe he fell asleep!

David WarheitAugust 31st, 2015 at 9:41 am

Or perhaps W is Frank Stewart’s Minnie Bottoms, who is always confusing kings with jacks!

bobby wolffAugust 31st, 2015 at 12:15 pm

Hi David,

As always, your explanations should be respected. Surely. West could either have fallen asleep or in another life had played the role of Frank’s character, Minnie Bottoms.

However, in the first game one plays while Over The Rainbow, West will have been thinking in concert with declarer and yes, intentionally contribute the jack, instead of the so-called routine king, (although fewer routine plays exist than expected in high-level slam defense, but all of must guard against getting careless).

Any high-level, not even necessarily world class player, should hope that when the time comes to lead clubs from dummy (next trick), East will follow with the deuce, to me a theoretically greater chance than West will play the jack of diamonds on the queen while still holding the monarch.

So we continue to discuss top notch play and defense, only causing the very wise among us to grasp that a very quick witted declarer (and there are many of those among truly world class players) will play this particular hand at a rapid pace in order to attempt to ward off the evil spirits of allowing that defense to bring its knowledge up to snuff and thus contribute very high level counter defensive plays.

Yes, Virginia there are players out there capable of defending the winning way and unless all four players at the table represent the very best bridge has to offer while competing in one of our most revered World Championships what good is calling lesser played bridge a true WC, instead of just another exhibition between wannabes, but still not there.

For bridge to get its due we must somehow find a way to show off our best and brightest instead of to make excuses for not and the only way it is likely to be done is to find a way to replicate Europe and China biting the bullet and proving it belongs in a long six years+ curriculum in our school system.

If only Horn Lake MS and our ACBL BODs would rise to the occasion and concentrate on perpetuating the great game of contract bridge instead of catering to the High Card Win set and let it die, without even a struggle.

bryanAugust 31st, 2015 at 12:46 pm

Did not follow the hint/comments about West ducking the king
South wins the queen and discards a club.
Leads the ace of club, gives up a club and claims the rest.

How does it do any good to duck?

jim2August 31st, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Any East that would contribute the 2C after declarer has done seven ruffs to eliminate two side suits before leading the third deserves a poor result.

bobby wolffAugust 31st, 2015 at 1:54 pm

Hi Bryan,

Declarer is leading the queen of diamonds from hand and West theoretically follows with the jack.

Shouldn’t declarer assume that the king of diamonds is held by East, so in order to at least slightly increase his equity in making his game by ruffing the diamond in dummy and then leading a club to hand, retaining his chance of being able to duck the club to West for then a cinch end play.

By not ruffing the diamond he will be playing for his LHO (West) to have played the jack of diamonds on his queen while holding the king, not in itself to be usually considered, but on this hand with the play to then, it would become the right play, but how can South even consider taking advantage of it, assuming West is not known to be one of the greatest players in this universe.

bobby wolffAugust 31st, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Hi Jim2,

While I definitely agree with your chagrin, I have seen sicker dogs than that get well, by having East totally go to sleep while at the switch.

Not arguing, just sayin….

bobby wolffAugust 31st, 2015 at 2:07 pm

Hi again JIm2,

Furthermore, how would you like to have been West, after playing the jack of diamonds on the queen, viewing declarer ruffing it and leading a club only to see partner produce the deuce with declarer now duly end playing you to make his dubious contract.

If handguns were then allowed to be secretly
carried, would anyone find West guilty for using one on his now lifeless former partner.

Some bridge lovers may call it “Justifiable Homicide”. case dismissed.

Please do not anyone take me seriously!!!!!!!

jim2August 31st, 2015 at 4:28 pm

The Lupine Defense! Love it! 🙂