Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Arm the obdured breast
With stubborn patience as with triple steel.

John Milton

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


Co-operation in defense should be one of the great pleasures of this game. On this deal, however, it was declarer who enjoyed East-West’s efforts when they combined to help him to get rid of three potential losers, all in the space of one trick!

West led the club seven against four hearts (there is a case for leading a top trump) and, after taking his two top clubs, East felt something dramatic was required. Could his partner hold something like K10x or Q9xx in trumps? Then the winning defense would be to lead a third round of clubs, promoting a second trump trick for West (who would either score a trick immediately with his heart intermediate or via a refusal to overruff if South ruffed high).

Accordingly East led another club. Declarer discarded the diamond five from hand, West ruffed with the heart nine, and dummy’s losing spade went away. South was now home and dry. After ruffing a spade on the table and drawing trumps, he had the rest of the tricks.

Of course, East’s play could have been right if the cards had lain as he visualized, but the real mistake was made by West. If he simply discards on the third round of clubs, declarer is still one trick short.

It is something of an optical illusion, but the trump trick is a sure one, whether you ruff in or not; while if you do use up your trump trick, you let declarer discard a loser and have gained nothing in the process.

Once partner passes your opening call, disappointing as that may seem, your chances of making game here are virtually nil (yes there are hands, but he won’t have one of them, trust me). So rather than trying for game and getting too high, just rebid two hearts, which already shows extras, when facing a known weak hand.


♠ K 8 3
 A K Q 7 4 2
 A 5
♣ 10 4
South West North East
1 Pass Pass 2 ♣

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


slarOctober 8th, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Many times I’ve seen the adage not to ruff a sure winner (unless you absolutely, positively need the lead immediately) but it is good to see a clear example where doing so causes the defense to completely collapse.

bobby wolffOctober 8th, 2015 at 4:19 pm

Hi Slar,

Furthermore, your inquisitive mind (a real asset in getting from here to where you want to rise in bridge) have seen an example of losing two tricks in one play when one (usually defensively) ruffs with a winner (J109x here, but could be KQJ, KQ, QJ10 or AQJ, KJ10, K109x QJ9 and many others when well placed) where the declarer is able to throw different suit losers away (in hand and in dummy), all on one trick.

The above concerns itself with the numeracy in bridge, a talent not as widely held as might be thought, and IMO, not for any other reason that I can think, but very common with the language of cards.

Both seeing is believing and rising swiftly in bridge requires understanding, your special interest, bodes well for your immediate future.
And, to you, losing two tricks with one play (the defensive play by both defenders) is worthy of note, albeit a very sad one.

A new quote, “A bridge mind is a terrible thing to waste” applies to you, so take heed and run with it.

Good, no, great luck!

GinnyOctober 8th, 2015 at 6:23 pm

Hi Bobby,

What would you lead as East on Trick 3? Would this change if you heard your partner double 4h?

bobby wolffOctober 8th, 2015 at 7:14 pm

Hi Ginny,

Methinks, after winning the first two club tricks would then prefer a low spade switch since if declarer happened to hold Kx in diamonds, I would probably be losing a trick if declarer guessed that diamond combination correctly.

There is a small case for leading the queen of spades in case declarer had the J9x and later played me for the KQ rather than the Q10.

Whether my partner doubled or not would not influence me on this hand with the defense, however it would surely increase my optimism to a nice size set with partner probably able to take perhaps 2 trump tricks with the positioning along with my, up to now, undisclosed void.

If your reason for asking about whether partner doubling would have any effect, the answer is a decided no since we have already taken 2 tricks in a suit declarer could have been void, with four in dummy. Partner’s value on this bidding sequence had to be specific holdings (probably a trump stack) so do not worry (while playing with an experienced partner) about setting the hand, since penalty doubles should NEVER be done in a frivolous manner and already much luck has accrued to the defense by having two cashing clubs tricks while, on a rainy day, there could be none.