Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 7th, 2015

Cusins is a very nice fellow, certainly: nobody would ever guess that he was born in Australia.

G. B. Shaw

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


Today’s deal is a constructed hand from the fertile mind of Tim Bourke, who sent it to me as a puzzle. Tim is a gifted composer who has worked on many projects with David Bird, and also won the International Bridge Press book of the year for ‘The Art of Declarer Play’ – for experts only!

After West has shown extra length or high cards, or both, he leads the heart king against four spades. It looks right to duck this to cut the defenders’ communications, and now comes a second heart, which you win in hand.

The diamond ace is obviously offside, and West is almost certainly at least 5-5 in the red suits. To have any chance to make this game you must therefore try to bring in the club suit. If trumps break but clubs do not, you need to ruff two clubs in hand, but can you also survive if spades do not break and clubs are 3-2?

The answer is yes, but you must be careful. Play the spade ace from hand and lead the club ace and a club toward dummy. If West ruffs in you can establish the clubs easily later on. If he discards, you win the king, ruff a club high, draw a second trump, ruff another club, and draw the last trump, conceding the last two tricks. If West follows suit on the second club ruff a club LOW. Cross to dummy with a trump and lead winning clubs. When East ruffs in, overruff and draw trumps, then run the clubs.

This hand presents options: invite or force to game, bid diamonds, or no-trump? The hand is unquestionably worth an invitation, not a force, to game, and one simple call would be to bid two no-trump. My preference, though, would be to bid two diamonds; if partner passes, I’ll hope we didn’t miss anything. If partner bids two spades, I can move on with two no-trump and show my hand precisely.


♠ A Q 6 4 2
 A 5
 K 8 7 2
♣ A 8
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 1 NT 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


Peter PengNovember 21st, 2015 at 6:08 pm

hello Mr. Wolff

Here is a hand for you and your readers.

Timing and Card Reading

Here is a hand that my partner cannot understand to save his life.



West East

QT62 K
QT A74
654 KQJ82
T865 KJ94



I sat West and the bidding went:


P P 1S 2D
P P 3S all pass

Lead – KD

North won the A and led AS, dropping K singleton, I played the 2S. Declarer continued with S to JS and my QS.

I now led QH, N played KH, E won AH and led heart back, I played TH, N won JH. Declarer played the two small hearts from dummy.

Now declarer led 9S, and I won TS. At this precise moment I led a diamond back. My partner won the Jack, brilliantly showing the Q, and led the Q, smothering the 10 in dummy, but declarer ruffed and pulled my last trump, making the hand.

I asked my partner if he had considered why I led the QH not having the JH, then playing the TH and dummy having 9 and 8. My partner who is the champion in his small Canadian town, did not answer me. He did not even think about my question. Instead, he questioned my play, why I did not return the diamond right away.

Of course, that is precisely the play that kills the defense. The argument went on for two weeks, partner looking at the printouts and all. What I cannot understand is why he cannot stop questioning my not returning a diamond at my first opportunity. So I wrote to ask you for help.

Iain ClimieNovember 21st, 2015 at 6:54 pm

Hi Peter,

Partner should give you a heart ruff but, if you’d defended passively, you come to 2H, 2S and a diamond. On another day, though, you,d have found partner with AJx(x) in hearts – but then he’d have crashed your H10 with his Jack although you should still get the contract off. I think you partner had a point, but blew it by not giving you the heart ruff. I’d trust our host’s views a lot more than mine, though!



bobby wolffNovember 21st, 2015 at 11:24 pm

Hi Peter,

Yes, although Iain explained it clearly and possibly painfully, still bridge, especially defense is difficult to play well since the defensive 26 cards do not, while at the table, expose themselves to full view and so, edge to the declarer.

However, in order to go for a ride in the up elevator to playing better, via making fewer mistakes, we need to use the hands which occur to better prepare ourselves for the future.

The dummy was likely to not have much of value and, as in this case not able to be reached in order for the declarer to lead up to what he held in hearts, so as Iain concluded, just lead diamonds and eventually declarer will have to lead hearts away from whatever honors he had.

Since I cannot improve on what Iain offered, I strongly recommend to you that you use this hand to better understand the huge advantage of playing 2nd and 4th to suits rather than 1st and 3rd, which occurs when either you or your partner initiate a new suit.

Of course, if there was a threat in dummy that called for having to attack hearts for fear of his throwing his losing hearts away, then everything is different defensively and other strategy is called for.

Again, I will suggest that both you and your then partner both study this defense and then trade ideas of what should have been done, and why.

No doubt your partner erred, but so did you and logic dictates that you will stand to gain more by correcting your gaffes than worrying about what your partner does.

Knowing your obvious love for bridge will only increase your determination to keep getting better and better. That hand is over and next time you will have much more experience to explore.

However, bridge itself is a difficult game but all of us need to take it slowly, and above all, go back over the mistakes and vow to not do the same thing again, but to so do, you MUST understand why it went wrong.

Good luck!

jim2November 21st, 2015 at 11:57 pm

Fear I must add to the chorus.

Patrick CheuNovember 22nd, 2015 at 8:42 am

Me too.