Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, December 5th, 2015

Nothing defines humans better than their willingness to do irrational things in the pursuit of phenomenally unlikely payoffs.

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


In today’s deal you play four spades, and receive the lead of the heart king to the ace. What are your thoughts?

The spade king is surely with West; and the risk is that you will lose two spades, and two hearts. A simple line, such as playing the spade ace and another spade will lead to West winning his king and persisting with hearts, the fourth round promoting a trump for East. The same danger applies if you play for the intra-finesse (leading low from dummy and covering East’s card, hoping that he began with J-8 or 10-8 doubleton.

One possibility is the specific doubleton J-10 with East. Ace and another trump would work in that instance; but West is more likely to be short in spades than East. You should turn your attention to the idea of negotiating against length in spades with East. That being so, it looks right to duck trick one, hoping East will ruff his partner’s winner on the second round. But West continues with the heart jack, and East pitches a club.

When you win the heart ace you could now play West for a singleton spade king, but better is to play him for precisely the doubleton K-2 or K-8 of spades. Lead the spade nine from hand, with the intention of passing it. If West follows with the eight or two, play low from dummy and let East win the spade 10. You win the club exit and cash the spade ace, then finish drawing trump.

Fasten your seat belts; this may be a bumpy ride. I’m not a dedicated follower of Dick Walsh but in response to one club I will bypass a four- or even-five-card diamond suit to bid a four-card major, with a one-bid hand short of sound invitational values. So I would rebid one no-trump now as opener, expecting partner either not to have a major or to be able to bid it over one no-trump.


♠ Q 9 5 3
 A 6 5 2
 A 3
♣ A 9 3
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 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


A.V.Ramana RaoDecember 20th, 2015 at 5:13 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
Saw this hand rather belatedly.
As the cards lay, South always prevails by leading Spade 9 from hand whether he wins the first heart trick or not . for eg after winning the first heart with A he advances 9 of spades. West cannot obviously cover this (unless he is having a singleton spade in which case south goes down anyway after playing 9 of spades from hand). So east wins but he does not have a heart to return. South wins any return and scores three spades, one heart, two diamonds and four clubs. However ducking the first heart is superior line as it caters to east having a doubleton heart but is virtually impossible on the bidding or Am I missing something?

bobby wolffDecember 21st, 2015 at 5:17 pm

Hi A.V.,

The only thing you are missing is what the column mentioned, that by ducking the first heart it gives East a chance to err, by allowing him to foolishly ruff the next high heart from partner.

Obviously, not very likely, but none of us know for sure what is in the minds of various opponents. You are, of course correct, when most readers will either realize or, at least strongly suspect, that West started with 5 hearts. Better to be a temptress (or is it temptor?) and win, than a know it all and perhaps, lose.

Thanks for your question and since I often ramble back and forth among the last few days, better late than never.

“Little by little we do great things”.