Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 31st, 2015

Men of genius do not excel in any profession because they labor at it, but they labor in it because they excel.

William Hazlitt

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


If you were North at the helm in three no-trump, the best play on a spade lead might be to win and take the heart finesse rather than ducking. Even if the heart finesse lost, you might still come home against 6-1 spades, and if you ducked the first spade a club shift would probably doom you.

But that is not the problem today. As South you get to declare four hearts, and West dutifully leads the spade king. You hop up with the ace and lead the heart 10, optimistically hoping for a cover. Next comes a heart to the queen, but though the finesse succeeds, you still do not have 10 tricks, since the club ace rates to be offside. The auction has suggested that, given East’s overcall, he is slightly more likely to have the club ace than West.

However, you should still survive by running five trumps, keeping two spades, two clubs and three diamonds in dummy. Then lead the diamond king and a diamond to the ace. As you lead the last diamond from dummy, East will have had to reveal something about his shape; if you believe he has come down to one club and three spades, ruff the diamond and lead a club to dummy, collecting a spade trick at the end. If he comes down to two spades and two clubs, exit with a spade to the jack, hoping that East will have to lead away from his club ace at trick 12.

I think your partner’s double should be played as take-out for the two unbid suits, especially by a passed hand; you will never want to double for penalty here. This gives you the problem of whether to head for the ‘known’ heart fit or to bid two clubs, perhaps planning to compete over two diamonds to two hearts. I’ll try two clubs first, expecting one opponent or the other to bid two diamonds.


♠ Q 10 6 4 2
 K 7 6
 Q 2
♣ A 10 8
South West North East
  Pass Pass 1
1 ♠ 1 NT Dbl. 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


Shantanu RastogiJanuary 14th, 2016 at 12:09 pm

Hello Mr Wolff

Double dummy win second spade remove trumps then play king ace of diamonds when diamond queen falls on diamond 9 discard spade. West wins but has no winning action either returning diamond to 8 in dummy or open club suit where east is marked with ace. Both way contract is made.

Best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Iain ClimieJanuary 14th, 2016 at 1:41 pm

Hi Bobby,

I guess West has a critical role to play here on the line you suggest today. He has to clutch on to that spade 9 to avoid giving away the distribution of the suit. Throw it, and east is countable for 5S, 2D, 3H and hence 3C, so the end position should be clear.



Mark WhitmanJanuary 14th, 2016 at 4:51 pm

After drawing trumps, how about playing the diamond king and then running the diamond ten if not covered? East can win, but then he’ll be forced to give you your tenth trick in any one of the remaining three suits.

jim2January 14th, 2016 at 5:20 pm

Mark Whitman –

I thought much the same. That is, should West cover, one can revert to the column line but — once West follows small — it looks cold to duck it with no guessing needed!

On the actual layout, if West covered the 10D South would be VERY hard-pressed to retain composure …

Bobby WolffJanuary 14th, 2016 at 5:27 pm

Hi Shantanu,

The good news is that you would make the hand. However, your analysis may need more cards in the right place such as the queen of clubs (along with the ace) not in the East hand, plus, of course, a favorable diamond position instead of split honors, divided 4-3 instead of 5-2.

The lesson for all of us to learn is, when making a key decision (one which will either save or sink our contract) go for the one with the higher degree of probability. Often not an easy decision, and one which requires the defensive hands fitting the bidding, but nevertheless, an always integral factor in determining success or failure.

However, thanks for your contributed card layout which would succeed with your line of play. Without going through the exercise you just did, will often keep you from getting in the right habit of finding the winning play.

Bobby WolffJanuary 14th, 2016 at 5:38 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, you carefully refer to the cat & mouse game of wily opponents vs. declarer, who by all legal means are charged with doing everything possible (usually after the opening lead, but during the play) to confuse the declarer so that his guessing is not always 100%. Never hesitate to try and fool a good declarer out of the winning line, but not by feigned physical gestures (not that you ever attempt such an ugly enterprise), but only by the order of cards normally played.

Bobby WolffJanuary 14th, 2016 at 5:53 pm

Hi Mark,

Clever is as clever does, and you have gained a positional advantage by losing a trick you weren’t required to lose, but by doing so, you will not only get the ace of diamonds back in use but, because of the great diamond spots end played East into giving you the contract trick, plus the entry to dummy you require.

Next time we, the writers, need to take away that nine of diamonds from dummy, making your special winning play, not automatic to make.

Readers, like you (and Jim2), make it difficult to get away with errors in analysis, but thanks anyway for setting the record straight, even though it hurts the ego.