Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

Better to be occasionally cheated than perpetually suspicious.

B. C. Forbes

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


In today’s deal, the answer to the question of whether you trust East or West more may well affect your line of play on the deal.

Declaring three no-trump you receive the lead of the spade five. First (easy) question: which spade do you play from dummy?

The correct answer is that declarer must play low from dummy to ensure himself a spade stopper. Should he play the king, he may lose his stopper if East can win and return the suit to his partner’s Q-10. So you play low and East wins the spade ace, then returns the spade six. You are forced to win dummy’s king as West follows with the seven. What now?

Finding the club queen dropping in two rounds is necessary but not sufficient. Which red suit should you play at trick three? If spades are 4-4, go after hearts, if 5-3, take the diamond finesse, then use the club seven as the entry to repeat the finesse.

The answer is to play on diamonds, not hearts, because of the spade spots played at trick two. The key issue is that that the missing spade five and two suggest spades were originally 5-3 not 4-4. Had West followed with the spade two at trick two he would have given the game away, wouldn’t he? And note that had East managed to return his LOW spade from his remaining doubleton, you might well have gone wrong. It was far easier for West to lie than East.

In context, your fivepoint hand has grown in stature. You didn’t act over one heart, but had the club two been the queen you would have come in at your first turn. Indeed, this hand is almost enough to bid four clubs now. I understand bidding only three clubs, but have a nagging feeling that partner must have a good hand here, and so you may well have decent play for game. I’ll go low, but it is close.


♠ K 8
 Q 8 2
 7 4 2
♣ 7 5 4 3 2
South West North East
Pass 1 Dbl. 1
Pass 2 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJanuary 19th, 2016 at 12:39 pm

Hi Bobby,

A pity for West that the S4 and S2 wern’t reversed (the absence of the 2 in the first 2 tricks shows something fishy even if East returns the S4, as you note) but maybe West could try leading the spade 2 at T1, especially opposite a partner who tends to return the opening lead in seacrh of the quiet life.



jim2January 19th, 2016 at 1:52 pm

While the column and Iain are talking about spade spots, I might mention the cunning of the hand composer to give North the 8S.

(Swap the 8S for either the 6S, 5S, or the 3S and you will see what I mean)

Bobby WolffJanuary 19th, 2016 at 2:12 pm

Hi Iain,

You, once again, by your rhetoric, have accurately summarized a more common than realized, chance for a clever defense against even a top flight declarer.

However, in order to fool a suburb declarer, West would have had to start with a lie, while playing 4th highest leads (the most common form of leading and for many yeas) he would have needed to lead the deuce, not the five and then East would complete the bridge seduction by leading back his lowest the four (showing four spades instead of the three he actually had).

This combination of effort by those two wily defenders would no doubt (after the queen of clubs was dropped) would (should) cause even a perceptive declarer to conservatively knock out the ace of hearts and intend to score up five clubs, two hearts, one spade and the game going trick the ace of diamonds without having to risk the diamond finesse.

All together a brilliant defensive gambit brought about by legal deception of the highest order by a very talented EW duo.

Of course, Iain, your description of poor East just returning his partner’s opening lead, in the interest of pleasing partner (who generally likes his opening lead suits returned while defending NT).

However your mention of the word quiet would be a considerable underbid when the dummy, North, would no doubt have thrown everything at his partner, including the kitchen sink, when he, along with his naive partner, would confess to being taken in by the stealth (though indeed beautiful and totally legal)) of his very talented opponents.

At least to me, the above hand, if defended in that manner, would indeed be a glorious episode in the saga of just how great a game we all love (at least to attempt) to play, can be.

And thanks for calling it to our attention, since at the table declarer should have, and did, play it the right way.

Bobby WolffJanuary 19th, 2016 at 2:30 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, as always, you have spotted a play by East of implying that by his holding the eight of spades instead of the lowly six he would have inserted it in preference to rising with the ace.

No doubt most readers will now realize that East could have withheld his ace anyway by merely underplaying his six under the dummy’s eight and then if declarer selects a hoped for 4-4 break (instead of what happened, 5-3) he will also go down.

Sure he could, but then the evidence would be different and we will never know which direction this declarer would select.

All just another testament to why bridge is, at least IMO, far and away the greatest mind game ever invented, if, for no other reason, all the competitive variables which appear to be ever present.

Thanks to you for your constant awareness of what could constitute what Paul Harvey, a late and great conservative popular Newscaster from the USA, used to announce as, “The Rest of the Story”.

And to all others, are you listening David?, who also often contribute mightily to keeping us on our toes and hopefully, off of yours.

Bobby WolffJanuary 19th, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Hi Jim2,

And I, in my rush to judgment with Jim2’s comment, totally overlooked a likely other reason for a switch between dummy’s spade eight with East’s spade six.

By such a switch and of course then the play of the eight (over dummy’s six) would keep a dummy entry absent, thus disable declarer from taking two diamond finesses, making the hand impossible to score up legitimately.

Please excuse my denseness in being so late in recognizing that likely primary intended meaning by Jim2.

jim2January 19th, 2016 at 3:06 pm


Iain ClimieJanuary 19th, 2016 at 4:07 pm

Hi folks,

As an afterthought, it is a very good hand for reverse attitude signals – just play the S4 at T1 and wait for your next chance.


Jeff SJanuary 19th, 2016 at 4:45 pm

Jim2, you threw out this intriguing post a few weeks back – but then never gave us the full story! Don’t you think we’ve waited long enough? 🙂

“Had a “bridge column hand” at the table yesterday.




With opponents silent, you land gently in 6S. The opening lead is a smallish club. How do you play?”

Bobby WolffJanuary 19th, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Hi Jeff S,

I wasn’t asked, but I don’t want to let the club ride, but rather take the ace and give up a heart with the idea of trumping one in dummy and throwing 2 on the AK of diamonds and navigating between hands with a club ruff.

For details, the AK of diamonds should be cashed before an opportunity is afforded an opponent to discard a diamond, who may be relatively short in both red suits. On the third heart led from hand a choice needs to be made on whether to ruff with the ace or the nine (assuming that the opponents have not switched to a spade when in with a heart).

Nothing spectacular involved, but this line perhaps measures up to at least 50%.

TedJanuary 19th, 2016 at 6:42 pm

The lead of the spade 2 gives East a real problem. If it is legitimate, then a switch to diamonds playing partner for at least Q10x and 4 spades to the J may be the best way to beat the contract.

David WarheitJanuary 19th, 2016 at 7:13 pm

Yes, I am listening. Now your turn: can you answer my question from yesterday, please?

jim2January 19th, 2016 at 8:02 pm

I do not know how the hand was played at the table. I was the Board hand and excused myself from the table. The result was down one, but I do not know how it was actually played. The only thing I know about the defenders’ hands was that trump were 2-2 with the JS in the pocket.

Bobby WolffJanuary 20th, 2016 at 2:44 am

Hi David,

I have now answered your question of yesterday which is now up on the site.

Sorry for the delay but I did play in the local duplicate today, so I haven’t been that disloyal.
Perhaps to you, but not to the game.