Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, January 9th, 2016

Forget your opponents; always play against par.

Sam Snead

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


Given that the solution to today’s deal feels a touch artificial, you may not be entirely surprised to discover that it derives from a very old par contest problem. In those deals you rarely run into a favorable break or a winning finesse, so be warned that if your intended solution might fail, it probably will!

When West leads the diamond king, you can do better than taking the club finesse immediately, planning to ruff a club in dummy. That is a perfectly reasonable line; after losing the club finesse you would regain the lead and would draw two rounds of trump with the ace and king then hope to ruff out the clubs. But the lie of the cards is very hostile to that approach, and today you would go down like a stone.

Instead, the solution is to focus on dummy’s delicious spade spots. At trick two your shortage of entries to dummy means that you must cash the second diamond winner, unblocking your spade ace. Next lead out the spade queen and discard a club from hand. It will not do West any good to duck this (there are lies of the cards where if West had four spades it might help to duck the first two spades then win the third and lead a fourth to kill a discard, but not today). As it is, he wins the spade king at once but cannot stop you coming to 12 tricks via three spades, six hearts and three minor suit winners.

Whether the opponents have intervened — with a bid or a double — or stayed silent, responder’s jumps at his second turn are invitational. Your singleton heart is not a bad holding given your fourth trump, and partner must have shape or he would have passed the double. So you are worth a jump to three clubs now.


♠ K 3 2
 Q J 10 8 2
♣ K 10 8 4
South West North East
    1 ♣ Pass
1 Dbl. 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitJanuary 23rd, 2016 at 10:38 am

It’s very important to win the DK at trick one, not the A. Then cash the DA and pitch the SA. Pitching an A on an A is something you can talk about for days, no, years to come.

Bobby WolffJanuary 23rd, 2016 at 3:47 pm

Hi David,

I’m not really surprised to learn of your attachment to the symmetries of bridge (discarding an ace on ace) since far back in time, when I first learned bridge bidding from Ely Culbertson one of his contentions was that subject “The Law of Symmetry”, mainly when there was one singleton king lurking (around the table) on a particular hand there was likely a second one (at least more than the percentages would indicate).

In the day and the many bridge articles monthly in popular magazines like Cosmopolitan many of them emphasized par contests. You, like I, would have loved them, since puzzles and riddles seemed to take the place of today’s emphasis on crime and violence.

However now TV has long since replaced magazines as the “newer” culture, but believe it or not, I still prefer thinking the logic of bridge more challenging making “old dogs not learning new tricks” still applicable.

However, in today’s column I still bemoan the queen of diamonds, within the prose, being referred to as the “king”.

Thanks for allowing me a trip down “memory lane”.

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en todos lados.