Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, February 8th, 2016

Thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting.

Book of Daniel

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


Today’s deal is from a matchpoint pair event, where the field was of very varied standard. There were quite a few worldclass professionals, playing with clients, and the clients who sat South had to face an awkward decision in four hearts.

How many declarers do you think actually brought home their game here? At my table I led the club jack to the queen, king and ace, and the contract was now makeable with careful play. However, declarer ruffed a club, crossed to hand with the diamond king and ruffed another club. That was over-ruffed, and from here on in there was no way to avoid the loss of two more clubs and the heart ace for down one.

Declarer had failed to look at the club spots. The eight-sevensix had become equals against my 10-9, so the simplest pan at trick two would have been to ruff the club two in dummy, draw trump and concede two clubs to establish the 10th trick.

However there was one more trap to avoid. If declarer takes the club ruff at once, West can win the heart ace and gives partner a club over-ruff, and declarer is sunk again.

The point is that declarer is only looking for one club ruff — so he can afford to play a trump at trick two. West wins, and has no winning defense. Declarer takes the return, ruffs the club two, then draws trump and sets up the extra club winner for his 10th winner.

And the answer to my question? No declarer brought home four hearts here.

The choice is whether to lead trump (I think not, because the spade jack might play an important role on defense) or to open up a red suit. My best guess would be to lead hearts rather than diamonds. The likelihood of partner having neither missing top heart seems smaller than that a lead from the broken diamond suit will cost a trick or tempo.


♠ J
 K J 8 7 6
 J 9 7 3
♣ Q 4 2
South West North East
Pass 1 ♣ Dbl. 1 ♠
3 3 ♠ All 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 ClimieFebruary 22nd, 2016 at 9:09 pm

Hi Bobby,

Today’s hand raises a horrible thought about computer analysis; a small club lead double dummy is more effective. If Computer scientists get the program to have a sense of humour, it would wind us all up by asking what was wrong with leading the 4th highest club. Be afraid, be very afraid!



TedFebruary 22nd, 2016 at 10:00 pm

Hi Bobby,

Today’s hand is also a good example of the difference between matchpoints and IMPs. Declarer’s line makes 5 if clubs split 4-3, so it’s not surprising no one brought home 4 hearts.

bobbywolffFebruary 23rd, 2016 at 7:14 pm

Hi Iain,

Your post makes me remember, “2001, a Space Odyssey” where Hal, the name of the computer, went wild with evil.

Al Roth, the famous American bridge player, used to wax eloquent on deciding on leading the fourth best from KJ1054 instead of the taught jack or even sometimes the 4 from AKQ43 when that suit had been bid by RHO
(catering to Jx with partner). Of course those leads were only suggested verses NT not suits.

Apprehensive yes, afraid no.

bobbywolffFebruary 23rd, 2016 at 9:51 pm

Hi Ted,

Seemingly, so many hands, both offensively and defensively turn on such minute details (often intermediate spots) impossible to predict in the bidding.

Obviously middle spot cards are better than twos and threes, but not often enough to seriously consider when first faced your thirteen cards.

All the more reason for longer matches and allowing for playing luck to balance. In truth, world rank of any and everyone involved be determined accurately because of first the era, next the quality of the competition, and, of course the number of years playing in major tournaments.

However, all bridge or any other competitive sport do is manufacture guesses as to who or what team appeared to play whatever competition better than others. And how about the present curse, cheating?

How can that possibly be factored in to get a result worth even reporting, much less relying.

The above emphasizes, at least to me, how evil cheating at high level bridge really is and how it should be dealt with, if caught.

Please excuse my emotional rant to your simple question which had little to do with your above subject.