Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, February 13th, 2016

The first step towards amendment is the recognition of error.


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


In today’s deal South could not stand to sell out over the intervention to his partner’s two club opener. When he heard his partner raise four spades to five, this asked for a club control, and with a club void South felt he had to accept the invitation.

When West led the heart queen, declarer counted 11 top tricks. If trumps were 2-1, the 12th trick could come most easily by ruffing a heart in dummy. However, if trumps were 3-0, the route to the slam-going trick would be through establishing dummy’s diamonds.

Once West turned up with three trumps, the risk of an overruff on the third round of diamonds, should West have only a doubleton, was a real one. But declarer could see nothing better. When he played the diamond ace-king and ruffed a diamond, West was able to overruff, leaving declarer with a heart loser. At the table South was justifiably able to bemoan his bad luck.

However, there was an elegant solution South had overlooked. Win the first heart in hand with the king and a play a trump to the queen. When East shows out, declarer leads the club queen from table and discards a diamond on East’s king.

After a diamond return, dummy can win and South can ruff a diamond low in hand, draw trump with the ace and king and a further diamond is ruffed in hand. Finally, the heart ace is the entry to the board to run the remaining diamonds. Declarer ends up taking seven trump tricks, two hearts and three diamonds.

It would be easy to pass, looking at your absence of aces and kings, but the key to deciding whether to compete to the three-level is your fifth trump. When you bid three hearts you deny having a game try, since with that hand you would bid three clubs or three diamonds (or four hearts!). Such competitive deals are easier to judge if you play support doubles, so that partner’s raise promises four trump.


♠ J 5 4
 Q J 10 8 5
 Q J
♣ 4 3 2
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 Dbl. 2 2 ♠

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


Mircea1February 27th, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Hi Bobby,

What an elegant solution, indeed! I wish I saw it, but not yet. Thanks to this blog and your generosity in providing advice and encouragements to aspiring players (and not only) I might see it someday.

Is there a name for this play? If not, we should register it as “the elegant play”.

Iain ClimieFebruary 27th, 2016 at 3:03 pm

Hi Bobby,

The play today is a small but useful extra chance, but what if east has another heart to return and leads it when in? Is it then best to play for D3-3 or for West to have 4+ diamonds and 4 hearts?



bobbywolffFebruary 27th, 2016 at 6:31 pm

Hi Mircea1,

The name of the elegance is usually not as important (and BTW I do not know a name for it) as the unusual nature of bridge and its so called trading even steven for losers.

Beginners start out thinking Ax opposite a singleton is no losers and of course, at least on the surface that is true, but if the overall hand lends itself to ducking (lets imagine the lead of the king) in return for strategically discarding on that now blank ace one loser from xxx opposite AKxxx. The gain of course is keeping RHO (assuming declarer) from getting on lead to lead through a vulnerable king or even other holdings which may disrupt.

IOW, trading off losers is a big time thing in high-level bridge which to a relative novice doesn’t make sense at first, but if he is urged and thus empowered to get the concept, that person then has a chance to excel. Without that thrust it is extremely unlikely he will ever progress beyond the high card wins group.

At least to me, the above concept and several more like it are not difficult to understand and thus many levels of intelligence can easily grasp it, but the game of bridge demands it, otherwise as Shakespeare may have said, “his bridge life is bound for shallows and miseries”.

Bridge is full of “once learned, never forgotten,” admonitions, but total concentration is necessary and that may be thought, but likely not proved, that females, since, at least their old life was traditional with many family (children), household and domestic duties could not concentrate on only the multi varied game of bridge as well as men, when as warriors in the stone age, often loss of concentration meant the meat he was hunting had suddenly won the battle, leaving him or at least willing his male children to never lose the intense concentration necessary to save his life and then later on (quite a few years later) to become very good in bridge.

Thanks for the kind words and never underrate yourself, you will not only survive, but instead keep on getting better and better with playing our delightful, but very challenging pastime.

bobbywolffFebruary 27th, 2016 at 6:39 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes. of course, when West does lead a heart instead of partner’s suit, his lead threatens the declarer master plan. But, probably one reason for choosing a heart lead was the safety of that overall holding, both solid and the 5 card holding boded well for the offense to not being able to set up an extra long heart for a key trick.

However once that key entry to dummy’s later good diamonds disappears the declarer is then relegated to lesser successful strategies and other battle plans (assuming there is a winning one available) are then substituted.

ArunFebruary 29th, 2016 at 1:23 pm

Thank you for the very nice hand. Its hands like these that bring joy to the players and readers.

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