Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 4th, 2016

Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best, removes all that is base.

George S. Patton

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


Today’s deal saw a fine duel between declarer and the defense. Both North and South appeared to have something in hand for their bidding, and the final contract was an excellent one. But despite trumps breaking favorably there were only nine top tricks. After the lead of the club queen, declarer was threatened with losing four tricks in the minor suits via a club overruff.

South crossed the first hurdle when he ducked the club queen, thereby neatly cutting the defenders’ communications in that suit. West continued with a club to the ace, and back came a low spade. Reluctant to commit himself immediately to the club ruff, declarer first took a diamond finesse. Now East won this with the queen and subtly returned the spade 10. When the nine appeared from West, declarer decided that the spade jack rated to be to his left, so a club ruff in dummy looked safe. He unblocked the heart ace and tried to ruff his club in dummy, planning to ditch his potential fourth diamond on the heart king. East could overruff in clubs, and that was down one.

Had East not false-carded in trumps, declarer might conceivably have found the winning line of cashing the heart ace and playing two more rounds of diamonds, ending in dummy. This would work whenever diamonds split, or when the player with three trumps had long diamonds.

Overall, I think declarer followed the percentage line, since clubs certainly rated to break decently more often than diamonds – but East certainly helped push him in the wrong direction.

Your plan was only to invite game had East passed. But since a call of three hearts here would now be at best a constructive hand, not a real invitation, you must jump to four hearts. The combination of your fifth trump, and all your cards working well facing likely spade shortage, means this is hardly an overbid.


♠ J 9 4
 Q J 8 4 3
 Q 10 9
♣ A 6
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Dbl. 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


bruce karlsonJune 18th, 2016 at 6:46 pm

Agree that declarer did well to duck the opening lead. Even absent that analysis, I do not put up the king unless I want West to be stuck for a lead later in the hand. There are sometimes rewards for that routine play (ace dropping by E). Is that sound bridge??

bobby wolffJune 18th, 2016 at 9:42 pm

Hi Bruce,

Methinks a better description of what might be called sound bridge, is more accurately called a tactical move. Yes, East might have a singleton ace, or West may be making the one time in a thousand of his leading the queen from ace queen (more likely ace queen jack) against a suit contract.

While doing so, against a NT contract, is hum drum (meaning often) but to do such a thing against a suit, would only be led by either a bridge genius (intended deception while strongly expecting the king to appear in dummy) or more likely, rank beginners.

Understanding (or at least making an attempt) how bridge is originally taught and how that learning is eventually filtered through the minds of later rising stars in the game, allows those developing players to understand the routine situations then enabling them to be, shall we say, morally certain of where specific cards will be without either playing with transparent cards, nor stealing a peak while an opponent gets careless with his card holding.

All the above is intended to say, yes, you are correct, but at the same time, give you a history of what has probably happened bridge wise as time has flown by.

It is good to hear from you again and please do not be gone from here for so long in the future.