Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, June 6th, 2016

As soon as you see a mistake and don’t fix it, it becomes your mistake.


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


Today’s deal came up in a duplicate club in New York. It was sent in to me by the professional sitting North, who did not want to embarrass his client by identifying himself any further.

North drove to three no-trump when South balanced with one no-trump over one heart, showing 11-15 points. (In balancing seat the range is less than a strong no-trump: with that hand one doubles.)

When the heart five was, led South called for the six and took East’s nine with the ten. When he led a club, West wasted no time in hopping up with the ace, cashing the heart ace and playing the heart jack. Later he got in on the diamond ace and cashed two hearts for the one trick set.

The problem on the deal came at trick one. Declarer must make the counter-intuitive move of rising with the heart queen, since he can place West with the three missing aces from the auction, and he needs to ensure he can preserve his three heart stoppers. Now he can drive out the minor suit aces with impunity, because West’s subsequent attack on hearts is neutralized.

The same logic would apply if declarer had a doubleton heart queen in hand facing K-10-fourth in hand. He should not finesse the 10 at the first trick, but should run the lead round to his doubleton honor, planning to finesse the 10 if a low heart comes back from West later on.

East’s decision to blast slam without using Blackwood suggests a void – so he rates to have a two or threesuited hand. You could make a good case for a passive trump, a diamond from the sequence (which is relatively unlikely to cost the setting trick) or the club ace. I’ll go for the diamond jack, and start preparing my apologies in advance.


♠ 9 7 3
 10 8 4 2
 J 10 6
♣ A 5 4
South West North East
    Pass 1 ♠
Pass 4 ♠ Pass 6 ♠
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


bruce karlsonJune 20th, 2016 at 11:27 am

I used to work knocking heads with IBM in NYC then dominating the computer business. Its slogan was “Think”; ours was “Think again!” That idea is frequently apt in bridge and today’s hand is an example. Had declarer done that, the play of the Q would be easy. Perhaps that is an add on axiom to the well worn one that often contracts are lost by rote or careless play at the first trick.

bobby wolffJune 20th, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Hi Bruce,

All of the above!

If one is interested in breaking down the featured card combination. all great players, and either past or future are or will be, the answer lies in the solidity of (in this case) the prime defender’s opening led suit. From his perspective, partner’s nine. plus his jack eight created that force and the combination of his industry plus declarer’s “not thinking nor thinking again” resulted in creating the setting trick.

It either is as easy as careful thinking can sometimes be, or as difficult to impossible as errant sloth, but bridge, being the thinking man’s game that it is, will become as devilish as necessary to prove who and what is in control.

“Speak softly, but carry a big stick, was once said, I think, by former President, Teddy Roosevelt
and although he was referring to quite different action, it also applies at bridge in “no trump”.

Thanks for reminding us.