Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Youth is a blunder; Manhood a struggle; Old Age a regret.

Benjamin Disraeli

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


In today’s deal when North made an invitational two notrump rebid, South knew that he could deliver his partner seven top tricks. In my opinion the odds favored three no-trump being the best game but at rubber bridge his 150 honors were too much for him, and he bid four spades.

South ducked the lead of the club eight and captured the jack with the ace, then drew trump and knocked out the club queen. East returned the fourth club, leaving declarer to negotiate the red suits.

South made the right first play when he led a diamond up (planning to play the king if West followed small. In fact West hopped up with the ace and shifted to a low heart and South was now confronted by a straightforward decision: which is the right play from dummy?

Most bridge players consider such problems sheer guesses, but South tried to reconstruct West’s hand. That player held four trumps, but had led one of declarer’s suit. He might have opted to play a forcing game, in the hope of making declarer ruff. Why didn’t West do so here, but lead a suit bid by declarer?

It’s easy to see that he didn’t lead a diamond because he held the ace. But surely West would have at least considered leading a heart if he had started with three or four hearts headed by the queen. The most logical reason for West’s failure to lead hearts originally was the same reason that explains his failure to lead a diamond: his hearts were headed by the ace.

New suits are forcing in response to overcalls of weak bids. One must play that way, because otherwise the opponents can interfere fatally with your constructive bidding. It is a good idea that one should never preempt against preempts, and equally, never reserve calls to show weak hands after they preempt against you. So here you can bid two spades and be confident that it is forcing.


♠ A K Q J 10 5
 10 9
♣ A 10 7 5
South West North East
  2 2 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


A.V.Ramana RaoJune 21st, 2016 at 1:34 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
How about the following line? South wins the lead in hand with A ( assuming east plays Q/J ) removes trumps discarding a low club and a diamond from dummy and leads ten of hearts. If west hops up with A, South has easy ten tricks else: suppose east wins – he is end played . If he returns either red card, the tenth trick is developed and if he leads a club- if it is a low club, ten is played from hand and a second heart is led developing tenth trick while having club entry to dummy. & if east leads J of clubs, south gets four club tricks with a marked finesse . ( Since west led eight of clubs which could be either a singleton or a doubleton, life becomes easy for south as he possesses seven- a vital card)

A.V.Ramana RaoJune 21st, 2016 at 1:36 pm

But of course the brilliant psychological inference and play adopted by the original declarer merits commendation


jim2June 21st, 2016 at 2:11 pm

I had similar thoughts, but with diamonds first.

That is, I do not understand playing clubs. In fact, I think the hand is cold after the opening trick.

Declarer draws trump and leads a diamond:

Scenario 1: West hops up AD and leads xH, South mis-guesses, but hand is now cold. Declarer loses AD and two hearts, but now has two club pitches on Board’s last H honor and KD.

Scenario 2: West plays small and declarer plays KD, winning. Hand is now cold, as declarer shifts to clubs, losing at most 2 hearts and one club.

Scenario 3: West plays small and declarer loses 10D to QD. As you noted, East cannot safely return a club, so must lead a red suit. If a heart, declarer loses one heart, one diamond, and one club for ten tricks. So East returns a diamond, and declarer pitches 9H. West wins and now the defense can get a heart, but that is only the third defensive trick. Declarer now has two pitches on Board’s diamonds, so gets 6 spades, 2 diamonds, and 2 clubs.

bobbywolffJune 21st, 2016 at 3:48 pm

Hi AVRR & Jim2,

Together and each in your own way, you have gone perhaps 99% toward this hand being what is often called a laydown, but that other 1% still exists.

After the first 5 tricks (an opening club lead and West now being defanged from his 4 trumps), South now miss-guessing by passing the ten of diamonds to East’s queen. Perhaps East’s best play is the nine of clubs forcing declarer to win the 10 and now lead a heart. Again West ducks and East wins the queen, but now at this point even if South now returns a diamond, South ruffs it and leads his second heart, losing to West’s ace, but establishing dummys king for the single club pitch which is all declarer needs to lose only three tricks.

Jim2 is right, the column is wrong and bridge itself is managing a smile, thinking how astonishing it can be, where no mere mortal can resist its intrigue.

Thank you both, but the trophy goes to Jim2 for rising to the occasion of making his contract although he might have guessed wrong in both red suits. It is all East’s fault for not being dealt the QJ10x of clubs instead of only QJ9x. However even if was, then East, not West needed to hold the ace of hearts since South, no doubt would have then risen with the king of hearts since East would have been sitting with the setting club trick.

And for my next number I am going to pass out. Furthermore, I am not talking about action at the bridge table.

jim2June 21st, 2016 at 5:16 pm

The part that made trivia-loving me smile was that South was dealt three 10s, but the only the one that could be switched for the deuce and the hand still be cold is the one that completed the 150 honors!

jim2June 21st, 2016 at 9:52 pm

Oh, and I HAVE to find lines that succeed when I guess wrong because TOCM ™ means my guesses always become wrong as I make them!

bobbywolffJune 22nd, 2016 at 12:05 pm

Hi Jim2,

“To every season there is a place and purpose under the heaven, ….A time to love and a time to hate; a time of war and a time of peace”….. Ecclesiastes 3 KSV

To such a role has TOCM TM placed you and you have majestically responded with bridge analysis non pareil.

jim2June 22nd, 2016 at 12:23 pm

TY for your kind words, Dear Host!

(On your quotation, I must confess that I remember it more from the Turtle’s song, “Turn, Turn, Turn” written by Pete Seeger, who drew those lines from the source you cited)