Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 18th, 2016

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.

Andy Warhol

E North
None ♠ A J 10 4
 Q 5 2
 A J 3
♣ A Q 4
West East
♠ 8 7 5 2
 9 6 4
 9 7 6 4
♣ J 10
♠ K Q 9 6
 K Q 8
♣ K 9 8 6 3
♠ 3
 A K J 10 7 3
 10 5 2
♣ 7 5 2
South West North East
      1 ♣
2 Pass 4 All pass


In today’s deal you reach four hearts, after preempting to two hearts at your first turn. When dummy comes down you observe that you have nine top tricks and require a 10th. There is a very simple plan that is essentially guaranteed to produce that critical extra trick. You should rise with the club ace and draw trump ending in hand, discarding the spade four from dummy if necessary. Then lead the spade three and cover West’s card as cheaply as possible.

Suppose the full deal is similar to the one set out here. East will win the spade 10 with the queen, but what can he do next? A spade return gives you the required trick immediately. The same is true if he exits with a club into dummy’s tenace. His best hope is to try either the diamond king or queen, which you will allow to hold. At that point, even a diamond continuation is fatal for the defense.

Note that you should duck the diamond honor, in case East has ingeniously shifted to an unsupported honor. If that were the case and you won the first diamond, West would get back on lead with a diamond and could now defeat the contract by reverting to clubs.

Note; it is indeed true that your partner might have done better to bid three no-trump instead of raising to four hearts. I’m sure he will think more seriously about stealing the contract the next time this situation arises, if you miss the winning play here.

If I had to guess where to go for tricks, it would be in spades. I’d seriously consider underleading the spade ace, since dummy rates to be very strong, so long as I’m playing with a partner who can take a joke. If not, I’ll settle for the mundane fourth-highest club; at least that way my partner won’t shout at me.


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


David WarheitAugust 1st, 2016 at 10:48 am

I did not see your line of play but instead adopted a line of play which is pretty close to a sure thing, possibly but not necessarily failing if the CJ is singleton or if E has 3 H. Duck the CJ. W now leads to trick 2. If he leads a H or another C, win the CA & 2 H tricks, keeping the Q in dummy. Now lead a C & E is endplayed. If W leads a S at trick 2, win the A & 2 H tricks, leaving the Q in dummy, and play CA then CQ, endplaying E. If W leads a D at trick 2, duck, win the H return and a 2d H and then endplay E either with A and another D or A and another C. Your line of play gets an A, mine only a B-, although mine works just as well on the actual lie of the cards.

bobbywolffAugust 1st, 2016 at 12:45 pm

Hi David,

Between you and me, whichever of our lines wins the theoretical medal, your bringing it up is most helpful.

Why? Very simply the wannabe good player can better see card combinations in action, with forcing one’s worthy opponents to lead 1st and 3rd instead of 2nd and 4th to key tricks, but first, if possible, eliminating suits to which they will show no disadvantage, thereby demanding only a Hobson’s choice from them, which usually, if not always, benefit the declarer.

Today’s hand is unusual in that declarer makes use of all three side suits after extracting trump and even is willing to create a loser in one of his suits, to which the naked eye sees none, in order to get two back in return.

It is sometimes said by sleight of hand artists, “the hand is quicker than the eye”, and although no one can really doubt that truth, the eye seems to be better connected to the brain, since when learning, and it is all presented right in front of one’s vision, it seems to become powerfully remembered.

By your analysis and then post, you call attention to alternate ways to get the job done, never a waste of time, especially in the learning curve of an aspiring bridge expert to be.

bobbywolffAugust 1st, 2016 at 1:06 pm

Hi again David,

BTW, I erred when I didn’t put the 10 of clubs in East’s hand instead of West, allowing declarer to possibly misplay the hand (win the diamond king but have West possessing the queen) but still make it, because of the defensive club blockage.

The above only points out to me how fiercely the bridge gods fight the players to check for minute details before attempting to play the game, much less teach the students.

jim2August 1st, 2016 at 1:15 pm

If West plays the 2S do you play the 4S from dummy?

bobbywolffAugust 1st, 2016 at 1:37 pm

Hi Jim2,

I hope not, but what an awful break to have both the singleton 3 with South and the 2 with West.

After re-reading my above apology to David, I appear to be catching TOCM TM but containing a different virus which specializes in minutiae.

Jane AAugust 1st, 2016 at 2:17 pm

North could easily bid three NT as you suggested and I believe this would have been your choice. Of course you are the world expert so I would expect nothing less! We peons have to be brave enough to try it.

With east opening, and hopefully your partner not psyching a two heart call, three NT looks like the place to be. East can’t really do a thing about it. Everything he leads gives you a trick.

Thanks for the interesting hand and analysis, as usual.

bobbywolffAugust 1st, 2016 at 2:32 pm

Hi Jane A.

You are, as usual, right on track.

However, the play of 3NT, particularly at IMPs, will not interest even the author, making the phrase, born dead, come to life.

Sometimes, we need unimaginative bidding to result in scintillating play. How’s that for promoting a blah column?

And BTW, thanks for your always very kind words.

Bob BordenAugust 1st, 2016 at 7:20 pm


I don’t think you have to hold up on the diamond return.
You can play the ace of spades, pitching a club and then return a diamond.

The last time I underlead the ace in the LWTA problem, I found
partner with Qx behind dummy’s KJx and declarer naturally went wrong, partner returned the suit and then got his ruff. Neither partner nor either opponent said a single word.


bobbywolffAugust 1st, 2016 at 10:17 pm

Hi Bob,

Yes, you are right about winning the diamond and taking your spade ace discard before establishing your 2nd diamond trick. Blind spot on my part.

No doubt by underleading the ace of spades and finding the right combination will cause silence. The same silence on the defensive part when, by doing so it gives the declarer a key extra trick at duplicate or even the contract at IMPs.

However since the king of spades figures to be in dummy, although still a risk, that fact alone might be a good excuse to at least attempt to take advantage of it. Kudos to you for having it work.