Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 25th, 2016

For all your days be prepared, and meet them ever alike. When you are the anvil, bear — when you are the hammer, strike.

Edwin Markham

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



Since the defenders have the advantage of being on lead to trick one, they can strike the first blow, even if that blow is often wrongly aimed.

When the board first appeared in a head-to-head match, one table had a relatively easy time of things in three no-trump. When after South opened one diamond, it deterred West from leading a diamond. After a club lead, declarer could dislodge the heart king in safety.

However, a minority of duplicate players espouse the 12-14 one no-trump opening, which was the case at the other table. Now West led a low diamond to the king, and back came the diamond eight. Now put yourself in declarer’s position. If diamonds are breaking 4-4, there will be no problem. The defenders can come to at most three diamond tricks, plus the heart king, if that card is poorly located. The distribution to guard against is running into 5-3 diamonds, with the heart king over the ace.

If you rise with the queen or jack at trick two, West will duck. When the heart finesse loses, the diamond return through South’s remaining jack-nine will give the race to the defenders.

The solution is to play the nine on the second round of diamonds. West wins with the 10, but the defensive communications have been cut. The defenders can take three diamonds and the heart king, but no more.

Incidentally, if the heart king and ace are interchanged, the problem for declarer of whether to play a diamond honor at trick two is considerably more complex.

You can be almost certain that dummy is going to have short diamonds. Declarer rates to be 5-5 or so in the minors, and will need diamond ruffs in dummy, so lead a trump and rely on being able to kill the ruffs. Declarer may be able to pitch his heart losers on dummy’s spades, but if so the tricks rate to come back in the form of slow diamond winners.


♠ 10 6 5 2
 Q 7 5 3
 Q 9
♣ K 5 3
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Dbl. 2
2 Pass Pass 3 ♣
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


Iain ClimieAugust 8th, 2016 at 7:48 pm

Hi Bobby,

A couple of stray thoughts here. If South had DAxxx on this hand, holding up the high card until the 3rd round would be easy; ironically the principle is the same with DQJ9x. If South did play the Q, though, and West ducked, what do the defenders say to each other if West had DKJ98 and South had AQ Kxx Qxx Kxxxx? South had to play the D Queen and hope for blockage or mixup but how can such disasters be avoided? Should East return the Jack but then what does West do to avoid blockage and read the positoin – or is it just one of those things?



bobbywolffAugust 8th, 2016 at 8:48 pm

Hi Iain,

Not just West having KJ98, but what about East having AK876 and, of course, the king of hearts to go with.

Unlikely for West to lead blindly from 10xx but always possible, depending on the meaning of the specific bidding sequence, ending in 3NT.

Whether East should return the jack of diamonds while holding the KJ98 is open for discussion as is the rather large elephant which frequents many bridge tables when close situations rule the day.

That element has to do with high-level ethics, since bridge (especially at the top) has to deal with many different types of card combinations, some of which may take more time than usual to figure out which is best.

So when one is selected after a significant BIT (break in tempo) will, if the opening leader then guesses right after his partner’s actual holding meets with defensive success, will some some distraught opponent yell foul in the form of the study suggesting that holding as against a slower or sometimes faster tempo would not?

No doubt there will be room for argument and anyone involved in influencing that committee decision may determine who wins the whole event. However, better get ready for that type of conundrum to occur, since it is not rare that those types of defensive problems appear often at the table.

Of course, what did happen, in the absence of any clear cut tells, should prevail, but do not rule out the politics du jour (who one knows) to be the key factor.

Yes, it could be called just one of those things, but not always a trip to the Stars on Gossamer wings.