Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

One should never marry a man who doesn’t own a decent set of scissors.

Gillian Flynn

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


The judicious application of scissors would have seen the declarers home on today’s hand, but both Souths missed their chance for the unkindest cut of all.

The two Souths played four spades, and at each table West led the heart queen. The first South rose with dummy’s ace then cashed the trump ace and king, being disappointed to find the 3-1 break. Next came the club ace, followed by a diamond to the king. Had West held the diamond ace or had diamonds broken 3-3, declarer would have made 10 tricks. As it was, East won, and played a low heart to West’s nine. West continued with the trump queen, and now declarer had no entry to dummy’s clubs for diamond discards.

At the other table, after winning the heart lead, just one round of trump was cashed before South played a diamond to the king. East won; now West ruffed the diamond return, played a heart to East’s king, and the second diamond ruff sank the game.

Declarer here was on the right track, but after drawing just one round of trump, had he exited with his second heart – the Scissors Coup – communications between the defenders would have been cut.

Declarer could subsequently have gone about his business, in the knowledge that West could obtain a maximum of one ruff – and that with a trick to which he was entitled anyway. Of course ducking the first heart is almost as good. Even if the defenders take a ruff, the contract will only go down if one defender has a singleton spade and diamond.

After the negative double, South has no especially accurate continuation. A call of two clubs strongly suggests six, or an unbalanced hand, and a call in either red suit is obviously unacceptable. So what is left, given that a pass is not on the agenda? The answer: rebid one no-trump, showing a balanced hand. What is a full spade stopper between friends?


♠ J 6 3
 A 2
 K 8 6
♣ K Q 8 4 3
South West North East
1 ♣ 1 ♠ Dbl. 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 WarheitSeptember 20th, 2016 at 11:41 am

When I first read your analysis, I thought that you had made a mistake in not saying that S should cash the CA before exiting with a heart, but then, try as I did, I couldn’t see any distribution of the opponents’ hands where this would matter, except for one: if W is 2-5-5-1 and holding the DA, in which case you shouldn’t cash the CA. Of course, the chances that W holds that precise hand is somewhere about 0.1%, or probably even less.

Bobby WolffSeptember 20th, 2016 at 4:19 pm

Hi David,

Yes and whether you know it or not, I appreciate your keen analysis on this site. My reasons for it is similar to my vision of the 19th hole in golf, where many golfers review their rounds with others under relaxed circumstances and with aspiring young ones treating them as learning experiences, such as, which club to use and/or even what strategy to follow (usually shooting for the pin or just laying up).

In bridge there are often so many options to follow, even figured geometrically not just arithmetically.

The only negative I can think of is when a player, usually not a bidder, because of the possibility of conveying unauthorized information, but either a declarer or a defender, in an effort to, if you will excuse the expression, not miss a trick, and while at the table during the play, will take an infinite amount of time, sometimes necessary to be (in his mind) thorough, that process goes from very interesting to simply very selfish, in making the other three wait too long for him to decide.

Like many things in life, in bridge, there is a time to think and a time to play, but even though bridge, unlike chess, (with its clocks), could be classified as a “thinking man’s game” especially at the highest levels, the amount of time taken needs to be considered, before it segues over to being rude and selfish, therefore negative rather than positive.

However the above problem on this site lends itself to just what you provide, an attempt at analytical perfection and over time, you have proven (at least to me) yourself our leader, at least with frequency (with Jim2 and Iain, each with their clever, but dissimilar senses of humor) close behind.

Lajos HajduSeptember 21st, 2016 at 12:35 am

Dear Mr. Wolff,
I think the natural way of play of an (semi)advanced player is cashing the C A then two rounds of trumps and seeing the limited possibilities of reach the dummy it is logical to lead diamond from his hand. East can wait with his ace or run with the A and give a ruff to his partner (a natural winning card, the S Q, but E-W is limited to a spade, a diamond and a heart trick. Or am I not right?

May I have an other question about a bidding situation? If yes, please let me know.
Lajos Hajdu

BobliptonSeptember 21st, 2016 at 1:11 am

Not a terrible line of play, Lajos, but east can hold up his diamond ace until the third round, the play a second heart to west’ jack. West then cashes his good trump and exits with a third heart.

Personally, I would duck the first heart and money or IMPs. What I would do at Matchpoints or Board-a-Match is go down.


Bobby WolffSeptember 21st, 2016 at 4:40 am

Hi Lajos,

Bob tells it true when he ducks the first heart to sever defensive communication, enabling South to take two rounds of trump, but when the diamond king is taken by the ace, East can gain the lead when East underleads his good king, but by doing so West can make his high trump very useful cutting declarer off from this good clubs. In some ways the heart duck is like a scissors coup which is intended to do just what happened in the column hand.

Yes, by all means let us hear from you about your bidding situation.

Bobby WolffSeptember 21st, 2016 at 4:49 am

Hi Bob,

I agree with you that going down on this hand at pairs is fairly normal since, by winning the first heart, if the queen of spades falls either singleton or doubleton declarer will make 12 tricks plus some other holdings will also allow game to be made even if the queen of spades does not fall.

Some intelligent and experienced players like this feature about matchpoints, but not I, since greed is necessary when one of the salient and great features of our original game, called rubber bridge, is to be able to play hands safely to insure the contract rather than artificially create a gamble which most times have very little to do with skill, but much to do with lady luck.

However, “to each his own” said the woman as she kissed her pet cow.

Lajos HajduSeptember 21st, 2016 at 8:42 pm

At a club event we got the hands shown. 5 Clubs is a lay out but nobody bid it. My club mates asked me to help them but I wasn’t able to give them any ‘scientific’ tip how to reach this 100% contract. The silence of the opponents can not justify missing a game. There must be a way, what do you say?
12.) N-S vuln.
1♠ p 1NT p
3♣ ? ?

♠ KQJ92
♡ AQ84
♢ 84
♣ 53
♠ AT654 ♠ ︂8
♡ 6 ♡ T72
♢AK6 ♢ QJ75
♣ QJ64 ♣ KT872
♠ 73
♡ KJ953
♢ T932
♣ Á9

Lajos HajduSeptember 21st, 2016 at 8:59 pm

Hi Bob,
Very sorry for the terribly tatty diagram. If I could get an e-mail address I would probably be better.

Thanks and regards


Bobby WolffSeptember 22nd, 2016 at 1:48 pm

Hi Lajos,

My loving and cooperative wife, Judy, will send you a connecting email to me in a day or two, allowing me to answer your bidding problem.

Sorry for the delay, but several factors make the above necessary.

Good luck to you and I will attempt to give you an informative reply, at least the best I can do.