Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

Pessimism… is, in brief, playing the sure game… It is the only view of life in which you can never be disappointed.

Thomas Hardy

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


As declarer, it is a sound philosophy when in a good contract, to consider which distributions might lead to problems, then to plan how to deal with them.

With a real bust and three or four trumps North would have issued a second negative of three clubs, rather than raise directly. So South could jump to six spades – knowing that even if there was no heart control in dummy he could surely ruff his clubs good, if necessary.

When West led a top diamond, declarer saw that if either clubs or trumps broke, he would make at least 12 tricks. The real issue was how to cope with 4-1 clubs and 3-1 trumps. He might have no winning line if West had the critical trump length and short clubs; but what if East held the critical combination in the black-suits?

Declarer thoughtfully ruffed the diamond ace high, then cashed the club ace. When everyone followed, South now wanted to ensure that if East held a singleton club, he could be prevented from ruffing away a winner.

Accordingly, South next overtook his spade seven with dummy’s eight and led a club. Appreciating the position, East discarded – best, since had he ruffed in, South’s life would have been easy. South won the club king, then re-entered dummy by overtaking the trump nine with the 10.

Dummy’s third club was played, and again East declined to ruff, so South’s queen scored. The losing club was ruffed in dummy, the South hand was re-entered with a diamond ruff, and East’s last trump drawn for 12 tricks.

Unlike the auction in today’s deal, you cannot raise partner’s suit with only two, and your diamonds are not quite good enough to bid. I’d make a second negative of three clubs, and hope to get my values across later. You can always raise or give preference to hearts at your next turn.


♠ 10 8 6
 Q 6
 Q 10 7 6 4
♣ 9 6 4
South West North East
  Pass 2 ♣ Pass
2 Pass 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


David WarheitOctober 12th, 2016 at 9:54 am

A spade lead beats 6S. Listening to the auction, W can virtually see S’s D void, which makes a trump lead look very promising. The only possible downside would be a situation where S has a singleton D and somehow S can cash enough C to get rid of all of N’s D, but even then N would have to have a ton of S so S could also ruff a C.

BobliptonOctober 12th, 2016 at 1:03 pm

While a spade lead looks reasonable, given the singleton, there is little to prevent south from taking a speculative 6S call with AKQTx AQx – AKQJx. Now you’ve just destroyed East’s SJxxx. Declarer still goes down, but East will be very miffed that you blew his trick and team mates will grumble at “Lose 2”

Would it make you happier if south had taken a strategic 4NT call before bidding his slam?


bobbywolffOctober 12th, 2016 at 3:07 pm

Hi David & Bob,

IMO, both of you are both right and wrong.

The above only is intended to emphasize the mysteries of top-level bridge which are only really known by Dame Fortune who not only deals the hands, but then also tweaks the player’s bridge minds in their choices of directing the bidding.

My tendencies are and have always been to shy away from leading a singleton trump, however that fact alone, certainly does not make it automatically right not to.

The only solid bridge learning I can offer (not necessarily present on this hand, but only by negative inference as directly referred to by David) is that the use of key card Blackwood instead of regular does make it more logical (and thus safer) to lead a singleton trump (or even to lead trumps at all, especially when holding the Jx or Jxx) when the opponents have shown the AKQ by their key card responses.

In bridge, like in life, often one has to give to get, but it is sometimes helpful to know the weaknesses of some popular conventions than just the positives.

BryanOctober 12th, 2016 at 7:30 pm

While the spade opening lead may not allow a legit way to make, can South try to see if East is napping? Win lead with Ace, Ace of club, low spade to dummy and then another club? If East ruffs, good news. If not, well, there was no legit play anyway.

Iain ClimieOctober 12th, 2016 at 8:07 pm

Hi Bobby,

Is there an extra chance after DA lead even if east had S7xx. Ruff T1 high, CA, sx to 8, club through east who discards, S9 to 10, club to Q (east discards again) then another club throwing dummy’s Hx. If east can shed enough of his hearts he can overruff dummy’s 6 but not if he started with 5 as here.



bobbywolffOctober 12th, 2016 at 8:52 pm

Hi Bryan & Iain,

Good analysis by both of you.

One that gives a human bridge player a chance to err, and the other making it easier to understand how close some of these bridge problems can become.

If, for no reason, both your posts are bridge educational and allow interested bridge students (preferably the best and brightest), to understand in a sophisticated manner how tricks are developed, often by subjecting worthy opponents into traps.

True, those traps can both be legitimate or not, but to merely think about what can be accomplished is an important lesson on how to get there from here.

Result, thanks to both of you for lending us your time and effort.