Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 12th, 2016

Let us die even as we rush into the midst of the battle. The only safe course for the defeated is to expect no safety.


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


When North shows at least nine cards in the minors by his rebid, South might look for a suit contract if his honors (and intermediates) in the majors did not suggest no-trump so strongly. For example if South’s red suits were switched he would surely use the fourth suit then raise diamonds. As it is, though, it looks logical to drive to three no-trump; now North’s weak tripleton in hearts is not enough of a reason to overrule his partner.

In three no-trump, dummy wins the spade lead with the ace. South can count two spade tricks, one heart, and eventually four diamond tricks plus at least two clubs. This is enough for game, but South must make sure nothing can go wrong.

If South goes straight after the diamonds, his best suit, East might win the ace. Now a spade will be led through him, establishing West’s long suit, forcing South to take nine tricks without losing the lead. A losing club finesse would then be fatal, since the defenders could run their spades.

It may look safe to play on hearts; but that too would fail. South does best to go after clubs. If the queen holds, South can switch his attention to diamonds. Should the finesse lose, West cannot safely continue the attack on spades.

Today, when the club finesse loses,West rates to lead another spade, hoping that his partner has the jack. But even if he finds a neutral exit in a red suit, declarer can establish nine tricks by setting up diamonds.

On this auction it looks clear to lead spades, not your singleton diamond. If you obtain a diamond ruff it may be while setting up the diamonds for useful discards for declarer. The reverse surely is not likely to hold true. In general leading partner’s suit is a better idea – and keeps him happy, even when it is wrong.


♠ 8 3
 K 8 4 2
♣ Q 7 6 4 3 2
South West North East
Pass 1 1 ♠ Dbl.
Pass 2 Pass 2
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


Bill CubleyDecember 26th, 2016 at 4:40 pm

East needs to be alert to unblock his spot cards or the contract makes even if declarer plays it poorly. Is my reputation lost because I made a technical point?

bobby wolffDecember 26th, 2016 at 5:57 pm

Hi Bill,

To answer your first admonition, not too much imagination need be present for East to provide reasonable card adjustment and…..

Would you consider my suggestion that the answer is no, your reputation would stay exactly the same, but by doing so would you think to be complimented (intended) instead of insulted (not)?

Jane ADecember 27th, 2016 at 12:40 am

Seeing all four hands makes the play on clubs logical, but how is one to know? I was taught a long time ago that without any idea where missing honors are, it is best to knock out a missing ace first. This time it would not work, but how do you know what is the best line of play? With TOCM being such a serious affliction, it would be the luck of the draw for the diamond ace to be with west and the club king and ten to be with east. Guess if that happens, the hand is doomed anyway.

Happy New Year!

bobby wolffDecember 27th, 2016 at 1:03 am

Hi Jane A,

But that precious jack of spades held by declarer will allow the bidders to lose a club trick to the West hand without fear of East leading a spade through, rather than up to, therefore insuring the contract.

However, if playing matchpoints there might be some consideration for going for a top and taking some chances, but not while playing IMPs or rubber bridge.

Judy and I certainly return your New Year’s wish for us and in NT, not just in spades.

Bill CubleyDecember 27th, 2016 at 2:39 pm


Thanks and Happy New Year to you and to Judy. My gift begins tomorrow as we leave for the Charleston regional after lunch.

bobby wolffDecember 27th, 2016 at 5:59 pm

Hi Bill,

What a strange name for a bridge tournament, “Charleston Regional After Lunch”!

However since the week between Christmas and New Years was always thought to be lucky, whatever that bridge tournament name is, the Cubleys figure to reign supreme, or hopefully not the opposite, be rained out. 30th, 2016 at 7:19 pm

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