Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, April 6th, 2018

Thus happiness depends, as Nature shows,
Less on exterior things than most suppose.

William Cowper

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


Deals from the Common Game are played virtually simultaneously across North America and provide a splendid opportunity to compare results from city to city or club to club. Today’s deal was a problem I was given from one of these tournaments, and it required some thought for me to come up with the winning line. See if you can find the optimum strategy to make six hearts when West meanly leads a trump.

It looks relatively clear to win the heart queen at the first trick, preserving dummy’s small hearts to ruff losers. Next, you cash the three top spades, pitching diamonds at every turn. Yes, if a defender ruffs in, your chances go up in smoke, but you are going to need some good news somewhere along the way, and spades will break in friendly fashion two times in three.

When the three top spades stand up, you play the club ace and ruff a club, lead a diamond to the ace and ruff a club, then ruff a diamond in hand and draw trumps, losing the last club trick to one defender or the other.

As you can see from the full layout, the real danger is a trump promotion for the defense in either clubs or diamonds. Specifically, the fourth round of spades or the third round of diamonds from East may promote a trump for West unless you are very careful in your choice of early discards.

For more information about the Common Game, visit

Your side does not appear to have an eight-card fit, and your partner surely rates to have a minimum opener, or he would have found a call at his second turn. While defending two clubs undoubled may not be your best possible score, it may well be the best result possible that you can achieve. So I would pass now.


♠ J 9 7 6
 8 6
 K J 3
♣ K Q 6 3
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
1 ♠ 2 ♣ Pass 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitApril 20th, 2018 at 9:25 am

Or run the opening lead to your hand, A & ruff a C, AKQ of S pitching diamonds, DA, ruff another C, ruff a D, draw trumps and concede last trick (a club). Almost the same line, except for one tiny detail. The suggested line works, provided no overruffs, even if E has J fourth of H (lose the C trick at trick 11 instead of trick 13); for the last two tricks you have HK10 sitting over E’s Jx. My alternate line, however, fails if E has J fourth of H. Note that it seems so logical to let the opening lead run around to your hand so that you can either win with the 10 instead of the Q or that you can capture the J, but what you gain by this you lose by later having to ruff with the Q. Bridge is a complicated game, don’t you think?

Bobby WolffApril 20th, 2018 at 2:55 pm

Hi David,

No doubt, you have been blessed with the visualization to either almost immediately see (or feel) the result of alternate possible best lines of play, and then top it off with the unusual ability of choosing the most likely, based on reality, the winning percentage line.

By being thus enabled, it becomes a much shorter and less troubled path to top level status, usually resulting in the love for the game to which you always seem to possess and, by your posts, prove.

From there, it is a much shorter ride to learn necessary high-level partnership bidding, and when facing a decision, being prepared to pick (along with a willing and competent partner) the better of competing choices.

However along with that journey, one must also have the luck to have someone come along at the right time who fits the bill and has the fortitude, energy, and time required to complete the proposed bridge marriage sought.

Not a likely combination of factors presenting themselves for two otherwise busy people to embrace. Therefore, unless either extreme faith or special determination occurs a huge percentage of would be top level partnerships are, of course, unlikely to virtually impossible to occur.

However, the playing of bridge, being the enjoyable challenge that it always is, does present itself with lesser ways to still be involved and adore.

If the above is true or almost, my wish for the future is that those with the kind of qualifications mentioned above do get the opportunity to at least be able to speak out and mightily contribute (as you so ably do) to the spectacular allure of playing the game.

Thanks always for the time and effort you have so widely contributed so that others can learn, including deciding for themselves, more about all facets (especially card play) to which you are always, nothing short of top level, with, no small attribute, the considerable ability (attention to details) of a superior teacher.

PeteApril 20th, 2018 at 4:26 pm

Your line is superior if East is 4-3-4-2, so maybe the difference between the two lines is a tossup.

Bobby WolffApril 20th, 2018 at 5:54 pm

Hi Pete,

While attempting to find a best line of play, and, of course, encountering ultra similar percentages, it behooves a bridge columnist to choose a line which accents originality.

Such a ploy might be thought to be the rising with the queen of hearts at trick one (also pointed out by David) if, for no other good reason than to be different from the herd. And, to be truthful, it is more unlikely that West would choose a singleton trump to lead, thus upgrading David’s percentage.

So yes, dirty rotten politics even involves itself with bridge reporting, but what else is new, particularly so while living in this highly charged, anything goes, era of media reporting.

Just kidding, but in actuality, could only just be more “fake news”. However thanks for getting involved and showing yet another “eagle eye” in your analysis.

David WarheitApril 20th, 2018 at 6:11 pm

Pete: excellent thought, and my (rejected) line is also superior if W is 4-3-4-2, but the chances that a suit will divide 6-2 is 17% while the chances a suit will divide 4-1 is 28%, so I still vote for the column line.

Gary M. MugfordApril 20th, 2018 at 7:58 pm


“While attempting to find a best line of play, and, of course, encountering ultra similar percentages, it behooves a bridge columnist to choose a line which accents originality. ”

It’s interesting that both being presented with a ‘You hold …’ problem or a columnist column, you always start with the knowledge that the mundane isn’t in the cards. The difference in the first case is that there is something amiss with partner or the distribution, while in the second, a line of play or defence that is singular is what’s called for. It’s always cheating to know that mainstream thinking isn’t enough in either case. Knowing that allowed me to act like an Expert during all those years I faked being a columnist.

Must be interesting not faking it all [G].


Bobby WolffApril 21st, 2018 at 1:17 am

Hi Gary,

One thing is certain about your thoughts. About 75% of bridge column readers want the subject matter to be both challenging and thoroughly explained, the other 95% or so it seems, wants simplicity itself, such as a king will usually take a queen unless an ace forces itself on the trick or a deuce of trump is there instead.

IOW, most everyone wants what no one can give, exciting enchantment tempered by a learning challenge which will overcome inexperience and move up one’s percentage games from 40% to 60% overnight.

Nothing to it, but the legalization of marijuana
may make the process quicker, but until then most helpful bridge students may have to take it a little slower.

And whomever in any kind of penetrating writing, is going to give up the faking? “Not I, said the sparrow”.

Nice to hear from you!

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