Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 8th, 2018

Is there no respect of place, persons, nor time in you?

William Shakespeare

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


Today’s deal has a relatively simple theme, but the answer is one that might surprise some of my readers. North may have done too much here, to reach slam. While he does have all four aces, he should have taken second- and third-round controls into account as well, and in this case he has no idea where any spade losers may be discarded.

When the spade king is led to the ace, declarer has to find a way to take care of his spade losers, not to mention the club queen. Which defender should you play for the missing club honor?

After winning the heart ace, king and jack, declarer has to imagine a situation where he can achieve an endplay after extracting the clubs. For that situation to arise, declarer will need to find East having begun with a singleton spade. Given East’s known singleton heart, South must hope that East originally had a 1-1-7-4 shape. So, after cashing the club ace, declarer leads out the club jack, covered by the queen and king.

Then after leading the diamond three to dummy’s ace, declarer cashes two more club tricks with the aid of the marked finesse. At this point, he can lead the diamond queen from hand, throwing a spade from dummy. When East takes the trick, he has only diamonds left to lead, and dummy’s other spade disappears when declarer ruffs the diamond return in hand.

Notice that it is key to lead the club jack from dummy and not to lead low to the 10 on the second round of that suit.

You do not have enough to drive to game here, so the question is whether you need to do more than bid two hearts. Since you would expect partner to find another call with, for example, the heart queen and a black major honor, a bid of two hearts looks sufficient.


♠ A 8 5
 A K J 8 7
♣ K J 5 2
South West North East
Dbl. Pass 1 ♠ Pass

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


A.V.Ramana RaoJune 22nd, 2018 at 11:17 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
How about playing this hand in 6 clubs. Diamond can be ruffed in north hand and The fifth heart can take care of one losing spade from south hand . Needless to mention, th club suit needs proper handling just like in column line
( the advantage of playing a 4-4 fit)
And while it is mentioned that north holds all aces, the club A is shown in south hand. Perhaps club A and K got interchanged.

jim2June 22nd, 2018 at 11:38 am

If declarer really was placing all hope in East being 1-1-7-4, would not small to the 8C work on the second round?

Perhaps declarer’s line also catered to 1-1-8-3, with West holding the 9-doubleton (being 6-3-2-2).

bobbywolffJune 22nd, 2018 at 12:54 pm


Yes, playing a 4-4 fit while having a 5-4 fit in another suit often produces an extra trick and this hand is a good example.

However, with this specific hand and, of course, with East starting the bidding off with a 3 level preempt, it did its job of not allowing enough bidding room for NS to ever bid clubs as a suit, but rather as just a cue bid, after hearts were agreed.

However the brilliant South declarer turned the tables on EW by overcoming your noted

And such is bridge at its best, although NS, particularly North, overbiid, not with his 4 diamond cue bid, but by his 6 heart jump, once South cue bid 5 clubs, but only after he had shown a minimum by only responding 3 hearts (not 4) to North’s TO double.

A simple return to 5 hearts (instead of 6) should do justice to his very strong cue bid the round before, allowing South to make the final determination from there (which ironically should probably be only a return to 5 hearts because of his thought, wasted queen of diamonds, which in fact became a key to the making of this very aggressive final contract.

Yes, our game, in order to win in a significant way, needs natural card judgment, much experience, partnership bidding balance, and above all, a fierce desire to succeed. When that comes together (rare) no doubt the players become addicted, the challenge becomes powerful and joined, making the upside, breathlessly worthwhile.

Thanks for your educational post.

bobbywolffJune 22nd, 2018 at 1:16 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, your post basically confirms why the club jack lead from dummy is necessary, although, and of course, West may have been dealt the Qx in clubs, utterly destroying the hand’s theme.

Just another example of the lethal effect of TOCM TM, therefore guaranteeing that you were not declaring this hand and therefore depriving you of your otherwise well earned, included acclaim.

Jeff SJune 22nd, 2018 at 2:33 pm

My thought was what happens if E ducks the JC? I’d have a very hard time believing West did start with Qx(x) in clubs which would lead me to play the A hoping to drop his Q.

Could East have made this play? And if he ducked smoothly, would it work against a good declarer? I said *I’d* put up the ace so it would work like a charm against me – but I have no illusions about my own skill level.

bobbywolffJune 22nd, 2018 at 3:45 pm

Hi Jeff S,

At high levels East would not cover the jack of clubs whatever number of clubs he held, unless of course, he also held the ten.

Simple counting would tell him not to, since his mind had already counted declarers hand for what it is (at least approximately) and if, by chance, declarer had Axx, he would never play the jack since he could never be sure in which hand the queen may lie, thus making playing for that kind of mistake (unless he saw your hand), 99.99% impossible.

Going further, if a decent declarer would play that way against me in a local duplicate I would make every effort to find how he had received illegal information before he arrived at my table, (assuming, of course) that neither my partner nor I had possibly flashed our hand.

Therefore, once you decided to play the jack, just follow through with letting it ride, since to do otherwise, is close to absurd.

Furthermore, I disagree with you not having illusions as to your skill level. It may not be at the top right now, but it definitely is in the “up” elevator, because of the mere fact of being aware of how to improve and better understand the developing nature of our great game. Yes, players like you have high upside potential, since you include realism, rather than fantasy, over sometimes sensitive thoughts.

And finally, this subject contributes mightily at the very top of what the skill level really is, between our most famous world bridge players since, at that level. the analytical differences with technique are minimal and most importantly, the psychology of “guessing cards and distributions” is ubiquitous.

Jeff SJune 23rd, 2018 at 3:24 am

Yes, I see it now. The column said J covered by Q, but yes, East ducks and that leaves two unknown clubs, Q and x. If West has both, you are dead. If East has Q and West x or East has both, running the J wins. Only if West hold Q and E holds x would jumping up win, so 2-1 in the three cases that matter. Like breathing for the good players, but I have to still think these things through.

I think it would just be TOCM (TM) whispering in my ear that OF COURSE W started life with Qx that would tempt the wrong play. But gotta play the odds and let the cards fall where they may.

jim2June 23rd, 2018 at 1:29 pm

I end up saying that all the time. 🙁