Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 21st, 2018

Barbarism is the natural state of mankind. Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.

Robert E. Howard

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


West has no reason not to lead the heart jack against three no-trump. South wins the first trick with the king and leads the diamond jack, losing the finesse to East. What should East play next?

It looks natural to return a heart, but if partner has one more entry, the lead of a low club will eventually ensure three tricks in the suit; and if partner cannot gain the lead, the game will surely not be defeated.

So at the third trick, East returns a low club, knowing that if he can subsequently manage to put his partner on lead to play back a club from his side, it will suffice to set the contract, always assuming that he has two or more clubs. It would be a mistake to shift to the club queen, since that would be fatal if South had four to the 10.

After the return of the low club, South is helpless; he can do nothing but drive out the diamond ace, and West holds off until the third round, to see East’s discard. When East pitches the spade two on the diamond ace, it should be clear that he wants a club return, and that will suffice for the defenders to take two diamonds and three clubs.

The fact that declarer took a first-round finesse in diamonds is somewhat indicative of the fact that he may be missing the ace. If declarer were missing a different ace (say, the heart ace), declarer would be more likely to win the heart queen at the first trick and finesse in diamonds against East.

Your hand has great spade support, and the fact that you may be offering partner heart ruffs suggests that playing spades must be right. While you could cue-bid here, that would only muddy the waters. To me, it feels best to make the simple jump to four spades to suggest trump support, but no slam suitability. Three spades would suggest a better hand, I believe.


♠ Q 6 3
 Q 8
 K 9 8 5 3
♣ K 9 4
South West North East
  1 ♣ Dbl. Pass
2 Pass 2 ♠ 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 RaoJuly 5th, 2018 at 12:17 pm

Hi Dear Mr.Wolff
South perhaps should realize that he needs only three diamond tricks for the contract and the danger is that defense may take five tricks before south takes nine. So perhaps he should have won the lead in dummy and blandly call for nine of diamonds. Unless east is an extremely competent player, the odds are on that he may not play Q. ( And Of course if he has A, definitely he would not play it – just in case he has both A & Q, there is no problem at all) ) So south can sneak in nine tricks

bobbywolffJuly 5th, 2018 at 1:21 pm


While indeed, in response to the declarer brilliancy that you suggest, East would unlikely rise with the queen, partly because, while so early in the hand, it is doubtful that a player of that perspective has not yet been born, and even if he has. what is to prevent the diamond distribution to be Jxx with West leaving A10x with declarer or even only Ax with declarer then J10xx with West while also holding the ace of spades and in necessary defensive cases the 10x in clubs. And worst of all, what if West has AQX in diamonds or horrors, AQ alone.

Yes, in some cases declarer may need to guess the correct defensive layout, but even if doing so, requires a correspondingly declarer winning play, partner may not think kindly to his partner blowing a routine defense.

However bridge being the challenging game that both of us know it is, sometimes mama, papa defense is all that is needed.

None of the above is designed by me to prevent you or any other very imaginative other player to literally rise to the occasion, but only to suggest that our beautiful game often requires a specific defender to deal with a very narrow line between sensational acclaim or instead, without warning, wearing goat’s horns. And BTW those horns seem to be remembered every bit as long, with the suffering attached, as do brilliant successful efforts.

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