Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.

B.F. Skinner

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

*Game-forcing relay


Against your delicate six-heart slam, West leads the spade two, an apparent singleton. Can you find any way to make your contract?

The layout you need to make 12 tricks will require West to have a doubleton rather than a tripleton heart. Win the opening lead with the spade ace, then cash the trump ace and king. Next, play a low spade from dummy.

Since you can expect to encounter good defenders in my problems (if not always in real life), East is likely to duck; so your jack will win the trick. After crossing back to dummy with the trump queen, you ruff a spade. Then, after a diamond to the ace, you concede a trick to East’s spade king. East will no doubt shift to a club, which you will win with the ace. You can then throw dummy’s remaining club on your diamond king and claim the rest of the tricks, since dummy is high. You make four spades plus a ruff, four trumps in dummy, and three winners in the minors, for a total of 12 tricks.

Notice that you could not afford to draw a third round of trumps. If you had done so, East’s playing low on the second round of spades would leave you one entry short of being able to set up and cash the spades. You needed three entries to dummy: one to ruff a spade, one to concede a spade, and the final ruff to reach the winning spades in dummy.

Also, if West starts with three trumps and a singleton spade, then the contract cannot be made against best defense.

Your partner’s two heart call is best played as natural here, plus a good hand. A one no-trump call should similarly be natural, with double and two no-trump taking care of hands with high-card and shape respectively, with the other two suits. I would drive this hand to game, planning to cue-bid three clubs, then probably bid three no-trump to offer a choice of games.


♠ K 10 9 6
 10 3 2
 Q 5 3
♣ K Q 4
South West North East
      1 ♣
Pass 1 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJuly 7th, 2018 at 12:42 pm

Hi Bobby,

If West held HJ109x and SK2, the S2 would be a devastating way to deck a cold contract. Fortunately few players are that imaginative or even downright twisted! I fell into the latter category many years ago when I found the SK from KJ Kxxx Jxxxx xx after the oppo bid (uninterrupted) 1S on my left 2C 2H 3D (4SF) 4C and Bashwood to 6C with 2 Aces on my left. Partner had SQ10xx and, without the spade lead, dummy’s hearts get set up for a spade discard, declarer having 2. Dummy was 5-4-1-3 with declarer 2-3-3-6 if I remember rightly. Whether this was luck or judgement I leave you to decide.





bobbywolffJuly 7th, 2018 at 2:06 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt, when real hands (between top partnerships) are not used, education (reference to what I think, especially on this hand, is an applicable and right-on quote) the idea is to remind aspiring players what to expect from hopeful but aspiring players as they (at least attempt) to pass through significant levels in their quest to eventually master our beautiful game (in time they will learn, as they hopefully ascend, that their bridge judgment will radically change, if for no other reason, than their realization while playing against equals (or better) not to trust seemingly, at least at the table and during their journey, what might have applied earlier but now, quite simply, is not so any longer.

All that above rhetoric is only meant to confirm that taking the first trick finesse in spades is clearly IMO, the 100% right thing to do (at least, if one is playing against very experienced and well known players, if, in fact, one of them, is on lead.

FWIW, notice a club lead, will likely also create a set as well (because of the unlucky spade distribution) but the opening leader, no matter how excellent he is, has no way of knowing that with his bridge education (although at least with specific details somewhat forgotten) will and no doubt, prefer to put otherwise undue pressure on declarer at trick one, while holding, which appears to be, the precious onside spade king.

Notice that this conversation has little to do with the major theme of today’s hand (drawing only two trumps after rising with the space ace at trick one). However a player does not have to be afflicted with TOCM TM to realize for that opening leader to have a singleton spade and also be the one with short trump is way against the odds, clearly meaning that in the above related information about one’s specific opponents is a much better overall barometer of playing judgment than is the cold hard unrelenting and unfeeling percentage table.

Finally, in trying to live up to a phrase once used in American football, “Just win, baby”, also applies at playing high-level bridge in NT, and on this hand, while in hearts with spades.

jim2July 7th, 2018 at 4:35 pm

In last year’s Mud Cup, the winner got to 6S and East doubled confidently and tabled the KC.

North knew the players, and so won the AC, shed his losing club, and advanced the 4S.

So, how many defenders would see the need to play an intermediate trump to force the knave? Not that East, to his later dismay!

bobbywolffJuly 7th, 2018 at 6:26 pm

Hi Jim2,

I was there last year, but the hand dealt was only slightly different with exactly the same hands around the table except for South having two of the three top heart honors instead of North (but in the column hand having only one).

Again North got to 6 spades, and as, at your described table, East again confidently doubled. However when after East led the king of clubs, South won in dummy, came to his ace of diamonds, and led a low spade, but this time, East, no careless fool, forced the jack with his nine. But then. declarer, after throwing his losing club on the king of diamonds, ruffed a diamond and led to his high heart to ruff a club and then back to his other high heart to ruff another club, Finally a top heart from North to which East was compelled to follow suit and then the fourth heart which East had to ruff but was……well you can finish the story. +1210 for NS, winning the hand of the tournament award, (that you have won 4 out of the last 5 years) and to top it all, the honor of the first dance with Lena at the mixed pair breathtaking gala on Saturday night.

PS. The best hand contest ended before the last day of the week long tournament, but strangely, neither the winner nor Lena showed up for play the last day on Sunday with everyone talking about how romantic sensational bridge can be.

jim2July 7th, 2018 at 7:17 pm

I wonder at East’s failure to rise with the KS and cash the QC for down one.

Michael BeyroutiJuly 7th, 2018 at 9:34 pm

We lack a “like” button on this blog. So many times when our host or Iain or Jim2 write something, I feel like clicking “I like” multiple times.

bobbywolffJuly 7th, 2018 at 9:55 pm

Hi Jim2,

Oh that little glitch?

Let me count my excuses, 1. East can’t be sure his club queen will cash, but he does think by not winning his trump king he will eventually win two trump tricks. 2. I guess he could instead go to a heart honor first and then next time to dummy lead a low spade. 3. The thought of Lena’s beauty takes over my every thought and down and down I go. 4. I am a moron!

Multiple choice?

No doubt I will have to talk to Jim1 about your posts.

bobbywolffJuly 7th, 2018 at 10:11 pm

Hi Michael,

In spite of your inspiring comment, no one wants to see you wearing out your fingers or your computer.

Especially since the chemistry demonstrated by all involved (certainly including you) tend to make this site worth checking into. Without everyone of us, who have proven to adore our game (each in his or her own way) we would be less than the total sum of all our parts.

I, for one, am counting my blessings and BTW my mention of counting is not a coincidence.

jim1July 7th, 2018 at 10:28 pm


There is one site where someone already had jim1, so I had to be jim2. Then, last weekend, I had to clear cache/cookies as part of clearing some virus/glitch, and I forgot which jim I was here!

bobbywolffJuly 7th, 2018 at 11:15 pm

Hi Jim3,

We all must bear it That is a bi-polar amalgamation, unless it was black.

When I was young, a couple of years ago, both cache and cookies had different meanings and viruses like TOCM TM were only caught by living things. Furthermore, I remember Kilroy being there, but no one other.

Yes, I still prefer Culbertson and honor him, but others point out Goren, who was always a piece of work.

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