Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

The price of wisdom is above rubies.

Job 28:18

S North
Both ♠ 8 3
 A K Q 7
 8 6 5 4
♣ 9 6 5
West East
♠ A 10 7 4 2
 9 2
 K 9
♣ J 8 4 3
♠ J 9 5
 J 10 4 3
 Q 10 2
♣ 10 7 2
♠ K Q 6
 8 6 5
 A J 7 3
♣ A K Q
South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 NT Pass 3 NT All pass


After a straightforward auction to three no-trump, South should count his winners when West leads the spade four. With at least six tricks coming from hearts and clubs and at least one trick in each of spades and diamonds, he seems to be in good shape.

At trick one, South captures East’s jack with his queen. Since West appears to have led from the A-10, it would be very dangerous to allow East to come on lead. East would then be in position to lead a spade through South’s king, letting West run spades and possibly defeat the game.

There is no such danger in letting West on lead. If West leads spades again, South can establish his ninth trick from the spade king. To put it another way, East is the dangerous opponent and West if the safe hand. If possible, South must develop his tricks while keeping East out of the lead.

Declarer begins by leading a heart to dummy’s king. If hearts break, declarer will have nine tricks without any need for further work — but that can wait. Declarer now goes after diamonds by running the diamond eight through East. If East has both top honors, he cannot be kept off lead; but in virtually every other scenario, it may be possible to develop diamonds while keeping East off play.

The diamond eight loses to the nine, and South wins the club return, then leads a heart to dummy and leads another diamond, covering East’s card. Declarer can then run the diamonds and cash out for nine tricks.

This hand appears to be a simple raise of diamonds, but is that call forcing or invitational? For simplicity’s sake, I suggest that after a reverse, responder’s raise of either of opener’s suits be played as forcing. This in turn means that weak hands must do something else. You can play two no-trump as artificial and weak, or you can play the cheaper of fourth suit and two no-trump as weak; both methods work.


♠ 8 3
 A K Q 7
 8 6 5 4
♣ 9 6 5
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Pass
1 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 11th, 2018 at 11:08 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Perhaps east can cover eight of diamonds. South has no option but to cover it with J and when west wins with K and gets out with a heart,only hope is that west has nine of diamonds too ( which happens just like in movies) So south goes to dummy with another club and leads a diamond and passes to west. If east plays ten, south plays A hoping to crash nine.


David WarheitJuly 11th, 2018 at 12:42 pm

AV: No, as our host has carefully stated, S’s only hope (besides E not having DKQ and D being 3-2) is not that W has D9 but rather that E does not have specifically DQ109 or K109. If such is the case, the suggested line is guaranteed to work no matter what E does.

bobbywolffJuly 11th, 2018 at 1:00 pm


Yes, and no one should think for a moment that experienced defenders are not aware of the theme of this hand, AVOIDANCE..

Also, there is another mind factor, not intended to be the central deception, but nevertheless probably worth mentioning.

Usually, and with good reason, declarer would win the king, not the queen, when playing to the first trick. Obviously the king is more deceptive since it is usually always possible from the opening leader’s perch that his partner, East has the queen when the king is won, but not so the king when the queen is instead played.

Therefore when a good player wins the queen isstead it will often be done with only KQ doubleton, with the hope of deceiving an opening leader into not laying down the ace, but trying to rather get partner on play to lead through declarer next.

However, for obvious deceptive practices, particularly so when the lead will need to be given up, such as this hand, before enough tricks will be developed for contract, it sometimes is winning strategy, to vary tactics about doing so. Obviously when declarer wins the king first, any even relative novice, may guess correctly that declarer also has the queen but our game being the way it is, lends itself to many mind ploys, especially among the elite players.

The above is just a “word to the wise” in what to look for, in the way of deceptive ploys, especially when relatively unknown, while playing against an established expert.

Thanks for going through the motions of what to do defensively in order to try and dissuade a good declarer from adopting the right view while on defense against him. Your defense should not work, but at least you are giving it the best try possible (as long as by doing so, and, of course, while playing matchpoints, not allowing a crucial overtrick to his side).

bobbywolffJuly 11th, 2018 at 1:09 pm

Hi David,

Another crossed in the mail correct analysis.

I, of course, intended to just discuss generally, not specifically, the defensive effort, but you delved deeper, denying the advice of “too many cooks spoil the broth”. No doubt, at least sometimes true about cooking, but not necessarily about bridge.