Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, August 10th, 2018

Paranoia is infectious. It’s also an incredibly useful tool. If you can make people afraid enough, uncertain enough, they will simply stop moving.

C.L. Anderson

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


West leads the trump seven against your club slam. What is the best way to bring home your contract?

If you take six heart tricks, you should find a route to 12 tricks; but if you have only five heart tricks and one spade, you need to take two ruffs in one hand or the other.

The best plan is to win the trump in hand with the ace, then cash the spade ace and ruff a spade. Next, cross back to dummy with a low trump to the 10. When trumps reveal themselves to be 3-2, you can take some measures to protect against hearts being 4-1. Suppose the full deal is something like the one shown in the diagram.

Your next move should be to ruff dummy’s last spade with the trump queen. Then lead the heart king and overtake it with the ace to draw the opponents’ last trump with the king.

All that remains now is to force out the heart queen by leading dummy’s hearts from the top. East can win the heart queen now or later, but you will ruff his return and run the remaining hearts from the top. You make a spade, two spade ruffs, five hearts and four trumps for a total of 12 tricks.

If trumps turn out to be 4-1, you need West to hold the heart queen with no more than three cards. So when in dummy with the trump 10, draw the outstanding trump with the king and jack, then play on hearts and hope for the best.

An expert colleague of mine in discussing this sort of situation asked, “Would you rather rebid two clubs and show nine of your cards, or two diamonds and show six?” When put in those terms, the rebid of two clubs looks clear, and I would still make that call if the clubs were slightly weaker and the diamonds stronger.


♠ 2
 K 2
 K 10 6 5 3 2
♣ A Q 6 4
South West North East
1 Pass 1 ♠ 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


Bruce karlsonAugust 24th, 2018 at 3:20 pm

Annoying bidding question: holding 9mor 10 disbursed points and 4,3,3,3, partner opens a 15/17 NT. I usually bid 3 NT as opposed to 2C. Avoids advertising distribution and even with a fit, ruffing power is much reduced or eliminated. Thoughts?

JudyAugust 24th, 2018 at 5:11 pm


It is interesting to note that without a trump lead by East (normally and rightfully thought to be absurd) .. it appears 6H is cold by North, allowing only one spade ruff in dummy.

However, with 6C as the obvious right contract .. how many do you think would declare it as suggested? Not many, I suspect!

Your Curious Wife

bobbywolffAugust 25th, 2018 at 12:16 am

Hi Bruce,

Years ago (perhaps around 1970) a computer simulation suggested doing what you have been doing with 4-3-3-3 (the 4 being a major) it was a tossup whether it was worth advertising for the major suit fit.

Thus, of course, as you suggested, that partnership gains something by camouflaging the responder’s distribution and even more so, after the opening lead, the distribution of the closed hand. Thus I have always followed that early computer’s hoped for truth and up to now still do.

However, and just my guess, if I knew we had a 4-4 fit in a major I would instead choose to use Stayman, although nothing technical tells me so, except on that same simulation it, no doubt, came up favorable for suit play when possessing exactly 8 trumps.

bobbywolffAugust 25th, 2018 at 12:24 am

Hi J,

Very few, but for the ones who would, they deserve a positive write-up, since the ending is so counter-intuitive.

Let’s suffice it to just state that playing good bridge is never boring and lucky for a bridge reporter, at least up to now, never running out of “real” at the table played hands to have the chance to report.

What’s for dinner?

David WarheitAugust 25th, 2018 at 8:51 am

Judy: At 6H, what if E leads a D? You ruff, SA, S ruff, cross to a C and ruff a S. Now what? Cross to a C or ruff a D? The C play loses if C are 4-1 or if an opponent has HQx and 3 clubs. The D play loses if H are 4-1 (except stiff Q, of course). The plays are close, but I think the C play is slightly worse. Your thoughts, or Bobby’s?

bobbywolffAugust 25th, 2018 at 2:36 pm

Hi David,

Which door should I open? The lady or the tiger? I mean the famous literal confrontation not the choice left up to Judy or me.

At least to me, the answer lies not in strict percentage (to which I agree that it is close, with no particular leaning based on simple mathematics) but rather psychology since why would (lets assume a pretty good player) lead dummy’s first bid suit when holding Qxxx of trump since it might be wise (yes a very small advantage, but after all sometimes leading from an intermediate honor thrice or whatever doesn’t usually help possible trick taking later). At least a spade lead might get declarer on an earlier tap, perhaps a tangible advantage, and from the blind position the opening leader would sit, would he not follow more conventional thinking then “fly to others that he knows not of”. Too many famous quotes?

Therefore down I, the declarer might go, only verifying what grizzled bridge veterans have known for some time, “Perhaps doing something different when needing a favorable swing (behind in the match), but from personal sad experience, to do so, is very unilateral as a member of a good team and can be construed as an extremely selfish maneuver looking for glory, when, as often may happen, be the straw which loses, rather than wins, the crucial match.

All, while cerebral, should enter the equation (opening leader’s thinking) and, can’t be sure, while I, not doing such antics (at least not up to now), can not say one way or the other what might have happened since my memory fails to remember ever being victimized with such a choice, but if so, no doubt, declining the invitation.

Not much of a telltale answer, but rather just dealing with your question by staying silent.

However, thanks for bringing up fodder for the bridge mill. Perhaps Judy or someone else wants to voice his or her opinion.

David WarheitAugust 25th, 2018 at 4:57 pm

Actually, the same problem arises if the opening lead is a C. Now it would seem that the odds tip to ruffing a D, since that C lead kind of looks like a singleton.

JudyAugust 25th, 2018 at 6:56 pm

Hi David,

I do not profess to be an analyst. Far from it!!!
When I casually glanced at the hand, expecting a spade to be led, I assumed 6H would succeed ..even with the 1/4 trump break. I gave it no further consideration. However, I do appreciate your critique!