Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, October 1st, 2018

The devil watches all opportunities.

William Congreve

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


Follow the play in today’s deal carefully — there will be a question at the end of the report. South first forced to game, then took control and used Blackwood to drive to six spades. When dummy came down, South saw that he had two possible losers; but the best plan to avoid a club loser would be to establish dummy’s long hearts.

So South won the club lead, led a heart to the king and ace, won the diamond return and drew one round of trumps with the ace.

Declarer now cashed dummy’s remaining top heart and ruffed a third heart with a high trump. When hearts split 4-2, declarer led his small trump to dummy’s 10, putting the lead in dummy to allow him to ruff hearts for a second time.

The second ruff established dummy’s last heart; only now could South could afford to draw West’s last trump. South now led a diamond to dummy’s ace and cashed dummy’s last heart, pitching his remaining club loser.

South had his 12 tricks; could he or the defense have done differently — or better? First, West had a blind lead, but a diamond would have worked out better in disrupting the entries to dummy. Second, and key to the defense, was that West needed to give count in hearts at trick two, letting East duck his ace. That has the effect of preventing the establishment of the hearts. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself!

Which heart should you lead? It looks like declarer has four spades and no real extra shape in the minors, so if anyone is short in hearts, it will be dummy. If dummy is short in hearts, leading the king then working out whether to shift to clubs or continue hearts seems like a good idea.


♠ J 5 3
 K 8 4 2
 7 6 2
♣ J 7 3
South West North East
  1 1 Dbl.
2 3 Pass 3 ♠
Pass 4 ♠ All 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


A V Ramana RaoOctober 15th, 2018 at 11:19 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Even on an initial diamond lead, the natural return from east after winning would be a club as he does not know the position of ten of diamonds and clubs in dummy appear quite weak. However ,if east discerns to lead a diamond when in with hearts A ( without ducking first heart) , he deserves credit. But the crucial duck of first round of hearts sinks the contract always and perhaps it is iimperative for west to give count in hearts and east to duck first round

Iain ClimieOctober 15th, 2018 at 11:22 am

Hi Bobby,

Given the heart pips, shouldn’t East duck anyway? After all, West has played the 6 so doesn’t have 643 at least if playing normal count signals, but could have 106, 64, 63 or a singleton 6, although then South might have drawn more trumps first. If West had H103, though, then the 10 has to be played while H104 may depend on which heart declarer leads from hand – if he leads the H6 to be clever, he has given the game away.

From the viewpoint of an inattentive East, of course, the day he decides to duck will find South with AKQJxx x Kx AK10x or similar. I think West may be less guilty than charged as the pips lie, though.



bobbywolffOctober 15th, 2018 at 2:32 pm


Its always enjoyable to see (and feel) your rapt attention to the details of the deal.

For the very high level you are seeking to achieve, (and well on your way to doing just that), a defender, this time both, but, no doubt, East has to make the correct decision. To do so he, first and foremost, should consider the way declarer has gone about the hand, leading hearts before he drew trump, although surely on the bidding he had solid trumps since he was missing an ace, got no tangible trump support but still drove to slam.

Therefore, presto and magico, declarer (and it helps the defense to know that he is both thoughtful and talented), chose to not draw trumps first, therefore perhaps coveting that ten in dummy as an entry to the eventual establishment of that critical 5th heart. That analysis could (should) be the logic necessary to convince East to make the slam killing play of a first round duck in hearts.

Of course, as is mentioned West could play the 10 as a count signal, but to do so, on other layouts might hurt the defense, although on reflection that is not so, play sometimes goes so fast that the disadvantage the defense has, (not seeing their entire assets) makes defense more difficult than declarer’s play, simply because our minds, perhaps, at least in bridge, sometimes even better than a computer, but not necessarily so in deciding whether the play of the ten of hearts could be fatal or perhaps only more revealing to a good declarer.

IOW I am suggesting that whichever heart West played at trick two East should probably duck, since even if West had 3 of them (on reflection not correct because he would then have the low one declare did not play), it is extremely likely that the defense would get that trick back and since (MAGIC) declarer led that heart before he got the “kiddies off the street” it makes bridge sense to at least attempt to thwart his game (should say slam) plan.

All in a day’s work at the bridge table, but accompanied by much self gratification if done, unless a diamond is originally led, then the grabbing the ace and sending a diamond back would also work (at least on this layout).

Again, your mental involvement on these recorded and “real” hands shows me that you roll up your sleeves and go to work when you either play those hands or even to merely discuss them.

bobbywolffOctober 15th, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Hi Iain,

It seems that we both take turns, while playing or discussing bridge, being both Pinnochio but sometimes instead, the parrot sitting on his shoulder, who all of us bridge players would adore to possess when either playing or defending a close hand, to keep us in line at the table or by advising others about the available options and most important, why?

Finally and no doubt, when other, especially just as likely declarer hands, are also in the mix and it is right to take the ace (before the mice get it) then all the so-called intellectual bridge reasons fade into nothingness.

Never forget, bridge itself is the master and all the greatest players ever to play the game must only make the plays they think are correct percentage, but not before the bidding, opening lead and play up to then, type of game (matchpoints or other), habits of the involved players, without also considering your partner’s tells or mannerisms, as Rudyard Kipling might have said, to do all of the above, “You’ll be a man my son”, but even then there will be some who will think, “Just another misogynist”!

Iain ClimieOctober 15th, 2018 at 3:23 pm

Hi Bobby,

Aren’t we talking Jiminy Cricket here? If it’s a parrot, this could be Long John Silver in which case our opposition (and even partner) will be more than slightly nervous.



bobbywolffOctober 16th, 2018 at 4:19 am

Hi Iain,

Perhaps I cannot distinguish the difference between Long John, the Parrot and holy moley, Jiminy Cricket. I wasn’t playing cricket with you, but only trying to parrot what was whispered to Pinnochio, but he was just too wooden to understand.

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