Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

W.B. Yeats

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


Today’s deal comes from a Common Game event about six months ago, and while it may not show particularly great play, I thought it represented the sort of errors that real people fell into. North-South are actually a very competent pair, but North chose a poor moment to introduce spades instead of making a constructive heart raise — had he done the latter, I would have led a top spade against four hearts.

I chose to lead a trump; declarer won and immediately ruffed a diamond in dummy, then played the ace and another club. The defenders could win that and play a second club, and declarer now had no more than nine tricks.

This is the sort of hand where you might sensibly play for ruffs on a minor suit lead; but after a trump lead, you must play to set up spades. Say the worst happens, and you win the trump in hand to lead a spade. When West plays low, you put up the king. If East now wins the ace to return a trump, you win in dummy and ruff a spade. When an honor appears, you play a trump to the board and pass the spade 10, pitching a minor-suit card and ensuring 10 tricks for your side. This line almost guarantees the contract against anything but an extremely unlucky lie of the spades. You are likely to make at least 10 tricks unless West began with queen-jack-fourth of spades or East started with something like ace-queen-jack-fourth in that suit.

You should double here. Your partner may not have much of anything, but he could just as easily have something like four spades to the king-jack and be unable to take action. After all, your hand does not always deliver quite so many quick tricks on defense. As it is, though, you can surely expect your partner to find a sensible resting place in hearts or clubs if he does not have the requisite trump holding.


♠ 6
 A K J 8 4
 A 9 5
♣ A 5 4 2
South West North East
2 2 ♠ Pass 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


Bobby WolffNovember 20th, 2018 at 9:20 am

Hi everyone,

Please forgive the horrible gaffe of stating that the defenders won the 2nd club played by declarer and led a club, instead of the obvious continuation of a heart which, of course, is relatively easy to find.

Shame on us, but this hand should be a decent learning experience for declarer’s to counter a lucky opening lead by having an alternate line of play, side suit establishment, which has an excellent chance to work and, in fact would.

Iain ClimieNovember 20th, 2018 at 12:32 pm

HI Bobby,

Just to add my best wishes for your trip with Judy to Hawaii; have both fun and success. I felt North was maybe a bit unlucky today, though; after all, if partner had spade support he might have protected his DK that way although then I suppose his partner’s club holding is exposed instead. Accusations that I would be trying to hog the hand are naturally plausible.; bad habits die hard.


Bobby WolffNovember 20th, 2018 at 4:37 pm

Hi Iain,

Our beloved game has all sorts of built in traps, both in sometimes looking for best contracts, and then, of course, choosing the better way to score it up.

However, sometimes from a practical consideration, also, when optional, leaning to allow the better dummy player to be declarer has its advantages.

While this hand screams out to select hearts rather than spades, it might be different if South possessed the queen of spades, but alas, no such luck and besides this subject is often rife with psychological drawbacks, often better left alone. even to pretending that it doesn’t exist.

Again, winners in almost all competitive endeavors, assuming all is done legally, is usually basically the number one goal. However for discussions about the above might be thought to be similar to Dicken’s famous pickpocket school headed by a chap named Fagan.

In truth it isn’t, since there is no real bridge law which prohibits hogging the hand. but, by so doing, one may have to settle for the best result possible rather than what is necessary at the top, the best possible result.

Therefore when you say that “bad habits die hard” it may be thought that, yes, it is not perfect, but rather the better choice of a relatively poor selection.

“To each his own”, not necessarily by fair choice, but rather for survival.

Thanks much for your well wishes, since they are definitely appreciated.