Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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


Against three no-trump, West leads the spade jack; when East plays low, South must plan the play. Clearly, South must bring in dummy’s long diamond suit in order to make his contract. He can expect to win two spades, either two or three hearts, and three clubs. That comes to only eight tricks even if South manages to take a successful finesse in hearts. It is a far better idea, of course, to develop more than one diamond trick without risking a heart finesse.

Accordingly, South must let West hold the first trick with the spade jack! South will still be able to win two spade tricks later on, but note that if West’s spade jack happens to be a singleton, West will be obliged to shift to a new suit. This will give South time to establish and run dummy’s long diamonds.

When West shifts to a club, dummy wins with the queen and goes after diamonds at once. East takes the diamond king and returns a spade, and South finesses, then leads another diamond, establishing dummy’s long suit and bringing home 10 tricks.

Nicely played — but East missed his chance at trick one when he failed to overtake the lead with his king. The sight of the doubleton spade eight in dummy should have made it relatively easy for East to see that his spots were good enough to allow him to overtake the spade and still run the spades for the loss of just two tricks. Even if the jack and king fell together, the defense would still be in the lead in the race to establish the long suit.

Did you — like Walter the Walrus — count to 13 points and decide to bid three no-trump? You have ignored the extras in distribution this hand has. (Imagine partner has the spade ace, the diamond ace-king, and four clubs to the king-jack; that is 12 tricks facing a minimum 15 points.) Instead, transfer to diamonds or force with three diamonds if those are your methods, intending to invite slam later.


♠ 8 2
 A 10 4
 Q J 10 8 7 3
♣ A Q
South West North East
    1 NT 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


Ken MooreNovember 27th, 2018 at 3:50 pm


In the past, readers have commented, some unfavorably, on how often you present hands where you need to duck the first trick. On the other hand, if you present hands that are a lay-down, the column loses its value.

As for today’s hand, when I am playing a hand in NT, on the initial lead, after counting my winners, the first thing that I consider is “do I need to hold up?” If there is an urgent need to derail what the opponents may do next, or there is a likely advantage to holding up, that is often my choice.

It does seem that getting a lead to a broken suit may indicate a possible hold up. Knowing that is what allowed me to make this one.

Bobby WolffNovember 27th, 2018 at 4:22 pm

Hi Ken,

When writing a bridge column, especially while
not catering to rank newbies, but rather to either ones with some experience with serious bridge, or aspiring ones (the younger the better) who look to the sky for getting better some logistical problems arise:

1. Relatively common occurrences
2. Limited space available
3. Clear concise lesson to be presented with
logical and understandable solutions readily available.

Most frequent types include:

1. Crisp and to the point bidding while using popular bidding systems and known conventions.

2. Card combinations emphasized, sometimes slightly hidden.

3. Catering to best chances to score up the hand and, of course, for the defense to do its best to defeat that plan.

4. Legal deception and where and when it arises.

5. The less complicated the better, except of course, every now and then the beauty of our game bursts out from behind its often, slight camouflage.

6. Brilliant declarer and defensive imagination only when its understandable to lesser experienced players.

Today’s hand only (for practical purposes) concerns itself with East overtaking the first spade trick (noting that key 8 of spades in dummy) or else the whole hand turns defensively sour, a somewhat common occurrence at all levels of our game and a significant warning to all four players not to take a vacation from thinking or the snake will bite.

Sorry for the long rant, but your comment suggested that you have developed the discipline to apply at trick one, especially while declarer. This one is on simple 3rd hand play and while looking at a dummy which should make it so easy.

But not so, if one’s bridge mind wanders toward careless, taking all of our bridge dreams with it, if little to no concentration is ever present.

Finally bridge demands that concentration, both in the bidding, during the play and defense, and above all with the critiques later, wherein both partners can help each other in trying to avoid the usual unlimited opportunities during even a single session which readily appear.

Obviously the above takes us past just the social aspects of playing our game. However, with a daily bridge column, it has been proven that there are many reasons why people read it and why they do not. making it somewhat difficult to cater to what everyone is looking for.

Thanks Ken, for allowing this discussion.

Ken MooreNovember 27th, 2018 at 11:05 pm

I have to admit that I tend to be more alert reading your “problem” hands than when actually playing. That is why you go to tournaments and I do not. I am as good as anyone here but would get embarrassed there. I am too old and too slow to change that now.

bobbywolffNovember 28th, 2018 at 12:14 am

Hi Ken,

Yes, I understand exactly what you are saying.

However, you can continue your bridge addiction right here on our site. You may miss the thrill of winning, but, at the same time, the despair of not.

In any event, thanks for your continued contributions to our site and your status of having been there, done that.

Ken MooreNovember 29th, 2018 at 12:39 am

On winning and losing, Magic Johnson said, “Losing hurts more than winning feels good.” But you lose a lot more than you win. This sounds like some kind of an addiction to me.

BTW, thanks for the encouragement.

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