Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

The truth is too simple: One must always get there by a complicated route.

George Sand

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


At last year’s Nail Life Master Open Pairs, the combination of a bad trump break and a 4-2 spade break meant that West could have defeated three hearts with the lead of a club. However, Agustin Madala made the natural lead of the diamond jack, and Francisco Bernal made a nice play when he ducked this as East.

Declarer won, drew three rounds of trumps, and played a spade. Bernal took the spade king and shifted to a low club. When declarer played low, Madala could win and revert to spades, letting Bernal cash out for down one and a decent score.

At the next table, Andrew Russell and Ranald Davidson held the North-South cards and gave their opponents a much harder task after stopping in two hearts. Here, too, East ducked his diamond ace at trick one. Declarer, however, won, played the heart queen and a second heart, then led a diamond from dummy. East had to take his ace, but what now? He cashed both spades before they got away, but now declarer could pitch dummy’s clubs on the spade and diamond winners, to register plus 140.

A better line is for East to shift to clubs before cashing a second top spade (he can take one spade if he likes), but he must play the club queen. If East plays the low club, South takes the ace, pitches a spade on the diamond king, ruffs a spade, and lets East win the club queen. Now a trump is fatal, and a high or low spade will see declarer get rid of dummy’s remaining club loser, one way or another.

It is important to understand the logic of opening in third seat. While you can stretch to make a lead-directing call with a good suit and full values (say 13-14 points), you have no reason to assume that it is not your hand. So make the call you would have made in another seat, here one diamond. You might break this rule for an exceptionally good four-card major, but not here.


♠ A K 5 3
 J 9 3 2
 A 8 2
♣ Q 4
South West North East
    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


Iain ClimieDecember 12th, 2018 at 1:28 pm

Hi Bobby,

I’m impressed with both Easts ducking the DA but what if West’s CK had been in diamonds? I suppose there is a negative inference here; given the invitational and hence limited auction, West should be looking for a passive lead and D KJ10xx going round to a strong NT is tempting providence. If the auction had been more confident, though, perhaps such a lead is worth considering. There again, the singleton trump suggests partner may have an unwelcome surprise for declarer.

I’m surprised at one declarer cashing 3 top trumps, though; it gives up any chance of an endplay or otherwise inconveniencing East, although I suppose it guarantees that East can’t somehow get a trump promotion as well as the natural trump trick.



bobbywolffDecember 12th, 2018 at 4:02 pm

Hi Iain,

Indeed, your roundabout discussion merely emphasizes the many smallish but sometimes critical choices, both the declarer and the defense often face while playing and defending a close contract.

The answer to East’s poignant duck at trick one could be because some partnerships play “jack denies” which only means that they lead the 10 from KJ10 not the jack. However even if they do not play that convention, perhaps since South has opened 1NT, partner would (and should) be reluctant to lead from KJ10 so that “if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, then it (please excuse) is a duck and to be done”.

Thanks to you, most, if not all, of the bases have been covered, allowing our cherished readers to deal what the active three players felt as they fought back and forth, through the play.

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