Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 3rd, 2018

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default.

J.K. Rowling

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


South elects to rebid one no-trump over one heart, since if he rebids one spade it would tend to suggest real clubs. North no longer has any interest in a grand slam. His jump to five no-trump offers a choice of slam, and South can see no advantage in playing hearts as opposed to no-trump, so he re-raises to six no-trump.

After West leads the spade jack, South starts by counting his tricks. He expects to win two spades, three diamonds and three clubs. This means that he needs only four heart tricks to make the slam.

South can almost guarantee his slam if he plays the hearts correctly. He wins the first trick with the spade king and leads a heart to dummy’s king. The next step is to return a low heart from dummy.

The logic here is that South does not mind surrendering a heart trick to the doubleton queen. After all, four heart tricks will be enough to bring home the slam. But South’s real concern is to guard against a bad break in hearts. His chosen line is safe, no matter which opponent may have started with four hearts to the Q-10.

When East discards a spade, South plays the jack and West wins his queen. South can win the next trick with the spade ace and take the proven finesse in hearts against West.

Note that if East had the length in hearts, he would not be able to stop South’s heart jack from winning a trick sooner or later. Either way, therefore, South has guaranteed the success of the slam.

In situations like this, there are only two practical options for the lead: the unbid minors. With hearts likely to provide discards for declarer, should you lead the shorter minor or the stronger one? My instincts are to try to build tricks in clubs for our side. If the spade queen represents a trick, you may be able to get in later to play diamonds through dummy.


♠ Q 2
 10 7 6 5
 9 6 5
♣ Q 7 5 4
South West North East
    1 NT Pass
Pass 2 Pass 2 ♠
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


Iain ClimieDecember 17th, 2018 at 4:38 pm

Hi Bobby,

One curious point I’ve noticed on the last few Mondays i.e. that the page is changing much later than normal when it often updates around 9.00 a.m. UK time. Today’s update was some time after 3.00 I think. Its hardly a problem but I just wondere4d if you were aware of it.

Bobby WolffDecember 17th, 2018 at 5:08 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes I am aware of it, but since that task is done far away from me (I think in Canada) and by essentially volunteers, it becomes difficult (at least for me) to do much (if anything) about it.

No doubt it becomes inconvenient for you (and no doubt, others), but, although I have suggested to post it ASAP, it seems to run in spurts as to when it occurs.

Today, when I got up (as early as 5AM here in LV) it, of course, just went up a short time ago (since I awakened)

On another subject, our Monday hand is always (or almost) an easier teaching hand than usual, which is done by design, in order to comply with some who claim too many of our hands are beyond their abilities.

Since our wonderful game is so different to those many levels of player expertise (beginners on up) and sometimes disheartening to them, we decided to use our Monday hand to insure their inclusion and thus narrow that gap.

Such is today’s hand which while necessary to be able to execute it and so very logical to teach, nevertheless for others is nothing more than a waste of time to discuss.

Such are the restrictions present when trying to offer bridge advice to such a wide variety of readers.

And, of course, thanks forever for your total loyalty and continued great advice for everything bridge and often even more, including your special sense of humor.

Iain ClimieDecember 17th, 2018 at 5:26 pm

Hi again,

Thanks for that and back to the hand for a moment. I’d expect everyone to be in 6N even in a fairly week field. So, at pairs, should a good player be going off here by playing HAK unless he / she is deliberately trying for a non-standard score via the safety play? Silly game pairs! If the H are 3-2 with the Queen not dropping it makes no odds, of course, but maybe West should drop the 8 under the HA even from Q8x while if East has Q108x the 8 is a known false card tempting a greedy declarer to cross to hand and run the HJ, picking up the H108 (but not today).



Bobby WolffDecember 17th, 2018 at 7:32 pm

Hi Iain,

All you say (but silently) about playing that bastardized game, matchpoints, is true.

Real bridge (rubber and IMPs) demands talent rather than luck in safeguarding contracts, and not introducing sheer luck, so ever present with pair tournament bridge (yes, I know that there are IMP pairs, but that is the exception, not the rule).

However, back to the matchpoint problem of deciding whether to play for Qx in hearts in either hand rather than Q10xx (likewise in either hand), plus, of course the field arriving in exactly 6NT, the best contract. It then is perhaps about even money (or close) as to the likelihood of one or the other.

The only other possible viable alternative is to first lead the ace of hearts from dummy, then return to hand and lead a small heart to dummy (then nabbing the original Qx onside, but if the eight is played then deciding whether to finesse the 9, safeguarding the contract, or go all out by then choosing the king.

Of course, you would be risking the ultimate despair to have West show out, but that, of course, becomes just the part of tournament bridge which, at least to me, any way one looks at it, he has no way of not dealing with it, since all the declarers around the room on this hand will be faced with this problem, to which I see the solution as not bridge oriented, but rather just almost all luck in the result,

All you say about false carding or not makes sense and tailoring it, while on defense, to one’s particular declarer is perhaps (if you will excuse the expression), The Art of The Deal.

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