Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, January 12th, 2019

There’s not a joy the world can give like that it takes away.

Lord Byron

N North
None ♠ Q 6 5 3
 Q J 5
 A 7 6 4
♣ K 2
West East
♠ 10 9 7
 10 8 6 3
 Q 5 2
♣ J 10 8
♠ K 4
 9 7 4
 K J 10
♣ A 9 7 6 3
♠ A J 8 2
 A K 2
 9 8 3
♣ Q 5 4
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 ♠ Pass 2 ♠ Pass
3 NT Pass 4 ♠ All pass


This is the last of the week’s examples of manipulating a trump fit missing the king. Here, South’s three-no-trump call offers a choice of games. North is allowed to pass, though he would normally convert to four spades with four-card trump support, if not owning a completely square shape or terrible trumps. Today, though, North might see the possibility of a club ruff in his hand.

As declarer in four spades, you cover the lead of the club jack with the king, win the club continuation and lead a heart to dummy for the winning spade finesse. It looks best now to take the diamond ace and spade ace. If the king does not fall, eliminate your clubs and hearts, then play a second diamond, hoping West began with the doubleton diamond king and just two spades. If so, he will be forced to lead a club or heart and let you pitch your third-round diamond loser.

As it happens, the spade king falls, and declarer can draw trumps and claim 10 tricks. Should anything different have happened?

Maybe, though much may depend on the ability (actual and perceived) of South and West. When declarer leads a trump to the jack, West has an obligatory false-card of dropping the nine or 10; this costs nothing and may create a losing option for declarer. If South has not encountered this maneuver before, he may decide to play West for a singleton or the doubleton 10-9 of trumps, then cross to dummy to lead the spade queen in an attempt to pin the remaining intermediate.

When your partner introduces a major after the double of a minor, it tends not to be a call made with four small cards or dead minimum values. So, I would raise to two hearts now, aware that we might just miss a spade fit, but expecting even a 4-3 heart fit to play reasonably well.


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

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


A V Ramana RaoJanuary 26th, 2019 at 10:47 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Just a small point. In case the K of spades does not appear, south leads a diamond to A, strips clubs and hearts to play second diamond ( column line) before playing second diamond hoping for doubleton diamond K with west. It may appear that south can achieve same result by leading third spade as east after winning has to either provide a ruff and sluff or play a diamond when west will be the victim for providing the ruff and sluff. But as can be seen, an alert west will have a chance to shine by tossing K of diamond on K of spades. So it is imperative to play only diamond and not a spade hoping for the lay of the cards. If you find this superfluous, my apologies.

Bobby WolffJanuary 26th, 2019 at 11:17 am


Your post is very relevant, as declarer, when “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive”.

Yes, the timing of cashing the ace of diamonds and even the hand we lead from, which might require an opponent to exercise what is called a “crocodile coup” in order to prevent the defense from getting out of each other’s way, forcing them to wind up with the wrong defender (for them) on lead.

For example having West starting with KJ10x in diamonds (and then East with Qx) cashing early the ace of diamonds and then leading a small one from hand hoping West will go to sleep and merely play his 10 instead of what a bridge playing crocodile would do, “open those mammoth jaws, rise with the king swallowing his partner’s queen” to his partnership’s advantage.

Yes there are many slips along the way and also tidbits of expert play to rely on, in order to goose those hopefully “not too worthy opponents” into table errors.

Thanks for taking the time to fully discuss this hand, proving that sometimes what is said is definitely not a “croc” or conversely, perhaps it is.

Matt WilliamsJanuary 26th, 2019 at 2:25 pm

Great hand! I relish the obligatory falsecard, and will give this great study.

Bobby WolffJanuary 26th, 2019 at 4:00 pm

Hi Matt,

This type of obligatory falsecard has a few brothers and sisters, but in fact is probably the more famous one, always present when top players compete as well as look-a-likes when holding 10-8-x when it also could just be 10-2, but then the defender have a greater chance for the declarer to go wrong,making the 10-3-2 also mandatory to play the 3 the first round since again top players are very aware of the specific card played and realize the human condition involved, especially while playing against relatively unknowns who try and give ridiculous standard count, even when the enemy is watching (a lot closer than his partner probably is, which no doubt, is of little to not even the slightest value).

“Little by little the relative newbie can make great strides”.

The key is, of course, learning what happens in the minds of those worthy opponents when these situations arise rather than someone just suggested that you do it without detailing why.

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