Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, March 7th, 2019

Let us leave our old friend in one of those moments of unmixed happiness which, if we seek them, there are ever some, to cheer our transitory existence here. There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.

Charles Dickens

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


In today’s deal, the contract in each room in a teams game was three no-trump, and at both tables the lead was the spade jack.

At the first table, after winning in hand, declarer led a low heart and ducked West’s eight. East overtook with the nine and continued with a second top heart. South won in hand and turned his attention to clubs, finessing the queen. This lost to the king and back came another heart. Can you see declarer’s winning line now? South failed when he played on clubs: He needed instead to take all his spade and diamond winners, then exit with a heart. East would have been able to cash two more hearts, but would then have to lead a club and let declarer score two more club tricks.

The second declarer won the spade lead and decided that his best chance would come from setting up one more trick in the club suit. At trick two, he crossed to the club ace, then advanced a low club from dummy. East put up the jack, and now the club 10 and queen were equals and could be established for declarer’s ninth trick.

If East had played low, would South have followed low, or would he have inserted the club 10? If the 10 lost to the jack, declarer would have regained the lead and led up toward the queen at his next turn. The only time that it is wrong to put up the 10 is when West started with exactly the doubleton club jack.

When deciding how high to bid, do not just look at your honor cards. Your intermediates are outstanding, and though you don’t expect to find a singleton spade opposite, a minimum three-suited hand opposite would offer decent play for game. So jump to three hearts, which may make the opponents’ task of finding a fit in spades a little harder, and should get you to game if you can make it.


♠ 6 3
 Q J 10 9 3
 J 10
♣ K J 9 6
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Dbl. 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMarch 21st, 2019 at 2:45 pm

Hi Bobby,

On the hand where declarer played a club to the Ace and a club back, East (if quick thinking enough) should be able to work out that South has 10xx(s) or even 108xx, assuming West doesn’t echo. Even so, it would be a brilliant effort to play the 9 when South might well decide to duck the club (especially if West had echoed) on the basis that surely nobody would play the 9 from KJ9x here, so West appears to have CJ8 or KJ8.

A few weeks ago, you went through some suit combinations (e.g. AJ10xxx opposite x to lose only 2 tricks with that suit as trumps) from declarer’s viewpoint, This strike me as an area for study – when declarer plays in a certain way with certain cards visible, what is he/she most likely to be doing? The standard false card of the 8 or 9 from J8xx or J9xx in trumps when partner has a small singleton and declarer 4-4 plus options either way to cope with 4-1 is a case in point. Again this is an area where homework pays dividends to allow smooth play at the table.



PaulMarch 21st, 2019 at 3:55 pm

Hi Bobby,
Regarding the first declarer’ssuccessful line of play I am wondering what could have put declarer on the correct line of play since he would have had to judge the distribution perfectly to be sure of its success.
Regards Paul

bobbywolffMarch 21st, 2019 at 4:27 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt you have unlocked the door to which my guess separates the players at the top of the list. So called by some “poker moves” but specifically detailed for bridge plays rather than poker mannerisms, emotions. and legal deceit.

While mastering the sophisticated subject of card combinations is the talent, when and to whom is the varied venue. Of course with it, goes the standard holding, among others of “always” playing the card one is known to hold, eg while holding Q10x in front of AJx in dummy, when declarer leads a small one from hand while holding K9xx and then successfully finesses the jack, followed by now playing the ace from dummy to which his LHO defender must, of course, provide the queen. To not do so shows two weaknesses, first, a playing error antithetical to high level play and “also”, a lot to learn”. Finally, when a youngish player somehow picks up these types of play without blinking an eye, he will usually have a great future in bridge if and when, he decides to test those waters.

However that subject is not what you have brought to life. One example may set the tone to which your sophistication shows when, as a 3rd seat defender while holding a void in trumps when opponents have, for example, bid to a suit slam (eg 6 spades) and four or five spades to a major honor in dummy (K or A and maybe also the jack or ten) appears in dummy. Your absolute duty now becomes feigning shortness in the led suit, just in case declarer started with also five or six of the trump suit (totaling 10 between them) and needs to guess which opponent is more likely to hold Qxx for his contract. IOW, while holding J109xx of the led suit (insignificant for taking a trick) perhaps the nine or ten should be played (in tempo) in order to hope to dissuade even a highly expert declarer as to your length in that suit, therein hopefully creating an impression in his mind that you, not your partner, is more likely to hold the Qxx in trumps (just in case your supposition is right-on).

Our beautiful game lends itself to much psychology and those mind battles, usually only occurring between elite players, appears as part of the landscape more often than expected, which, in order to be competitive must occupy all players concentration (sometimes declarer but often a defender, as well).

The end result, when successful is nothing short of exhilaration, but even when an opponent has guessed it right there will be no doubt that he or she will be impressed by your concentration and attention to detail.

Thanks always for your natural instinct of bringing up interesting subjects not often discussed, but, in truth, have decided countless intense mind bridge battles between competent adversaries.

bobbywolffMarch 21st, 2019 at 7:56 pm

Hi Paul,

You raise a good point, especially since the length in hearts had already been determined by the time the winning declarer led the low club off dummy.

Perhaps he expected an original doubleton honor, whether the king or the jack to emerge and so succeeded. Often an unusual line of play (when it is difficult to determine which way is best) brings home the bacon, if for no other reason than its surprise.

In any event, all the kibitzers can do is admire the result and in the right setting and time ask him to explain. although I am one of those who doesn’t really look for the exact highest percentage line to follow. The main reason is that, at least for me, it requires too much energy for something likely very close.