Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, April 4th, 2019

Home of lost causes, and forsaken beliefs, and unpopular names, and impossible loyalties!

Matthew Arnold, on Oxford

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


This deal arose in the North American trials of 1999, where the next Hall of Fame inductee Michael Seamon was playing with Jimmy Cayne. It was a valiant effort in a losing cause. Against four spades doubled, West led the club ace, producing the three from dummy and the 10 from East.

As West’s jump overcall was expected to be a six-card suit, declarer suspected that East’s double was partly made on the basis of holding a singleton club; so, in tempo, declarer Seamon contributed the king!

West wasn’t quite sure whom to believe, but eventually came down on the side of declarer (a variation on “Who are you going to believe — me, or the evidence before your own eyes?”). He made the unsuccessful switch to a low diamond. Note that if he had led a heart instead, East might have found the return of a low diamond and then still received his club ruff. As it was, though, East rose with the diamond ace, cashed his other red ace, then returned a second diamond.

Granted a second reprieve, Seamon ruffed in hand, then discarded a club on the heart king and ruffed a heart in dummy. When he ruffed a diamond in hand, it brought down West’s king, and a second heart ruff produced the queen from East.

The 4-0 trump break could now be handled in style: The diamond jack let South discard his second club, and he could then take the last three tricks on a high crossruff, with East forced to underruff throughout.

To raise or not to raise? Your trump support is excellent, but your values are soft, and a singleton in partner’s suit is not really an asset. You could certainly persuade me to raise if the spade king were the ace, As it is, though, the fact that partner didn’t bid three diamonds would tilt me to passing now.


♠ K Q 10 8
 J 10 9 6 2
♣ J 5 2
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 ♠ Pass 2 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


A.V.Ramana RaoApril 18th, 2019 at 1:25 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
What east wanted to achieve by cashing hearts A is not understandable. Simply returning a trump when in with diamond A and return another trump when in with heart A would have ensured defeat of the contract ( however, declarer must be given his due credit for dropping club K at first trick)

Iain ClimieApril 18th, 2019 at 1:57 pm

Hi Bobby,

A perfect illustration of why you should think at T1 before playing a card from table. How else can declarer drop the CK smoothly?

One of these days I may even start taking that advice.



bobbywolffApril 18th, 2019 at 4:29 pm

Hi AVRR & Iain,

Yes AVRR, but East likely knew that South’s king was a false card (of course declarer likely holding the king and the queen to which it probably wouldn’t dissuade his partner from continuing clubs who would only bid 3 clubs NV when possibly holding 8 to the AQ) so when West then switched to a low diamond, East in his state of anger, abruptly lost his way and cashed his heart ace, theoretically building a defensive fence around partner to then give him his club ruff after West would certainly ruff his diamond return.

IOW one defensive mistake (caused by Michael’s brilliance) to entirely blast defensive cohesion away, at least for this hand.

More credit should be given Michael’s falsecard since on this vulnerability it normally would be very possible for West (at his favorable vulnerability) to have started with only six clubs instead of seven.

However and whenever there is sometimes a very thin line between total brilliance and its opposite, abject stupidity, causing all of us to pause, catch our breath, and just admire someone who had the fortitude to jettison the king of clubs.

Being right has a remarkable shining quality which, in effect, transcends bravery.

And to the philosophy of Iain, no doubt, playing to trick number one entitles the declarer (side statement or not) to slow down his tempo, regardless of the need for doing so, but, like you say about yourself, how easy it is to not comply and sometimes, probably more often than suspected, be sorry later.

bobbywolffApril 18th, 2019 at 4:35 pm

Hi again,

I originally overlooked a tell of unless NS were either playing 4 card majors or sometimes in 3rd or 4th seat opening them as a tactical move, East might have doubted that his partner had a trump to start with, but his defense certainly looked like that was the case

Bruce KarlsonApril 18th, 2019 at 6:31 pm

Speaking of ‘“brilliance”: with kx facing ace on the table, with no chance of partner having an out side entry but might have the setting tricks in my kx suit (Qj10x or even Q10xx). I dropped the K under the ace. Both times (club Games) i was wrong and we got a poor pairs score. Any thoughts on this subject fro the great unwashed sub 1000 MPs.

bobbywolffApril 18th, 2019 at 7:28 pm

Hi Bruce,

No way can I judge the aesthethic value of falsecarding a not so lonesome K on the lead of an ace, in the absence of knowing several critical facts (what contract, what cards held and by who, quality of the opening leader, and possibly still others including IMPs, rubber bridge or matchpoint scoring), not that you asked, nor wanted me to.

However, this subject leads to discussing the intense concentration necessary in order to rise in the elevator of success to the ability to hold one’s own when playing against experienced decent players.

An old, no doubt apocryphal story, testified that Terence Reese, in his younger days, being teased by a near naked beautiful girl walking up to his table, looking directly at him, with him not seeing nor even feeling her presence.

That description seems accurate to describe the concentration necessary for a bridge player to succeed and be able to quickly (meaning in tempo) not only false card, but be at the ready to do it so that no one at the table might question that it is a singleton, but more importantly, be the right play to make.

However, once achieving that ability, will be of great value to you in becoming a great player, even if you still remain at sub 100 MPs. From there the MPs will flow toward you, to your consistent non-interest.

Never, never, NEVER give up the idea of one fine day coming at least close to conquering this game we all love to play.

Bruce karlsonApril 19th, 2019 at 1:04 am

3nt pairs… if you unblocked as described, how often were you wrong? In any event, thnx as usual

bobbywolffApril 19th, 2019 at 8:07 am

Hi Bruce,

To unblock the king while looking at Jxx in dummy and holding Kx while defending NT and having partner lead the ace from his long suit to which he has preempted looks to be bridge suicidal.

Of course, I may be misunderstanding what you meant about your experiences, but between what I see in dummy, what I heard in the bidding (with declarer bidding NT in spite of his LHO’s bid) just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. However throwing my king under his ace, then, of course, makes no sense to me and if I did, I would be wrong every time.

Of course, if the facts were different and partner had not bid that suit, but did lead the ace (against a NT contract) yes, I would definitely consider throwing away my blocking king, hoping that declarer might not have the stopper in an unbid suit he was supposed to have. However, even then my partner may be on a different wavelength and was just trying for a miracle in leading the ace from a long suit expecting me to jettison the king (if I had it).

To do so involves many factors having to do with partner’s knowledge and experience, but it is definitely possible to then unblock. What then would happen next may be anyone’s guess.