Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

A man wants no protection when his conduct is strictly right.

Lord Mansfield

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

*Two key-cards, no trump queen


Bidding over pre-empts is more about judgment than science. Here, South should not double a three-diamond pre-empt, since he cannot stand to have partner bid spades at just about any level.

When North raises to four diamonds, suggesting at least a good high-card raise to four hearts, South might stretch just a little and use key-card, hoping his extra shape in the side suits will come in handy, as indeed it will.

After the lead of the diamond 10, declarer should not put up the diamond queen, since doing so might provide the defenders with some communications. He will win the first diamond in hand and lay down the heart ace, then draw trumps and pitch his diamond loser on dummy’s good spade. Now he can ruff a diamond to hand and reach a five-card ending where he has four clubs and a trump in each hand. Can you see what he should do next?

If clubs are 3-2, the hand is cold for 12 tricks. If clubs don’t break, then declarer cannot protect himself against West having begun with all of the four significant spot cards. But he can guard against East having a singleton intermediate or honor in clubs by leading a small club from hand and playing low from dummy, no matter what West plays. In the layout shown, if West plays low, then East will win his 10 and be forced to surrender a ruff-sluff. If West plays high on the first club, he is left on lead; now, whether he plays a high club or a low one, declarer is home.

While it is rarely correct to pass with good shape and moderate values at your first turn, it is often correct to pass with good values but no shape when it seems to be the opponents’ hand. Here, with only one of the unbid suits, you can neither overcall nor double unless you can judge from the auction that partner must have values. That clearly isn’t the case yet, so pass and stay out of trouble.


♠ K Q 3
 K 10 6 2
 Q 3
♣ A 8 6 2
South West North East
  1 ♣ Pass 1 ♠

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


jim2June 18th, 2019 at 11:11 am

How about:

1) Win AD
2) AH, draw trump
— declarer now knows vulnerable East had 7 Diamonds and three hearts
3) Eliminate spades, pitching CLUB once East follows to at least one spade
4) Cash top clubs
5) Concede QD to East
6) Ruff return on board while pitching last club

This line appears to be fail only if East opened 3D vulnerable without any of the top three diamonds.

Iain ClimieJune 18th, 2019 at 11:25 am

Hi Jim2,

Neat, provided of course (and as Bobby said) declarer doesn’t play the DQ at T1. The column line does reflect North’s incredible judgement in holding the C8, though – shades of Robert Darvas’ “Right Through the Pack”.

Less frustrating for E/W though than what happened to me the other night. I got endplayed in all 4 suits at Trick 3 when defending a humble part score, although I should still have found the return which only cast one trick when all the others cost at least 2.



bobbywolffJune 18th, 2019 at 2:52 pm

Hi Jim2 & Iain,

Thanks Jim2, for coming to all readers aid with a simple but clearly better line of play, totally overlooked by me.

In fact your chosen line of play is right at 100% after the opening lead, unless West decided to lead the diamond ten while holding the K10 doubleton and East opened a vulnerable three diamonds with a jack high suit and nothing on the side.

I suppose the learning of cleverly playing clubs in the case of needing to, with some other hand, yet to be constructed, is worth a look, but in the real bridge world, nothing, even a sincere apology, can excuse my horrific gaffe.

And thanks to Iain for trying to change the subject by humbling himself in the hope of other readers not saying “What’s this?” to my laughable suggested play.

Between both of you and many others on this site, I, contrary to comedian Jimmy Durante’s long ago famous line, I am not “surrounded by assassins”, but rather instead, by compassionate friends.

Bob LiptonJune 18th, 2019 at 5:03 pm

Actually, jim2, I think a slightly better line is win DA, draw trump, three spades throwing a diamond, club King, Club Ace and now DQ, throwing a club.
East is endplayed; ruff in dummy, throw the last club and claim.

Throwing a club initially doesn’t get rid of the diamond loser; since you’re going to have to give up a club if they break 3-2, why not? Now, as we all agree, you’ve got the DQ as an exit into the safe hand. If both defenders follow to the first two clubs, you give up one.

bobbywolffbJune 18th, 2019 at 6:36 pm

Hi Bob,

“Little by little we do great things”. That progression is often well established in bridge, as your description of today’s hand surely illustrates.

Thanks for your comment, which in turn fairly describes the pursuit of perfection (and because of me, began life while gasping).