Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, July 12th, 2019

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.

Joseph Addison

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


Defense is the most difficult part of the game, but in the past, journalists did not tend to write about the principles of defense because it is less glamorous than a well-played declarer hand. This is one of the reasons why past declarers often used to get away with murder.

In 1966, Hugh Kelsey’s “Killing Defence at Bridge” dealt with some of the basics of the game for the very first time, and the book has become a classic.

Today’s deal comes from that book. Against four spades, West leads and continues diamonds, the second being ruffed by South. Declarer plays the spade king, then another spade to the ace, on which East drops the queen. When the heart jack from dummy is ducked to the queen, what should West return?

It appears that, for the defense to matter, South must have started with six spades, and East with queen-jack-third. If East has an ace, it will not run away, but what hope is there for the defense if South has both missing aces and East has one of the kings? Note that a club return is unsafe unless East holds both the king and 10.

If you play a passive diamond, declarer ruffs, plays a heart to the 10, and trumps dummy’s last diamond, removing East’s only exit card. Declarer cashes the hearts, then throws East in with the spade queen, to endplay him in clubs.

A heart return is best, and it defeats the game, allowing East to keep a diamond exit card when thrown in with the spade jack.

Double by you is takeout, showing extras. Your partner can pass with trump tricks, but if he bids, you will be happy to hear him act no matter what he chooses. While you can bid four clubs, there is no reason to expect your partner has real club length. As usual, it is better to ask your partner what he has than to tell him.


♠ 5
 Q 8 7 2
 A K 10 5
♣ J 7 6 4
South West North East
    1 ♣ 1 ♠
Dbl. 3 ♠ Pass 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 ClimieJuly 26th, 2019 at 9:12 am

Hi Bobby,

Going back a bit further, don’t forget Mollo & Gardener’s Card Play Technique which started with the very basics and worked up to squeezes, trump coups, smother plays and defences against them, alternating between declarer play and defensive hands. The biding looks pretty rustic by today’s standards, but I would still recommend getting a copy to anyone seeking to improve.



David WarheitJuly 26th, 2019 at 10:04 am

After ruffing the second D, S plays SKA, hoping for no trump losers and therefore making his contract or an overtrick if the H finesse works. Hopes dashed, S ruffs another D and leads a small H towards dummy. If W ducks, S runs 3H and ruffs the 4th, making his contract. If W wins the Q, dummy wins the next H and ruffs the last D. S now runs H, and either E ruffs in or S gives him his S trick, either way endplaying E in C. Would you recommend this line of play?

Iain ClimieJuly 26th, 2019 at 11:23 am

Hi David,

Certainly works but not so sure single dummy. It fails horribly if East has HQx, Qxx or Qxxx, for example when taking the H finesse romps home.



jim2July 26th, 2019 at 1:02 pm

This was over 50 years ago and, in fact, may have been my first LS tourney.

I was declarer and received the AD lead, as in the column.

When West tried to detach a second diamond, however, the 5S came lose from his hand first and fell on the table, exposed.

It was if the card had decided of its own volition to “migrate” from his hand onto the table surface!

It started me thinking …

David WarheitJuly 26th, 2019 at 8:13 pm

Iain: After 4 tricks, E is known to have 3S & at least 2D, while W is known to have 1S & at least 2D. That means that the odds that W has the HQ are 10-8. Why would you want to go against the odds?

bobby wolffJuly 27th, 2019 at 7:51 am

Hi Iain, David & Jim2,

While David and Iain are fencing with percentages and alternate lines of declarer play, Jim2 is recounting his lower Slobbovian career. If this old world would dare explain how some otherwise charming individual could or would make 5 trips, much less 50+ trips to LS, Robert Ripley should be immediately notified.

However, concerning Jim2’s wording “migrate”, can be thoroughly first and foremost on the tip of his tongue and who could ever blame him? Yes, an inside joke, but one which will forever be his.

Iain ClimieJuly 29th, 2019 at 12:58 pm

Hi David,

Nice one, and good point! Even if you don’t apply the vacant spaces rule in diamonds, as the suit isn’t clear (I’ve heard both approaches suggested), you’ve still got 12-10 in your favour for the line you suggest.