Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.

Jonathan Swift

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

*Game-forcing raise in spades


When you lead a top club against four spades, partner’s two is a grave disappointment. In order to set four spades, it appears to be necessary to win a trick in diamonds. It looks correct, therefore, to shift to a diamond.

However, even if declarer’s distribution is 5=3=3=2, four spades cannot be set; declarer can arrange to pitch a diamond on dummy’s clubs. But if South’s distribution is 5=2=4=2, it might be possible to defeat the contract; can you see how? One possibility is to lead a diamond, playing partner for the jack. Then the defense can win a diamond before declarer discards two diamonds on dummy’s clubs. However, the diamond shift is disastrous if declarer holds the K-J-x-x of diamonds.

There is a better way to set four spades without risking a diamond lead away from the queen. You should continue with the club ace and a third club, which dummy will win with the jack, declarer pitching a diamond.

Declarer leads a spade to his king and your ace. You then lead a fourth round of clubs, which partner ruffs low and declarer over-ruffs. South has lost his second discard and is later forced to take a diamond finesse. When that loses, four spades is down one.

As you can see, if West fails to play the ace, king and another club, and later a fourth club for East to ruff, then declarer will eventually be able to pitch two diamonds on dummy’s clubs.

The two-diamond call is typically NOT based on spade support (although it may be a prelude to a jump in spades with four-card support). You are asked to define your hand better, and your choice is to raise clubs — which would be forcing — or to bid no-trump. I prefer the former; slam in clubs may be excellent, and your support is far too good to conceal. Even a jump to four clubs may be in order.


♠ Q 7 6 5
 K 6
 A 8 3
♣ Q J 10 8
South West North East
    1 ♣ 1
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


Iain ClimieJuly 31st, 2019 at 9:12 am

Hi Bobby,

That was very disciplined (or maybe placid in today’s game) of West passing 1S. Good hand, though, and it should be clear that South has practically all the remaining high cards here, so killing one of the club winners makes sense.



bobbywolffJuly 31st, 2019 at 12:29 pm

Hi Iain,

All you say is true but, perhaps another hand for
West to be concerned, is declarer holding: s. KJ10xx, h. Ax, d. Kx, c. 9765 and declarer not being able to determine the meaning of East’s diamond play at trick 2 when declarer rises with the ace in dummy or for that matter, if declarer then let’s the first diamond ride to East’s jack and declarer’s king.

Yes, the proper inferences will be available to determine correctly, but the eternal question, Will he?

David WarheitJuly 31st, 2019 at 6:22 pm

Switch the SA & K, and now the burden is on S, who must reject the S finesse and bang down SA and then another.

Iain ClimieJuly 31st, 2019 at 10:43 pm

Hi David,

Certainly true at teams but tricky at pairs. If both finesses work, you’ve got 11 tricks, if the spade finesse works you’ve got 10 even with the DQ wrong while if the S finesse fails you’ve still got 10 tricks if the DQ is right. I take Bobby’s point about pairs being a perversion of the normal game – should a good player be going off on the hand you quote?



David WarheitAugust 1st, 2019 at 1:08 am

Iain: Close. The two lines of play are essentially equal–if only one finesse works, each line makes 10 tricks, if both fail my line works, if both work, your line works. And the award goes to: my line, which is guaranteed to beat any pair not in 4S, while yours won’t when both finesses fail.

Iain ClimieAugust 1st, 2019 at 9:16 am

Hi David,

Good point – I’ve played in enough fields like that where there is the odd weird score (or more than one) on what looks at first like a completely flat board. Recent pride of place at one club went to the pair who played in 5N -4 with a mis-fitting (6-5 vs 5-5) combined 19 count. Their oppo didn’t even need to double….



bobbywolffAugust 1st, 2019 at 9:29 am

Hi David & Iain,

When you two discuss, the waterfront of practicality is often the result.

Before one can learn to win consistently, he or she needs to familiarize themselves with their competition’s judgment, if, for no other reason than, to remain one step up on them in either making one more overtrick, or instead, going down one less, whatever be that hand’s fortune.