Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 20th, 2019

Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.

Ray Bradbury

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

*Forcing spade raise

When today’s deal was played in a regional pairs event, an expert player stopped in six spades and was highly disappointed when dummy came down.

Playing rather casually, perhaps vexed by his own failure to bid the hand to the right level, he took 12 tricks after the lead of a top diamond. When his partner called him out after the game, he made the reflex response that the double-dummy analyzer of the set had indicated that only 12 tricks were available. That statement was accurate in theory but wrong in practice, since after a top diamond lead he could have done better.

Let’s say you reach seven spades on the hypothetical auction shown, on the lead of the diamond king. Win the diamond ace and ruff a diamond, cash the spade ace, then lead a heart to dummy to ruff a diamond. Now play a club to dummy to ruff a diamond, and lead your last trump to the 10 to draw all the trumps.

You have taken three hearts, two clubs, four diamonds — via three ruffs — and four spade tricks; that adds up to 13. This maneuver of using the long trumps to take ruffs and drawing trumps with the short hand is called a dummy reversal.

Having said that, the reason 12 tricks are the theoretical limit is that a heart lead defeats the grand slam. The 6-1 break in the suit deprives declarer of one of his entries to table to complete the dummy reversal.

Do you have enough to force to game — and if so, how will you do that? I say no; these days, partner can respond quite light, and while your heart fit is nice, you still may not make game. With a 4=3=5=1 shape, I’d jump to two spades; as it is, I would bid two no-trump to show a balanced 18-19 and paint the perfect picture of my high-card values. Partner can look for spades if he wants to.


♠ K Q 10 3
 K Q 9
 A J 5 3
♣ A 2
South West North East
1 Pass 1 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


Joe1August 4th, 2019 at 12:19 am

Why cash the spade ace? Why not play low to K or Q, find out the break, and have a finesse position. Caters to 4S’s with E. In which case can make 6 not 7. (Maybe)

bobbywolffAugust 4th, 2019 at 1:45 am

Hi Joe1,

It’s a bit tricky for declarer, since the grand slam cannot be made with East having four trump and declarer needs to ruff three diamonds with small trump after discovery.

However, the diamond jack in dummy could be the contract trick, if West was only dealt three diamonds, unless his opening lead was very unconventional.

Yes, against certain wild distributions, it would be better for declarer to first lead a low diamond toward the dummy, just in case East, not West, had all the opponent’s trump (in order to guarantee 12 tricks against almost any distribution).

Thanks for the “heads up” and a strong reminder not to take bridge for granted. Big Brother, aka Joe1, Is Watching!