Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.

Chuck Close

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


Today’s slam was played originally by the late Terence Reese. Put yourself in South’s seat and see if you can match his line.

When West leads the trump jack against six spades, declarer can count 11 tricks, assuming the trumps break no worse than 3-1. The extra trick needed can come only from the heart suit, and for this, hearts must break no worse than 4-2.

Yet there is still a problem if West began with three spades and a doubleton heart. If, before trumps are drawn, the two top hearts are cashed and a third is ruffed in hand, West will over-ruff and will later come into a club trick.

Should trumps be drawn before hearts are set up, declarer must rely on a 3-3 heart break, unless spades are 2-2. The point is that with spades 3-1 and a 4-2 heart break, the fifth heart can be established, but there is no entry to cash it.

So, to preserve entries to dummy, declarer must win the opening lead in hand with the queen, then cash the diamond ace and heart king. He enters dummy with a spade, then plays the diamond king, on which his own small heart is discarded — the key play.

Declarer then trumps a heart, West impotently following; then a spade to the king draws the last trump. Only now does declarer cash the heart ace, for a club discard; another heart ruff establishes dummy’s long heart, for a further club discard, to which the club ace is the entry.

Should this be a take-out or penalty double? You can make a case for either, but my instinct is that this should be take-out. Yes, opener could simply bid a second suit, but it feels more flexible to double first before bidding on with extras if appropriate. With a penalty double, you can pass and wait for partner to reopen with extras. I’d bid two diamonds, looking for the safer fit, not the higher-scoring one.


♠ 7
 Q 10 9 7
 Q 10 8 6 5
♣ Q 9 2
South West North East
    1 ♠ Pass
1 NT 2 ♣ Dbl. 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 ClimieAugust 14th, 2019 at 9:10 am

HI Bobby,

As per our chat with Clarksburg on Sunday, a case for an attacking lead, here a club if West has the nerve. Does this unseat the column line, though?


Iain ClimieAugust 14th, 2019 at 9:20 am

Just crossed off a few cards in a brief break from work; I think it goes off now with the spades 3-1.

bobbywolffAugust 14th, 2019 at 2:16 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, your entry killing opening lead denies, even Terence Reese, his otherwise brilliantly played slam.

Headlines in the daily bridge bulletin” “Climie clubs Reese slam to slow death”. Furthermore
a club lead is surely possible, considering declarer has never cue bid clubs (not that he might not have while holding only the queen, perhaps instead of the trump queen).

Our great game lends itself, more than many other intense competitions, to go from hero to goat and then back again on successive hands and today’s hand exemplifies that possible transition.

Besides, competing at the top level at bridge doesn’t lend itself to many physical injuries, only sometimes feeling totally chagrined when
we, ourselves, are responsible for snatching defeat from the hands of victory. Better the other way around like you did with your club lead.

BTW, although any of the three clubs will do, but which one would you choose?

Iain ClimieAugust 14th, 2019 at 2:33 pm

Hi Bobby,

Probably the CJ but then South would have Q9xx opposite North’s A10x! 2nd choice C7