Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 5th, 2019

This is a world of compensations, and he who would be no slave must consent to have no slaves. Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.

Abraham Lincoln

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


In today’s deal, South added one point to his 19 in high cards (for aces, his good intermediates, and because it was a Wednesday) and opened two no-trump. North could find no way to declare the hand, so he simply raised to game.

After West’s lead of the spade jack, South reasonably covered with dummy’s queen, perhaps more in hope than expectation, and wisely ducked when the king appeared. He took the next spade trick, worried about a possible heart shift if he ducked again, as West followed with the 10 to suggest a heart entry. Then South passed the club two around to East.

Declarer won the heart return, tested the clubs and claimed nine tricks when they split. No one at the table noticed the blunder that had cost the contract — did you?

It was West who let the game make, when a more thoughtful defense can set it. He must put up his club 10 on the first round. If declarer lets the 10 hold, West has the spade suit to cash, and if South covers the 10 with his king, he no longer has any entries to dummy to reach the good clubs.

Note that if declarer cashes the club ace at trick three, East has to unblock an honor to set the hand — otherwise South ducks a club to him in safety. But when East unblocks, West’s club 10 again causes declarer the same problem. He cannot duck the club and leave West on play, and he cannot capture the club 10 in dummy, or he loses the entry to the long suit.

This hand has a clear answer at pairs, and a slightly less obvious one at teams. On blind auctions like this, look for a sequence to lead from or a five-card suit. Alternatively, you try to locate a five-card major in partner’s hand. Here, the heart sequence stands out like the proverbial sore thumb. Even if a heart doesn’t hit length in partner’s hand, it surely won’t cost a trick.


♠ Q 10 7 5
 J 10 9
 7 4 2
♣ K 5 2
South West North East
      1 NT
Pass 2 ♣ Pass 2
Pass 3 NT All 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 19th, 2019 at 1:31 pm

Hi Bobby,

A battle of conflicting advice to beginners today – 2nd hand low vs. play high-low with an even number. A weak player might mentally toss up and get it right (well half the time anyway); a stronger player is more likely to worry about the C10 costing a trick – but then has South really got AJ8(s), AJ9(x) or AJx to be played like this? It seems very unlikely.

What should West’s thought processes be here at T3, especially given the need to have a think without causing ethical problems? Grumpier Easts will just want West to get it right regardless and do it quickly (as at the Dyspeptics Club) of course. Perhaps those small clubs on table should be the giveaway while South is having a think at T1.



bobbywolffAugust 19th, 2019 at 3:13 pm

Hi Iain,

Your analysis hopefully, emphasizing the likely exact thoughts of West, adds realism to his thoughts. And if a skeptic should doubt that
West, a bridge enthusiast, should be tuned in
(as early as trick three), to this bone crusher decision to play the ten, instead of the four, then West, as well as the whole table, would not let that deed, done or not, to go not discussed, either right after the hand or later, in the quiet of when EW were alone.

I would be lying (or instead promoting) the game if it wasn’t mentioned that both declarer and at least one defender needs to be on his toes when the play starts, from the choice of opening lead, straight through to the finish, since playing good bridge is very prone to not rising to the often occasion of making (or not) a key play to which the capable opponents do not have a winning response.

The difficulty in successful play is (especially on defense) not knowing when that exact time comes and thus requires total concentration (and, no doubt at least some experience for new players).

However, in order to do so, always keep in mind the responsibility of a player, often on the “up elevator” in bridge, who stays concentrated from the “womb to the tomb”, while engaging in active bridge competition.

If done, the bridge world is yours and all that is in it, and if so (with apologies to Rudyard Kipling) “you’ll be a man, my son”. Or instead, possibly a bridge degenerate, but IMO worth it.

Thanks Iain, for talking us through this hand and its thinking.