Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, October 7th, 2019

As soon as he saw the Big Boots, Pooh knew that an Adventure was about to happen, and he brushed the honey off his nose with the back of his paw, and spruced himself up as well as he could, so as to look Ready for Anything.

A.A. Milne

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


This week, we will be focusing on subtle suit combinations. Knowing how to play certain suits in isolation is only half the battle, though. Being able to make the best play in the context of the whole hand is key.

South took a unilateral shot when he jumped to four hearts. West licked his lips and doubled, then led the spade queen. Declarer could see three likely top losers in trumps. In order to avoid a fourth, he needed some luck in hearts.

Hoping to prevent the defenders from scoring a spade ruff with a high trump, declarer crossed to hand with a diamond at trick two, after winning the spade ace. This was relatively safe because if diamonds were 3-1, the defense could probably arrange a ruff in their own time. Declarer next led the heart queen from hand. This gave him an extra chance in addition to 3-3 hearts — that of finding a defender with the doubleton nine. Any honor-doubleton holding without the nine would not help.

West took the first trump and continued spades. South ruffed and led the heart 10, crushing the nine. West pressed on with another spade; declarer ruffed and continued with the heart seven. West won and put a fourth spade on the table, but declarer ruffed again, cashed the heart eight, felling the six, then claimed the rest.

Ruffing a black suit to hand at trick two would have given West trump control, as declarer would have been forced to ruff four times.

You should try to establish tricks for partner in the minors, but which one? It may be best to take the heart king first, retaining the lead to switch through dummy at trick two. You might not get in again, after all, and hopefully you will know what to do after a look at dummy. Note: Partner might have bid a minor at his second turn if he had known what the best defense was.


♠ 9 7
 K 9 4
 J 10 8 6 3 2
♣ 10 9
South West North East
Pass Pass 1 1 ♠
2 3 4 4 ♠
Pass Pass Dbl. 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 ClimieOctober 21st, 2019 at 1:42 pm

Hi Bobby,

I remember a hand in an old book called “The Bridge Player’s bedside companion) where west had HQ1087xx and understandably hit a 4H contract. Declarer held KJ932 (I think) opposite stiff A but West got repeatedly trump bound and endplayed after declarer had cashed all his side suit winners and the HA. You’ve got to feel for West, though; maybe if East bids a WJO instead, but no I think we’re all doubling.



A.V.Ramana RaoOctober 21st, 2019 at 2:17 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
But , do you approve South’s four heart bid? Particularly after North’s opening bid of one diamond . South could have easily gone down if instead of nine any honor card being doubleton with either E or W . It is lucky he made the contract but perhaps five diamonds should be a reasonable contract: making if initial lead is not diamond and going gracefully one down if the defense finds initial trump lead

bobbywolffOctober 21st, 2019 at 3:02 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, I not only remember the book to which you referred (so many years ago), but kept it, where else, besides my bed.

No doubt many would double, including moi, but since my defensive tricks are certain, and always plus the possibility of declarer losing control, because of both partner’s 2 club bid and my 4th trump, it “feels” right but chalk the result up to “Just One of Those Things” (a popular song, back in about the same day as your book).

However, perhaps the reason not to, is the now increased possibility of one of the opponents running to a better spot, which this time is close to happening, but bridge being the great game it is, (totally unpredictable), I sometimes just marvel of just how important doing the winning thing at the right time, positively effecting the result, occurs.

Since it is just too depressing, I’ll let others talk about the opposite happening.

bobbywolffOctober 21st, 2019 at 3:18 pm


As always, you both raise a worthwhile question, “why bid 4 hearts?” and right-on analysis.

Probably not, perhaps a preemptive 3 hearts would be justified if that partnership played “Premptive jump shifts in competition”.

However, at least in my judgment, the diamond fit allowed him to take that chance, since his mangy heart suit (although having seven of them is somewhat comforting) may have a winning effect of keeping those worthy opponents out of a high level spade contract, which according to his hand (and the previous bidding) may well have been looming.

For those bridge purists out there, please just consider the total opposite of how declarer would play a heart contract from a diamond one.

One as a cross-ruff, another as a suit establishment (already ready to go) but having the task of extracting those pesky trumps and still, in order to succeed, having a key one (just enough) left at the end to win boasting rights.

Is our game a great one, or what?