Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, October 11th, 2019

Throw away the dearest thing he owed As ’twere a careless trifle.

William Shakespeare

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


When West led the spade 10 against three no-trump, it was ducked all around. Declarer won the spade continuation and dove into clubs. He could not afford to lose the lead to East, so one option was to cross to dummy and lead a club to the eight. That would keep East off play if he had precisely the doubleton king, but it would require him to hold a small club, not the jack or the 10. Worse, this line would provide only two tricks if West had kingthird, leaving declarer in a tight spot.

Declarer sensibly decided to play West for the club king, but when he cashed the club ace, West dropped the king! From then on, East could not be kept out of the lead, and declarer suffered a one-trick set.

South should have led a low club from hand, paying off to an unlikely singleton king on his right. It would do West no good to swoop in with the king, but if he played small, declarer would put up the queen. On the next round, East would have to contribute the jack — not the 10. South would then have to guess whether to win the ace, playing West for the three-card club holding, or duck, gaining on the actual layout. Knowing the spade position, declarer easily might have gone wrong.

Note that if South had held up the spade ace a second time, West would have been able to defeat the contract by force, by discarding the club king on the next spade (a far easier play to find with open cards than at the table).

All of our red-suit honors look horrible, and the lack of shape makes this a pass in any other position. However, in third seat, all that really matters is the quality of our spades. We should open one spade to get the lead in and to allow our partner to compete in the boss suit — though hopefully not too far. Some would even try pre-empting to two spades, which is not silly.


♠ K Q J 8 7
 10 9 8
 Q J
♣ J 10 7
South West North East
    Pass 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


bobbywolffOctober 25th, 2019 at 2:56 pm

During the Aces training years, circa, late 1960s, when after playing an usual 128 board bridge match against a strong invited team to Dallas on the weekend, we critiqued our performance on the Monday-Tuesday immediately following.

Each hand was roundly discussed with our coach, Lt. Col. Joe Musumeci presiding and, of course, all the players attending.

He had constructed a rating system of blame which colored, white (for no real blame, but nevertheless a loss), gray (definite mistake, but somewhat difficult to prevent), and black (a real no-no).

With the above in mind, and at first glance, perhaps our group’s opinion for not jettisoning the king of clubs under the ace in order to defeat 3NT might only be considered gray, but in reality (considering the bidding and the play, declarer going to dummy and playing a club toward his ace, with East playing the ten (or jack), and then declarer the ace) would be only a gray charge, but, in reality it would be changed to pitch black.

From West’s standpoint and obviously if declarer had the jack he would play it and if he doesn’t and began with 5 clubs, all that would be lost is an overtrick, but to not do so puts paid to defeating the contract (after earlier seeing dummy and remembering the exact bidding.

Since all of our bridge was directed toward IMP play, it becomes, if you’ll excuse the express, a slam dunk (or better a game dunk) if the king is not then thrown under the ace.

All the above is stated by me so that others may totally understand how difficult our great game really is, and just how adept one needs to grow before almost automatic plays are made, which appear very difficult at first, but not after the objective, setting the game contract, is fulfilled.

In any event, methinks this hand is worth reading all the above to realize what good bridge is about and the path necessary to get there.

Thanks for listening!

Patrick CheuOctober 25th, 2019 at 10:10 pm

Hi Bobby,It would be a nightmare for declarer after low club to QC and low club back to JC and what to play..Ace or low..if he gets it wrong..this will surely hurt psychologically and may result in sleepless nights thereafter and the only cure being to adopt Jeff Meckstroth’s ‘Any one hand is meaningless’..or as Jim would say’my head hurts’ in a different context..Regards~Patrick.

bobbywolffOctober 26th, 2019 at 5:02 am

Hi Patrick,

No doubt, after so many years, all the right guesses tend to blend into the wrong ones, making them cancel out. Any very old competitor likely feels the same, or almost, but whatever, to cancel that excitement takes away from just being there and living through it.

And as someone famous once said, “And treat those two imposters just the same”. Rudyard Kipling