Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, November 8th, 2019

What men or gods are these? What maidens loth? What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?

John Keats

S North
None ♠ A 9 7 6
 10 7 6
 A 10 7
♣ 6 5 4
West East
♠ Q J
 Q 8 5
 J 9 6 2
♣ A J 8 3
♠ 10 8 4 3 2
 Q 4 3
♣ Q 10 9 2
♠ K 5
 A K J 9 4 3
 K 8 5
♣ K 7
South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass
4 All pass    


Some of the most interesting positions in bridge arise when declarer is trying to create an endplay. The following deal shows the defenders needing to determine the problem and then finding the best way to escape from declarer’s toils.

South has a straightforward jump to game when North supports his hearts. If he had the same values but more quick tricks in the side suits, he might consider angling for three no-trump. With three slow side-suit tricks, the heart game should be superior in theory, but as the cards lie, the no-trump game would be easier to play.

West’s natural lead is the spade queen. Declarer wins in hand and cashes the heart aceking, East discarding a spade. South next tests spades by leading a small one to the ace and ruffing the third round. West correctly discards a club on this trick, so South now exits with a trump to West, as East throws a small club.

What is West to do now? A club is immediately fatal, of course, and any diamond up to the nine also fails to do the job. South simply covers the card in dummy, and East’s goose is cooked. No matter what East does, South can now play the diamond suit for no losers.

But what if West exits with the diamond jack? (This is the right card whether or not West has the nine, since South cannot have four diamonds or he would have maneuvered to ruff one in dummy.) Now declarer cannot avoid losing three tricks in the minors.

Two spades. You are allowed to have a maximum hand from time to time. It is still permitted in 27 states, I believe. Two aces and a fourth trump are big plus features, but the sterile shape should deter you from stretching to a limit raise. Especially if you play the raise as constructive, it is highly unlikely you will miss a game by doing this.


♠ A 9 7 6
 10 7 6
 A 10 7
♣ 6 5 4
South West North East
    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


Bill CubleyNovember 22nd, 2019 at 1:46 pm

I am an aggressive limit raise guy, but I agree this hand is a raise to 2 spades.

I blame my longest ever partner. He disagreed with my optimism once and I told him it is all his fault as made game about 98% of the time. A rare instance of me winning the post mortem.

bobbywolffNovember 22nd, 2019 at 2:10 pm

Hi Bill,

Since many, including I, think anything but a two spade raise would be a distortion, and although if partner invited game I would surely accept, this bid could be used as a poster child in a beginner’s book for that bid.

Having said that and knowing the advantages of having four trump in dummy (usually, in this case, opposite five) make for both much better percentages for losing fewer trump tricks, but in the matter of trumping something in the short trump hand, it is lacking.

Since the above paragraph was likely unnecessary to even mention, though speaking of post mortem might be, but the only real one, at least to my knowledge occurred in Kansas City many, many years ago, the result of a miss played hand and the rumor is that the declarer’s partner, his then wife ,was thought by many, to have only committed justifiable homicide.

If true, it becomes a really good incentive to improve one’s play.