Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 2nd, 2019

We ask and ask — Thou smilest and art still, Out-topping knowledge.

Matthew Arnold

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

*16 or more, any distribution


After South had gone down in his slam, North pointed out the flaw in his partner’s logic. Can you outplay declarer?

When North opened with a forcing club, South bid then jumped in spades to show a long and at least semisolid suit. A couple of cue-bids followed, then Key-card Blackwood. When North located two key-cards opposite, he settled for six spades, and West led the heart queen.

That lead made establishing the clubs a little more problematic (after a trump lead, declarer can draw trumps, then use the diamond and heart entries to establish clubs, even against the 4-1 break). So South won his heart king and sensibly led a diamond to the king, taken with the ace. East returned a trump, and South won this in hand. A diamond to the queen, then the heart ace for a diamond discard, were followed by a heart ruff to hand. Declarer ruffed his last diamond with the spade queen, but now he was locked in dummy and needed both opponents to follow to dummy’s top clubs. When East ruffed the second, the slam was sunk.

As North remarked, South could have coped with the possibility of a 4-1 club break, if he had planned better. After losing to the diamond ace at trick two and winning the trump return, he can re-enter dummy with a top club. Now South’s second club is discarded on the heart ace. After a club ruff, then a spade to the queen and another club ruff, he has set up dummy’s suit. After drawing trumps, the diamond queen is the entry to run the clubs and claim the rest.

If the opponents finish in no-trump after a limited auction, then when in doubt you should tend to lead passively, while still breaking the tie in favor of a major-suit lead to a minor. The heart two is best, so that you don’t risk crashing your partner’s honor. Anytime you have a choice of leading from a suit with touching honors at the top of a broken suit, look to the suit with a sequence.


♠ Q 8 7
 J 10 7 2
 Q 10 5 3
♣ A J
South West North East
Pass Pass Pass 1 NT
Pass 2 NT 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


A V Ramana RaoDecember 16th, 2019 at 11:03 am

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
But East can foil South’s plan by simply ducking the first diamond. If dummy leads a club , East will ruff and cash D A and if South discards club on H A , ruffs a club , leads trump to dummy and plays another club , east ruffs, South can overruff but the clubs get stranded and south loses two diamonds ( if West held J to four diamonds ,it could be three diamonds )

A V Ramana RaoDecember 16th, 2019 at 11:17 am

On the 1- 4 break of trumps , South does not have any play. He could have tried winning the lead , leading a club to A , discarding club on heart A, ruffing a club , leading trump to Q for ruffing another club and drawing trumps but the 1-4 break sinks him as now East can win first diamond and lead heart

jim2December 16th, 2019 at 12:11 pm

A V Ramana Rao –

If East ducks the first diamond, what does East do if declarer plays another diamond?

A V Ramana RaoDecember 16th, 2019 at 12:34 pm

Hi Jim2
Good one . Sorry for missing this this line and for posting
South makes the contract whichever cared east returns after winning A if south plays another diamond

jim2December 16th, 2019 at 1:34 pm



jim2December 16th, 2019 at 1:36 pm

I think declarer’s most likely source of problems in the column text line are in layouts where the defenders’ black suit holdings are reversed.

Michael BeyroutiDecember 16th, 2019 at 1:46 pm

Hi Mr Wolff and the others,
I don’t agree with the line described in the article. Because upon winning diamond ace, East can return a diamond. There’s no longer an entry to the established clubs.
On the other hand, Declarer has 11 tricks: 6 spades, 2 hearts, 1 diamond and 2 clubs. All he has to do for a twelfth is ruff a diamond in dummy. Knock out diamond ace, win heart return discarding a diamond (or win club return and cash heart ace), cash top diamond, return to hand via heart ruff, ruff a diamond in dummy, return to hand via trump and draw trump.

Bobby WolffDecember 16th, 2019 at 1:49 pm

Hi AVRR & Jim2,

Writing about our great game sometimes reminds me of long ago and similarly sending kids out to play. Cannot always watch, but often allows a back and forth worthwhile educational experience for both or all of them.

Whereas I was spared the back and forth, their discussion and end result became profitable for not only them, but for readers who were able to, card for card, instead of bat for bat, golf shot or tennis stroke, learn the timing which often needs to be perfect to overcome.

Thank you Jim2 for mastering the winning plan, but also to AVRR for challenging it and creating doubts, which, after, all, needs to be properly solved when and if, it arises.

The above hand is almost a poster child for the what if in bridge, when it arises in declarer play. And its beauty can be seen, whatever the result obtains, with declarer or the defenders prevailing.

By doing so, it will free the mind to, at the very least, learn to think a problem hand through, before following with the play.

Much thanks to both of you for the precious time you have spent with analysis, which, in turn, helps all of us who have the inclination and appreciation to closely follow it.

Not to mention the superior manners shown, not often with only kids, at the death.

Bobby WolffDecember 16th, 2019 at 2:10 pm

Hi everyone,

No doubt, the crossed in the mail above is alive, accurate, but only verifying, sometimes from all corners of the world, the problem and its truths.

It does also suggest that the World Bridge Federation’s motto of “Bridge for Peace” has real validity.

My dream is for bridge growth around the world to be also shared with the USA, with somehow, allowing the teaching of bridge in our primary and secondary schools a foregone conclusion.

To me, the above incredible responsibility rests with both our home office and, of course, its BOD.

jim2December 16th, 2019 at 2:59 pm

Michael Beyrouti –

If East returns a diamond instead of a trump, then declarer does not need the club suit. Declarer has time and tempo to ruff a diamond and discard the other on the AH.

For example:

– win the diamond
– small spade to hand
– ruff diamond w/ QS
– ruff heart
– draw trump
– club to AC
– AH pitching last diamond
– etc

Iain ClimieDecember 16th, 2019 at 4:46 pm

Hi Folks,

I thought Monday’s hands were the relatively easy ones! It just goes to show what traps are lurking on even seemingly simpler hands.



Bobby WolffDecember 16th, 2019 at 7:47 pm

Hi Iain,

A clever general will attack when least suspected,
so under cover of Monday, it happened. However
our guys were indeed ready for duty and saw it out, proving that great bridge players are always
alert, especially for a TRUMP contract.