Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 3rd, 2021


Iain ClimieJune 17th, 2021 at 1:55 pm

Hi Bobby,

A little unlucky for West but taking the King also avoids South having a potential guesss if North were slightly stonger e.g. the C9 or even 8 not the C3. Imagine West ducks the SK. South plays CKQ, C10 to CA and plays the SQ (always more enjoyable to pin the SJ and West presumably exits with ) ditching a small H and West exits with a spade on which South discards a diamond. South can now cash the last club (ending on table), West again ditches the DJ, south leads a D from table, East rises with the D10 (say) but South covers endplaying West. If East plays small on the D, south can duck and again endplay west or cover when east takes the last D and has to play the frozen heart suit in the 2 card end position.

North was extremely fortunate that his overbidding was rescued by South’s fine card play and a slip from West. Flippancy aside, intermediates clearly count for plenty.



Iain ClimieJune 17th, 2021 at 1:56 pm

Sorry “)” should be “with a spade, South ditching a heart”

A V Ramana RaoJune 17th, 2021 at 3:05 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
Perhaps west should have led nine of diamonds instead of eight with east unblocking ten on dummy’s Q and now there is no way south can make the contract. And even after winning spade K, he should see the ending coming and instead of discarding D J later , he could have led that card. And perhaps ducking spade K may not help as south can cash spade A and play three rounds of clubs ending in dummy and lead spade Q discarding blocking club from hand with declarer prevailing as west leads another spade , dummy wins and the play transposes to column line. This can fail if west discards spade on third club and plays east for diamond ten but then he could have done it immediately after winning spade K. If west tries A and ten of hearts south can duck and West can take the contract down by leading diamond but he may lead spade again the same point. Bottomline is east could have unblocked ten at T1 taking partner off the hook . It all points to how alert one should be at the table

bobbywolffJune 17th, 2021 at 3:08 pm

Hi Iain,

It is always an enjoyment risk to present a complicated playing hand, both declarer and defense, since both the thinking involved and the presentation is threatened by details.

However, at least to me, West needs to duck the king of spades, and although difficult to impossible to explain exactly why, instead consider two factors one involving those low spade spot cards West possesses plus, and of course, declarer attacking that suit immediately.

Call it “feel”, call it experience, or don’t call it any name, just try and understand why, since, by possessing 4 of them and declarer certainly having at least two, partner’s holding will soon be falling, always to declarer’s advantage.

Next and last, is there an advantage to play the clubs catering to a possible 4-1 split but still maintaining an extra club entry (ace) to dummy or having to give that advantage up for not being blessed with the right club spots.

No answer from me, since I am still contemplating various factors which may be influenced by so doing.

All the above is firmly entrenched in best card play, with only the mathematical odds to decide, plus, and of course, the quality of the opponents, to whom the declarer wants to make their discarding as difficult as possible.

Are we playing the world’s best card game or what? Yes, the disadvantage of it being hard work is distressing, but sadly necessary for both reputation and more importantly (at least to many) for winning.

A V Ramana RaoJune 17th, 2021 at 4:15 pm

Looks like there’s an error in my analysis. If east unblocks, west must duck the spade ten and then only declarer goes down. Sorry. But I think it should not be difficult for east as D 8 led and he is seeing two cards above it , declarer has only one card above ten so the unblock should be automatic

bobbywolffJune 17th, 2021 at 5:10 pm


Thanks for your overall analysis, which in almost all, certainly most occasions, is right on correct.

The original diamond 8 is the very common fourth highest from one’s longest and strongest opening lead choices, which in the USA has been the majority selection among the millions of bridge players, going back into the early 1930’s while in the USA.

Also, and from a technical bridge viewpoint, the discard of a 10 or higher, in the absence of other more telling evidence, usually should show the next ranking holding, in this case the 9.

True, sometimes a defender needs to break the rule when exceptions occur, but the above is what might be called standard practice, in the absence of solid contrary evidence.

What is more and if possible, when wanting to give a come-on and if it appears harmless for other more important reasons, the next to highest (with the ten or higher an exception) the next to highest is also thought to be the right choice.

Yes, we may be talking about errant rules to follow, but nevertheless way back when, the above was often taught as gospel, some of the time, perhaps surprisingly, also being correct.