Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 24th, 2021


A V Ramana RaoAugust 7th, 2021 at 10:51 am

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
South’s declarer play is faulty in both theory and practice. He knows for certain that West started with six hearts and at least two clubs and apparently he hoLDS J of spades. Of he started with two or three carded spade suit, J will make appearance if spades are played top-down. In case he held four carded spades to start with, simply cash four rounds of diamonds ending in hand. In the five card position ( after one spade, two hearts, four diamonds and a club) west is squeezed to pulp. If he discards even one spade, spade J will come down and if he discards hearts, he can be endplayed with heart for spade tricks. But today he would discard spades exposing East’s deception and south would have had no problem

Iain ClimieAugust 7th, 2021 at 3:06 pm


All true but there for the grace of God (or maybe a very suspicious nature) we can all go. Remember Laocoon’s comment about the Greek gift at Troy?


bobbywolffAugust 7th, 2021 at 3:10 pm


No doubt your right-on description lends another valuable spur to your arrow, but with and declarer still gleaning his contract, does not detract from bridge being at its finest hour, where East did his very best, but even with, declarer had the trump card, even while playing game in NT.

Sorry, since both pairs need to be declared the victor, but only one is granted a celebration, let us all understand that the real victor in bridge, similar to living life itself, is doing one’s best and for that, not sometimes the actual final result, but rather what happened along the way, becomes the determining factor.

Proudly, bridge is often the winner when one side exhibits special skill, and today’s lesson of not necessarily believing what one sees, but if possible, (and often just not available) one needs to not be lazy and instead, if possible, first check it out. Next time, I bet declarer will!

However, could East have had,six clubs (including both the KQ) and defended that way thereby creating another brilliancy yet to be perpetrated, or am I missing something?

bobbywolffAugust 7th, 2021 at 3:21 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, I might have remembered the Greek gift at Troy since, at my age I might have been there, but if I was, I might have spoken up and, at the very least written a book, calling it “Guilible Travels”.

bobbywolffAugust 7th, 2021 at 8:51 pm


Just in a mood to apologize for my first sentence error of ending it with spur to your “arrow” instead of spur to your “bow”. Not being an archery aficionado, I need to be more careful.


David SnookAugust 7th, 2021 at 9:56 pm

So, I’ve added a new wrinkle to my process when I study the day’s hand here and try to play it out.

When I look at the hand on my laptop while eating breakfast, I try to simulate the conditions of an actual game by first covering West and East w/ yellow stickies and plan my play out without seeing what cards the opponents have.

For today, it looked like N-S’s best shot at getting the two additional tricks needed to make 3 NT lay w/ the spade suit. The Q-10-9 in the dummy offered the best chance.

First off, I play low on the first trick and then play the H ace on the continuation, hoping I’ve cut communications in hearts between the E & W hands. That 1 H bid by W is clearly a warning signal – do NOT let W on lead!

That club ace is an important card here, no? I can only stop E leading a club to W once so I need to plan carefully.

Also, I had to assume and hope the king and jack of spades lay w/ E. If the spade king is w/ W and protected, I’m going to get set, for sure, so I might as well play E for those cards and hope for the best.

After taking the second heart trick w/ the ace, I play the spade Q and if E covers with the king, I take the trick w/ the ace in hand. When the king does come down, I’m in luck. I now only have to drive out the spade jack and I might be home free. I cross back to dummy w/ a diamond and lead a spade. E takes the trick w/ the jack and leads a club but I take that trick w/ the ace, which I carefully held, and lead back to dummy with a diamond. And when I draw both East and West’s last spade, my 4th spade in hand becomes my 9th trick.

Does this make sense?

bobbywolffAugust 7th, 2021 at 10:58 pm

Hi David,

The lesson plan you dress up for yourself is perhaps a helpful one. IOW, you go through the motions of what you need to do to make your contract.

Here, and at trick two West’s heart suit has been established forcing you to keep him out of the lead in order to achieve your goal.

Obviously and as you point out, the contract tricks (3), not (2), are needed to come from spades and declarer needs to hope that the king of spades is with East, otherwise it will be a 2 trick set (5 heart tricks plus the spade king).

However and technically when West plays low, you, with even before you see it yourself you know that West would have risen with his king if he held it, so you use your logic of knowing where the king is to now finesse for the jack, with the idea of possibly losing that trick but knowing what to do once it loses.

However East now instead of winning the jack of spades, throws a monkey wrench into your plans, which will not be known to you until disaster strikes. Since the king of spades is luckily with East, West has already won the nine with his king signaling you that logically West will have the jack.

However, declarer went for that ruse and although it has been pointed out by other posts here, why he shouldn’t have, it still is a very human thing to not happen.

Lesson for today: Yes, one needs to carefully watch for helpful information such as when your spade to the dummy was ducked by West, East will always have the king, but for you, the declarer South to make the hand you need three spade trick so that it is necessary to play the hand safely if possible for who you think has that card. Yes, by East winning the king rather than the jack looks very much that he does have that card, but then as pointed out by AVRR he should have tested the other suits to get a count on how many spades West could have and if it is exactly three then, if East was a great player he might have won the king instead of the jack to disruipt your master plan.

But West would have given the show away when and if you run your good tricks earlier before committing on the crucial spade ending by throwing at least one spade away to keep enough hearts for the setting trick and by counting both hands the declarer, South was in control to insure the make since West’s original holding would show no more than starting with three spades and once he threw one away the jack, if originally held by West would tumble forward on the table, underneath the queen led from dummy.

For further particulars, please refer to AVRR’s first post and follow his exact description.

Therein, if what he says makes sense to you, then that is the first step on your way to describing what qualities are necessary to be called a World Class player. But only a beginning step, until you learn to automatically, both as a declarer and as a defender to count every hand while playing or defending, knowing the distributions of all hidden hands as early as possible while being a live player (all but the dummy) at the table.

Finally, you can get it done, but not without both time effort and many years of experience while playing against very sound opposition.

However, your interest is the first step needed, so good luck and happy voyage.