Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 14th, 2021


A V Ramana RaoSeptember 28th, 2021 at 1:31 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
South found the slimmest chance of east holding either J or Q of spades after takeout double by west which indicated almost all high cards with west and hammered it. But suppose west has J of spades too. South has an elegant play ( which works on column line too) if defense is not alert. For e.g. he leads spade immediately at T2. Whoever wins must return a diamond followed by trump for taking the contract down . But in their anxiety to prevent spade ruff, they might just return a heart and declarer sails home. He can win anywhere, lead club to A, ruff club, ruff spade ruff club and draw trumps. In four card position, south is left with K and ten of spades, one heart and ten of diamonds and west got squeezed on third trump due to his diamond holding ( one suit squeeze) . If he retains two spades and two diamonds, he is thrown in with diamond ten and if he bares A of spades, south exits in spade making K of spades in both cases for tenth trick. Too bad east did not have at least one diamond honor.

A V Ramana RaoSeptember 28th, 2021 at 1:47 pm

No, looks like there is an error in the ending. West can retain two spades and two diamonds. If west is thrown in with diamond, he will play diamond which south is forced to ruff and he has to lose two spades. However, if west bares A of spades, south prevails. Sorry for the gaffe

bobbywolffSeptember 28th, 2021 at 5:25 pm


I’ve never thought of you as a pessimist, and not being one is, at least to me, a decided advantage.

When your initial post tends to suggest or at least imply, that West, by his TO double, would likely hold all three remaining spade honors, I beg to differ. My guess is that East is at least 60% to hold either the queen or the jack, likely not the ace, (but even that is possible, though and, of course, not probable).

My calculations are based on the possibility of West holding only a singleton heart making his TO double missing that ace, perhaps even a bridge textbook example.

However nothing I say can subtract from your always very high-level and consistent analysis.
The fact that you also sometimes include at least some lawyer like talk, only adds to your opinion, always on target and helpful to your legitimate attempt to add to your case.

It not only speaks to your bridge acumen, but also to your ability to win the argument (if any), which might, but rarely, since you also tend to cover, one way or the other, all bases.

Don’t ever change!

bobbywolffSeptember 28th, 2021 at 5:41 pm

Hi again AVRR,

My 60% mention above drops to 59+% (or so) if Jim2 is playing South since in 100% of those cases when he is declaring 4 hearts, West will always (100%) have all three spade honors and the law of averages refuses to cater to any one individual in applying its trade, even if, not to do so, may cause an even tiny glitch, in figuring percentages.

Jeff SSeptember 28th, 2021 at 7:22 pm

Hi AVRR and Bobby,

The column states that it doesn’t matter where the Q and J are and I don’t see why that isn’t true. If West has all three, doesn’t it play out the same way? Run the 9, West wins cheaply, leads a heart (or a diamond and then a heart), South takes in hand, leads the KS and trumps West’s ace, etc. As long as East doesn’t turn up with the ace,

Which brings me to my question. I can construct a hand with East having the AS and the bidding still going the same way (switch the AS and JS and switch the KC and 9C). In that situation, East could defeat the contract by ducking if he realized South would be playing West for the ace, but would he?

How quickly does a top player work out a hand like this? You are sitting East with the Axxx in spades, see the KD led and dummy come down. I can see working out that South and West probably each have four spades. I think a lot of us club types would see South take the AD, cross in clubs and lead the spade and think “hang on, why did he cross over first?”. I might work it out at that point, but if South is a good player, I’d suspect I might as well have shown him my cards and he’d have no trouble reading my hesitation and putting up the king.

I also suspect, but don’t know, that a top player would have foreseen this possibility before playing to the first trick. and seen exactly where it was going when South led a club at trick two so he’d be ready to duck in tempo as soon as the 9S hit the table. True?

Iain ClimieSeptember 28th, 2021 at 9:34 pm

Hi Jeff S,

I remember watching an England vs Scotland match on vugraph in 1979 when such a situation occurred i.e. a side suoit singleton being led of table through the next player’s Ace. The commentator said “Well East is a great writer of bridge books, including a couple on defence, so he probably should find the duck – oops, no there goes the Ace.” I suspect it was Hugh Kelsey whose Killing defence at bridge is considered a very good work. I did once (1979 again I think) manage to duck in such a situation holding Ax in the singleton suit led, as declarer had shown that as a side suit. Some of it may have been showing off, but declarer did misplace the cards quite badly after that.



bobbywolffSeptember 29th, 2021 at 2:48 pm

Hi Jeff S & Iain,

Yes, the general issue of the difference between general and high level defense is often quite different, depending on both the potential study, experience, and no doubt, then thought process, which accompanies the player under scrutiny.

The newbie sees a singleton in dummy (with also at least some trump to protect later leads of that suit, as well as having that specific ace in his hand). Wild horses are unlikely to keep him from rising with it, when it is led from dummy, but as his game develops, he then realizes that by doing so, sure he may lose that trick forever, if and when declarer has the king and sees fit to play it.

However, as time goes by, and that newbie does not lose interest with the great game he is now playing, he begins to understand that the toll of tricks taken (in all suits) later is the real goal, not just the one in that specific suit.

Yes, sometimes it is difficult to judge what to do, but that needs to be determined by the combined factors of the bidding, contract, legal signalling, opening lead, play up to then, and even when top players get together, oft times the pace of declarer in planning his play. Of course, at the very top level, the declarer, no friend of the defense, cannot be counted on for his pace being an accurate guide, since, “no fool, he” has not achieved his status by passing on to his enemy a tool to be used against him.

IOW, the whole hand, “and nothing but” should determine the very best defense, certainly including tempo, when “key plays” arise. IOW, if declarer has the KJ in hand opposite that singleton in dummy, his RHO should not present him with a “blue plate special” of a hesitation before playing low, although it needs to be mentioned, normal tempo is required, which, and, of course, should mean that a hesitation, rather than normal tempo, should never occur when holding the queen rather than the ace.

To do so is not only unethical, but can be regarded as totally unlawful and in its way is destructive to the game itself, although not in the same absolutely HORRIBLE class as overt cheating in many areas of the game, which is not haunting high level worldwide bridge by total miscreants who no doubt hate the “real game” and thus exacting revenge on the world for them being despicable people who, if not forever barred from this beautiful enterprise,
(Yes, a death penalty for them), will continue to practice this black death behavior until they finally are forever banished. However, at least to me, it is a proven fact that if they are not, our off-the-charts competition, will not continue since it is now too widespread with way too many advantages (mainly now, including financial) available to those who often win.

Forewarned should be forearmed, but what happens next can and will, IMO determine.

Sorry for the digression, but what is said above needs to be constantly reminded to those gentle and compassionate people who “KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO” and continue to allow others (who belong in HELL) to drive our educational, exciting and most challenging greatest game ever, out of existence.

Strong letter to follow!