Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 13th, 2014

Science is the search for truth — it is not a game in which one tries to beat his opponent, to do harm to others.

Linus Pauling

North North
Both ♠ Q 10 3
 8 4
 A K J 10 7 5 4
♣ 6
West East
♠ 9 5 4
 J 10 9 7 2
 8 3
♣ K 8 3
♠ 7 6
 A K 6 3
 Q 9 2
♣ A 7 4 2
♠ A K J 8 2
 Q 5
♣ Q J 10 9 5
South West North East
1 Pass
1♠ Pass 2 Pass
3♣ Pass 3♠ Pass
4♠ All pass    


Hugh Kelsey represented Scotland 12 times in Camrose matches (the home countries open international series) and won every major Scottish bridge title, as well as the Gold Cup, England's strongest team event, twice. Originally a teacher, he tried rubber-planting and novel writing before finding his true metier as a bridge writer — authoring or co-authoring about 50 books. The deal featured below is taken from "The Tough Game."

In a fictional Gold Cup final, you were originally shown only the North and West hands. North had opened the bidding with one diamond; South had responded one spade, and after extracting spade preference, South had gone on to game.

West led the heart jack against four spades and, after two rounds of the suit had clarified the position, East had the problem of organizing a fourth trick for the defense. The danger of playing passively (for example, exiting with a trump) lay in declarer being able to establish dummy’s diamonds. Nor would the ace and another club be sufficient, for then declarer would be able to bring in his clubs and would not need the diamonds.

Sherlock Holmes’ line is on point, about settling for the unlikely when you have eliminated the impossible. At trick three you must rely on partner’s low club at trick two, indicating a club honor. So at trick three return a low club, in the hope that partner can win and return a club. Now, whatever he tries, declarer is a trick short.

There is no need to blast out three no-trump. Almost no matter what partner's spade suit, the no-trump game will handle better from his hand, and you may belong in five diamonds anyway. Bid three clubs to describe where your values lie, rather than guessing the best contract for your side.


♠ 7 6
 A K 6 3
 Q 9 2
♣ A 7 4 2
South West North East
Pass 1 Pass
1 Pass 2 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJune 27th, 2014 at 9:58 am

Hi Bobby,

I remember watching an England Scotland match in Birmingham during January 1979 in which Hugh was playing. He was defending a suit contract and dummy had a side suit singleton which was led through him. The Vu-graph commentator said “East is a great writer of bridge books, and might well recall the advice that ducking the ace can be right here. No, up it goes!” The audience (including Kathy Wei) laughed; I suspect HK, who was a great writer as well as a good player, might even have shared the joke.



Michael BeyroutiJune 27th, 2014 at 1:54 pm

The BWTA hand is not as simple as it seems. For most partnerships, bidding three clubs implies a fifth heart. I’ll be in a conundrum if North now bids three hearts…
Perhaps South’s first response should have been two clubs. Then after two diamonds by North, he can bid two hearts… Now this implies a fifth club… but it’s a better route, I think. What do you think?
Regards, Michael.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonJune 27th, 2014 at 1:58 pm

HBJ : Yes , it is a natural instinct to see dummy with a singleton club and snatch the trick with your Ace.
But bridge requires careful thought to prevail over instinct. If declarer has the king of clubs then the contract is surely there. If he hasn’t then cashing the Ace puts partner’s king under the sword of a ruffing finesse.
The beauty of intelligent signalling enables East to make the killing underlead of the club suit.
I sit in awe of such excellent defenders.

bobby wolffJune 27th, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Hi Iain,

First and foremost, the low club mentioned toward the end of the column should have been a low heart (specifically the deuce) which was intended to show a major club honor.

Second, the reason for that error was to spare Hugh the embarrassment of rising from the ashes with his ace play that you kibitzed during the Scotch-English match in January of 1979 which in fact took place in Phoenix, not Birmingham.

Third, it proves conclusively that in bridge where there is a will there is always a Wei to reflect away from sins at the table or if HK after rising, might have, with his elbow, knocked over his drink, seeing his glass go.

bobby wolffJune 27th, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Hi Michael,

You are discussing an interesting aspect of bridge bidding, preparation for what partner may respond.

Yes, it might be better to respond 2 clubs instead of 1 heart but, at least to me, that is just too great a distortion and to not possess a better (or at least longer) club suit may cause a future problem.

Yes, a 3 club bid here usually would show at least a 5 card original suit (hearts) but if partner would prefer hearts, then a bid of 3 spades by you should attempt to lure partner into bidding 3NT with a spade stop since if the original responder (you) had one (and even with 5 medium hearts) should bid 3NT himself.

Along with the above, we should always keep in mind that the priority in bridge bidding is to reach the right game whether it is NT or a major suit, with even minor suits more important than usually expected. With that as a checkpoint, and when faced with a choice, prefer the one which fits into the above description.

Thanks for your view and most importantly, bringing up a critical subject, which is not discussed enough.

bobby wolffJune 27th, 2014 at 3:22 pm


The quality of your writing always stands out causing me to sit in awe of you. That ability to communicate is rare and deserves recognition.

Fifty two card hands can always be created either proving or disproving most plays which in many ways is the enemy of the very bright, but inexperienced younger player, who often gets torn between this and that, leaving him in a confused quandary.

Bridge is only a percentage game with aces and cinches (a poker expression) a rare commodity. In today’s column hand the ducking of the ace of clubs is a necessity and figures to be, even if declarer does have the king as long as he also has the jack and decides to play that card.

Look at progress in bridge as difficult, because if it wasn’t, who would take the time to learn it? It is indeed the king of all games, along with chess and perhaps poker, but the kicker is that the blending in bridge of all sorts of worthwhile attributes, numeracy, problem solving, partnership development, competitive psychology to mention only a few, sets it apart in entertainment value and makes it truly a game for a lifetime which will never be completely mastered by anyone.

Michael BeyroutiJune 27th, 2014 at 5:06 pm

Thanks Mr Wolff!
I had totally forgotten about the FSF three spade bid, available here, and allowing us not to go beyond three no-trump if that’s the best resting place.

bobby wolffJune 27th, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Hi Michael,

It is really not a bid that is easily remembered, it is kind of like a fail safe effort which cries out for help, and the logic of the game, if it is learned in the proper way, makes one respond to the cry.

Thanks for your comment