Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 25th, 2014

For, those that fly, may fight again,
Which he can never do that’s slain.

Robert Burns

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


In the round-robin match from the world championships in Bali last year, this deal proved too much for most declarers.

While the French women had stopped in the small slam, Asli Acar for Turkey played in seven spades. She ruffed the heart lead in hand and cashed all but one of the trumps. That left dummy with two hearts, a club and three diamonds, and West with three diamonds and three clubs. Acar now played ace and another diamond and, after some thought, went up with the king, took a club pitch on the heart ace, then finessed clubs for down one.

Clearly, declarer could have succeeded by taking the diamond finesse. However, even better is to win the heart ace at trick one, pitching the club jack from hand. Now she plays all the trumps and keeps three diamonds and a heart in dummy, facing the diamond A-4 and club A-Q. East will be known to hold the heart guard, so declarer simply cashes the club ace at trick 10, which, as it happens, drops West’s bare king.

But if East had retained the guarded king, she would be known to have come down to a singleton diamond, so now declarer plays the diamond ace, then takes the diamond finesse. If East has the diamond guard and West the club king, the contract fails — but then it was always going to fail. Meanwhile, this line succeeds whenever East has the club king or West has both minor-suit guards.

The auction suggests your partner has only three spades, since the opponents appear to have eight between them. So you should compete to three diamonds, assuming that your partner will deliver at least three-card support for you. Since both sides appear to have some sort of double fit, competing to the three-level may be justified.


♠ 8 5
 A 5 3
 K J 9 3 2
♣ 5 3 2
South West North East
1♣ Dbl. 1♠
2 2♠ Pass 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 ClimieOctober 9th, 2014 at 11:42 am

Hi Bobby,

Is it worth checking trumps early as there may be an extra (or different) option. Take the HA shedding CJ, ruff a heart high and cash the SA. If trumps are 3-0 then revert to the column, but if they are 2-1, play DA, DK and ruff a diamond high. Use the S8 as an entry to either established diamonds or to take the club finesse.

I don’t know if this is better D3-3 or the queen dropping, or the club finesse minus the risk of D5-1) but it is maybe worth a look.



jim2October 9th, 2014 at 12:08 pm

I was going to post something similar. Definitely have to get up earlier if I want to post ahead of Iain!

Of course, declarer may well have intended to play along similar lines. That is, we don’t know what she would have done if both defenders had followed to the first round of trump.

jim2October 9th, 2014 at 12:14 pm

On BWTA, I have seen opponents have only seven spades on that sequence before, so there is still some chance of pard being 4-4-2-3. I would still bid 3D, of course. My suit is chunky and I am prepared if pard does something strange like bid 3H (holding small doubleton diamond and reading me for heart support).

bobby wolffOctober 9th, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

Of course, you (and obviously Jim2) are right on with your correct line of play, assuming spades are 2-1.

Again, sometimes space limitations create strange bedfellows, derailing concise and complete analysis, causing the reader to have to fill in the blanks. However, thanks to you two, those blanks have now been exposed to both of your superior analytical bridge knowledge.

Regarding the BWTA, yes, of course the opponents may have only a 4-3 fit, (although unlikely in the current system environment since many experienced partnerships either do not respond with only 4, or more frequently, do not raise with fewer than 4).

However, Jim2, when you do, as the BWTA suggests, rebid 3 diamonds, do not worry that your partner will now overrule with a bid of 3 hearts since with such a hand he would have chosen a 1 heart overcall instead of a TO double (at least I would hope so since his pass over the 2 spade raise after your free bid, tends to show not much extra), and your diamond length, at least to him, is somewhat unlimited.

jim2October 9th, 2014 at 2:39 pm

I’d like to explore this BWTA sequence a bit more, if you don’t mind.

Suppose North holds:


I think the double of 1C is beyond reproach, and I cannot see bidding three hearts over two spades (or raising to three diamonds).

What should North do when South now comes back to life with three diamonds, as in BWTA? Doesn’t three diamonds sound like a 6-carder? If so, North may feel entitled to try 3N since E-W don’t appear to have five cashing club tricks.

I’m still bidding three diamonds, mind, but I’m hoping North won’t take me too seriously when I do it.

Jane AOctober 9th, 2014 at 3:15 pm

OK, two cents from the flight B peanut gallery. South already took a free bid so pard should know what he has. If North can’t take a bid after South come in freely, maybe he wants to let the opps play two spades, and it could be a seven card fit as Jim2 suggests, in which case, they are probably not making their contract. Sounds like three diamond might not make either if North stays silent after the free bid. North must not have much in diamonds or he can raise on his own. The diamond suit is not that great. Give South the diamond ten and he might reconsider, or a singleton somewhere, preferably spades. My dogs would stay in the pen on this hand, but they might be complaining about it.

Iain ClimieOctober 9th, 2014 at 4:56 pm

A postscript to the play hand; the pleasure of putting opponents through the shredder by running a long suit shouldn’t be underestimated, at least at teams. At pairs, they may mess up the next few hands OR they may shrug it off as just one bad board. There is a time and a place for applying pressure in this way, I think. Iain

bobby wolffOctober 9th, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Hi Jim2,

In regard to your postscript regarding partner’s continuation of 3 diamonds in competition, it is indeed a violation of captaincy for him to come to life with a 3NT or any other effort.

In addition, of course, both partners hold the ace of hearts so we are only discussing theory not actual, but I must suggest that I, as, like you, a 3 diamond bidder, would not waste one NY second on worrying about partner now violating an important competitive principle in bridge and punish partner for further competing making both partners realize for the not so bright future:

1. Our partnership then can never play 3 simple diamonds, but rather only either allow the opponents to play 2 spades or us to play 3NT even if we held. s. xx, h. Jxx, d. QJ10xxxx, c. K

2. I feel it safe to say that in a very good to better partnership this type of violation will NEVER happen, if only to suggest that neither partner should not allow that sort of further competition one thought, in deciding whether to bid on or not, because if not, that sort of worry is nothing short of negative scary and according to The ACES and all equivalent talent almost 75 year creed, a major discipline violation punishable by death or maybe even slightly more severe.

bobby wolffOctober 9th, 2014 at 6:11 pm

Hi Jane A,

By all means, keep your dogs in the pen and try and defeat 2 spades. No one, especially moi, would question your decision to close that door, and that is only a competitive decision which should weigh your own hand’s losers (hence risk) against the opponent’s chances of making their contract. Yes partner, probably even with a minimum hand, but holding 4 diamonds, should raise you to the 3 level immediately (over your free bid) so both your offensive prospects go down and your defensive chances improve upon partner’s pass, verifying your decision.

No argument, simply a choice and being at the table, after sizing up your worthy opponents, should enter into that decision.

bobby wolffOctober 9th, 2014 at 6:24 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt, if there were statistics kept on grilling opponents with defensive decisions and using that pressure to wear them out during the context of a long match, my guess is that I will agree with you in wearing them down.

However in my case, at my not so tender age, it would be hard to be optimistic enough to think I could ever have a continuing advantage in that sort of game within a game battle.

However, like all competition, when 1. we have the pleasure of seeing the present opponents squirm, 2. we have no greater task than to run off a bunch of winners and merely try to then work out who has what during that pressure, our batting average on being right in the end should rise in proportion to what that situation will produce.

While those situations are to be loved, always take into consideration that before long those positions will be reversed and consequently good sportsmanship demands that we treat those two imposters just the same, and tone done the final gloat, even when we, the good guys, win.

However, no one is even beginning to say, to not enjoy it when we can.

Iain ClimieOctober 9th, 2014 at 11:08 pm

Thanks Bobby,

I mentioned the difference between pairs and teams because of an incident a while back in a regular club game. In a 2 board round in a Mitchell, lard and I had a good score on the first board against a moderate pair (also a couple) and then hit them for 500 on a part score. They seemed a bit down, so I tried to console them by saying it was just one bad board, water under the bridge and that the next hand wee what mattered. The female partrner suggested I was really nice to say this, so I truthfully told her I just wanted to cheer them up and make it less likely that they would give presents to our competitors in the next few hands. She refused point blank to believe that I could be so devious, but cheered up and got some good results in the next few hands as I’d hoped.

Isn’t there something in the musical and Dolls involving a Jack (spades I think) and an earful of cider? Some people just won’t accept even gold plated honesty: perhaps your comments on (physical) sales apply here.



bobby wolffOctober 10th, 2014 at 10:06 am

Hi Iain,

Sometimes mind competitions (such as bridge and chess) wind up instead, a battle of senses of humor.

Somehow I remember reading, in former days of yore, about classic battles of Eastern Europeans (mostly Russians) in chess, with occasionally another nationality thrown in, when gamesmanship and one-upmanship (thank you, Steven Potter) ruled supreme.

Although discussions of senses of humor may have been vaguely mentioned, it appeared to be similar to Mafia tactics of, “strictly business, nothing personal”. However, in those scenes, if winning wasn’t the leading actor, there isn’t a cow in Texas, and I can verify from living there 70+ years, that simply isn’t true and I’ve heard enough mooing to prove it.

Yes, while playing matchpoint duplicate, cheering up opponents after your pair has clobbered them, may make them become good teammates for you the rest of the session (since that, like it or not and make no mistake, is what they are) and anyone who thinks that is self-serving is probably right, but it, like not too many other things in competition, also corresponds with good manners, so what is a devious pair to do, but, if you will excuse the expression, follow suit.

Yes, you are right on, when you remember the scene from Guys and Dolls, since it had to do with an inviolate truth in the gambling world, that if a person walks up to you, pulls out an apparently brand new deck of cards and bets you that upon opening that deck, the jack of spades (what a wonderful memory you have) will jump out and squirt cider in your eye. DO NOT call his bet, since, if you do, you are sure to get an eyeful of cider.

However, in these days of horrible world-wide economies (seemingly worse in the USA) it might be better to not describe your honesty as gold plated, since that metal may be the last vestige of value, and calling your bridge intentions to that lovely lady specifically that, might be an overbid.

However, since the boxing gloves are now off, welcome to the club. Congratulations, as you have now passed your initiation and moved up your rank geometrically and as Futile Willie might have said, “Table Up”!

Iain ClimieOctober 10th, 2014 at 10:18 am

Thanks Bobby, although the missing words in my previous post (late at night and after beer) show my fingers can’t be trusted even if my brain can retrieve random information from its murky depths. Curious!

bobby wolffOctober 10th, 2014 at 10:44 am

Hi Iain,

My take is that we can all be thankful if beer, in fact, reduces your finger acumen, since, without which, your lead over normal mankind would be even more enormous than it is with.

At least to me, the word curious only refers to what some of us, namely you, are so blessed to have such a rare talent. Then adding that to your individual humor produces entertainment, not to mention awe, to all you personally touch.