Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, September 27th, 2014

Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack.

Sun Tzu

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


At the world championships in Bali last September, this board was critical in both the women's semifinal match between Netherlands and USA II and also the match between Polish students and Gordon in the Transnational. Both American teams desperately needed a good result, and got one.

The USA women were allowed to make three no-trump when West led the diamond queen and followed with the king, and East did not overtake.

Meanwhile Gordon declared two spades at one table, and defended four spades after the auction shown here, on West’s heart lead. Apparently, after East had pre-empted to three hearts, North-South had had a disagreement about the meaning of South’s double. When Michael Seamon led his singleton heart, declarer won in hand and crossed to a top club to lead the spade jack. Had East made the normal play of ducking, declarer would have been able to complete the drawing of trumps and come to 10 tricks via the club finesse. But Jacek Pszczola covered the spade jack with his queen; declarer could draw a second trump with the 10, but now could not cross back to hand without running into a heart ruff, after which the defenders could set up the hearts and cash out the diamonds, taking a club ruff to boot.

Declarer’s best chance would have been to crash the spade honors to draw three rounds of trumps, but the bad club break would now have held him to nine tricks.

Your partner redoubled to announce ownership of the hand and suggested that he was looking for penalties. You have the perfect hand with which to double two spades — you have a remarkably good trump holding, a side-suit singleton, and an ace on the side. If partner has what he has promised, this will get gory.


♠ Q 6 2
 Q J 10 8 3 2
 A 7 2
♣ 4
South West North East
2 Dbl. Rdbl. 2♠

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 11th, 2014 at 11:52 am

Hi Bobby,

Tongue-in-cheek, I see declarer’s mistake here; he called for the spade Jack which East knew to cover. If he’d called for a small spade it might have avoided the cover, while some players don’t regard the 10 as a “real” honour so wouldn’t have covered an honour with an honour here. There is a serious side to this flippancy, though.

Here the position is relatively clear, but the classic advice to defenders is to cover the second honour e.g. a declarer holding QJ9x opposite Axx is very happy to see LHO play the King from Kxx on the first round. This can lead to all sorts of possibilities e.g. running the Q from Q10x opposite A9x through LHO if you are pretty sure he has the King but might not have the Jack, and you only need two quick tricks but no losers. Is there any general advice you can give on leading honours from the closed hand (generally towards Axx(x) or Kxx(x) in dummy) when you want to induce a cover or to avoid one?



jim2October 11th, 2014 at 12:56 pm

In the Slush Cup, pard passed three hearts doubled.

I started with top spades, pard ruffing the third then playing top clubs. Declarer ruffed the second club and started trump. We were a tempo ahead, however, so I got an extra trump trick for +500.

bobby wolffOctober 11th, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Hi Iain,

In some ways you are discussing a fringe area of bridge ethics, one in which there may be more than one opinion.

Should a player’s emphasis or intonation in calling cards from dummy (as opposed in rubber bridge from just playing them), be subject to scrutiny for proper ethics? Are shrewd interchanging names for certain known cards more likely to get different defensive actions from less that very high level players, and if so, should that not be allowed?

Believe it or not, I have never seen nor heard of a protest for such a thing, possibly because the victim may be ashamed in his falling for such a petty ruse.

However and long ago, certain American experts were very adept at timing the play to try and surprise (what they thought was a slower witted opponent) into giving away his holding through physical, rather than just random, not timed rapid plays.

And speaking of rapid, some old time players (and also some current ones) often play the dummy quickly, since he (or she) rather than the opponents, are gifted by the nature of the game of allowing declarer to see all 26 of his original assets, instead of just the 13 each defender is originally privy.

However, some wily defenders hide behind a cloak of making known that their tempo will be slower, since even though they have an easy choice, they will respond in a herky, jerky manner, just to not give the advantage to their opponent. Is that legal? I do not know, and that is what makes committee hearings so dangerous where the many reasons for bias by some, can then be easily explained away, with no negative repercussions.

PRECEDENTS need to be set so all bridge committees can hang their hats on other hoped for (what may be thought to be) wise committee rulings.

Good luck to me, since I’ve been crying out for them, but up to now, and for me it is getting very late, with a singular lack of success for getting it done and have those precedents recorded.

I, also, do not have any fool proof advice for when and how to lead honors one wants covered and, of course, ones where one does not.

The only experience I’ve seen worth reporting is that one good player, several generations ago use to say to his LHO, when he led a queen from QJ9, toward the Axx in dummy hoping for a cover without the 10, “What did your father teach you when you left the farm?”

Please understand, if anyone adopts that ploy, you didn’t learn it here.

bobby wolffOctober 11th, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Hi Jim2,

Let’s hope that your partnership then did not get slushed by losing 3 IMPS to the minus 620 your teammates brought back.

Without that extra defensive trick you would have lost 8. Gaining those 5 IMPs on every board will gain for you in a 32 board match 160 total IMPs, therefore significantly cutting your losing margin and with duplicated boards throughout, will probably make you the #1 pair in the Butler (method which measures your pairs results compared with the field).

jim2October 11th, 2014 at 3:03 pm

We were +12, but thank you for your concern.

I don’t think anyone in the room made that spade game. In Lower Slobbovia, you see, it’s considered a sin not to cover honor leads.

Even I — a despicable foreigner — get ugly looks anytime I do it.