Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

It is better to be a fool than to be dead.

Robert Louis Stevenson

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


South had to back up his exuberance in the auction with some fine play, and he proved himself equal to the task today.

Against the spade slam West had what looked like a relatively normal lead of the heart king, which went to South’s ace. South could see that both minor-suit finesses rated to be wrong, but if he could bring in the diamonds for four tricks, he would have three homes for his potential club losers.

As the cards lie, the natural line of drawing all the trumps at once clearly fails. And if declarer draws a round or two of trump with the king and queen before playing the diamond ace then jack, West wins his king and leads a third diamond to allow East to ruff, killing a critical discard. Then West sits back and waits for his club winner.

At trick two, South found a significant improvement on these lines when he played the diamond jack without releasing the ace. West gave this a good look, and eventually ducked. Declarer now combined his chances to best effect by ducking a club. When West took his jack to play a heart, South ruffed, cashed the spade king and diamond ace, then played the club ace and ruffed a club.

Had the club king not put in an appearance, South would have needed to find the diamond king falling, with trumps 2-2, but as it was, he could simply draw trumps and claim the rest.

Your partner's second double shows extras and is aimed at takeout, not penalty. You are too good simply to bid three diamonds, so I would bid two spades (natural but suggesting only three spades as you would probably have responded one spade with four) to show you are not ashamed of your hand.


♠ A 6 4
 8 6 2
 Q 10 7 4 2
♣ 8 3
South West North East
Pass 1 Dbl. Pass
2 2 Dbl. 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


Bill CubleyOctober 16th, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Happy Birthday. I, too, am surprised. Sometimes we just have to let our friends celebrate.

jim2October 16th, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Yes, Happy Birthday, two days late. Sorry!!


bobby wolffOctober 16th, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Hi Bill,

Yes, thanks for your well wishes.

How others can put celebrations ahead of club tournaments, I’ll never know, but we’ll just have to live with their notions.

However, and getting back to bridge business, if anyone would ever yearn to understand how and why numeracy is so very important in the development of one’s bridge game, today’s hand is almost a perfect illustration.

Declarer needs to take care of a finite number of losers and must use the tempo of the play together with the entries necessary to be able to cash the winners. All of the above has to do with simple arithmetic, but every necessary play becomes critical in its successful execution.

Depending upon the defense, (whether the jack of diamonds is taken or not, will, of course, determine the next move), and the logic of the drawing of trump, also a numerical aspect, comes directly into play.

Furthermore, the bidding has indicated who is likely to be holding the key club king, which leads to the favorable ending of it falling because of the limited spaces still available with LHO, the overcaller.

A cat and mouse affair while playing bridge, instead of life or death, but one which pits clear thinking against clear thinking with only one winner.

The numeracy element only makes it easier to accomplish when arithmetic comes naturally, but perhaps with a little harder work, everyone who loves problem solving, numbers or no numbers, can still get it effectively done.

Aren’t you glad you didn’t ask?

bobby wolffOctober 16th, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks and I am impressed. If I realized my birthday is so well known I would have made a deal with FedX to deliver all of the presents owed me.

I couldn’t help but think of you and TOCM tm when the declarer apparently needed the king of clubs to fall, knowing that somehow, if you were declarer, West would have at least 4 clubs.

jim2October 16th, 2014 at 5:02 pm


On the KC, I decided earlier to forebear the comment. Consider it a belated B-Day present!

Iain ClimieOctober 16th, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Hi Bobby,

Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker ‘s guide to the Galaxy, said that the answer to life, the universe and everything is …. 42! Congratulations on doubling that answer and here’s to many more of your great columns.

All the very best, and apologies for the late post and birthday wishes,


Iain ClimieOctober 17th, 2014 at 6:16 am

I can’t add up, can I? Post pub posts strike again!

bobby wolffOctober 17th, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Hi Iain,

Much appreciation for both your kind words and congratulations.

Old age has much to recommend it, but somehow I cannot remember what it is.

My recollection does however vaguely remember a game named simply 42, but since I never learned to play it, need help from someone with a better memory, who also heard of it.

That pub business sounds promising and might even suggest sweeter nights.

Iain ClimieOctober 17th, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Hi Bobby,

I look forward to re-using the post in October 2016. The pub in question is home of the annual world marbles championship (!) even though 3 miles from Gatwick airport. It is bad stuff, beer though; if it weren’t for the taste and effect (up to a point) I don’t know why I’d bother.


Bill CubleyOctober 17th, 2014 at 3:55 pm


Thanks for the explanation. You wonder why some prefer to celebrate rather than just play bridge.

We just got back from a New England Fall tour. While in Boston they had ads still up from last month’s Irish Festival. I thought why does and Irishman need an excuse to drink and dance as they do both quite well without a special party. 😉

Apologies to any Irish reading this.