Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Good counselors lack no clients.

William Shakespeare

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


Today's deal comes from a recent match in the 2014 Grand National Teams heats, to determine which team would represent each district in the knockout teams at the Las Vegas nationals last August.

Both tables reached six spades on relatively blind auctions, and both Wests did well to lead diamonds, setting up a potential winner for their side if they could regain the lead.

Both declarers tackled trumps in predictably unsuccessful fashion by cashing the ace and king. When the trump loser came to light, the key to the deal was to dispose of the diamonds from the South hand on dummy’s club and heart winners.

One declarer followed the uninspired line of playing on hearts first, the suit he had far fewer cards in. West ruffed the third and cashed his diamond for down one. The second declarer recognized the point of the deal. He saw that he needed West to have at least three clubs, so he might as well play clubs before hearts — just in case the defender had his actual pattern of two hearts and four clubs. Had the clubs broken 3-3, South would then have tried to cash the three heart winners before the fourth club. As it was, when East showed out on the third club, it was safe to take the fourth club first, and only then to play on hearts. By the time West could ruff in, the second diamond had already been discarded.

A simple raise to two no-trump here suggests a balanced 18-19 HCP. There is no need to drive all the way to game — that would suggest a fundamental mistrust of your partner's judgment. If he doesn't bid game, you probably do not want to play there. A jump to three no-trump would be based on extra playing strength — typically a very good six-card spade suit.


♠ K J 4 3 2
 K 5
 A 10 2
♣ A K 4
South West North East
1♠ Pass 1 NT 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


bobby wolffNovember 5th, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Hi all,

As Sherlock may have said to his sidekick, Watson: “Why would an otherwise worthy declarer fail to find the winning order of play”?

No doubt, in Arthur Conan Doyle’s best English style, Watson might reply, “You, the great detective, Sherlock, please tell me sir”.

“All players, great and not, prefer to play as long as possible without going set, and what is now obviously the best (and for that matter) the only winning option, was not yet zeroed in this traditional declarer’s mind”.

Understandable, yes, predictable, yes, acceptable, heavens no!

Does this mean, a losing declarer is always slothful or just not measuring up? IMO, no, all it means is that this declarer needs to look deeper in the game to improve his technique.

A relative case of problem solving, often on the table in at least an average of one or two hands per session of tournament bridge. How to get there?

1. Start thinking about the game at an early age, so that one’s thinking becomes much more flexible, often involving more options available.

2. Delve deeper into numeracy and its constant application in all three critical parts of the game, bidding, declarer’s play and defense.

3. Get hold of the practical side of what every successful bridge partnership needs, discussion and agreement on what type of bidding system best fits the personality of that particular twosome.

4. Similar to what the New York City tourist asked a person he stopped on the street and inquired, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall” and the well known answer, “Practice, practice, practice”. Once learned, never forgotten.

5. Of course, the easy way is to insist on bridge teaching (as an elective) being in the countries primary and secondary school system, which, IMO, would elevate logical thinking several fold and do so both painlessly and with great enthusiasm.

Finally, my bet is that anyone or everyone who answers these thoughts can add his own advantage to learning bridge, making it so we will never run out of valid reasons for learning this wonderful pastime.

Iain ClimieNovember 5th, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Hi Bobby,

All good points, and today’s hand is highly instructive, but I’d still probably have cashed the wrong winners first at the table. Hands up everyone who could, hand on heart, guarantee they would have got it right at the table – or should that be hands up in the air, as one wit said.



JeffNovember 6th, 2014 at 12:59 am

Very interesting hand. West must have at least three clubs, yes, but also at least two hearts. In theory, S could have cashed exactly two hearts and exactly three clubs before deciding anything. So, all of us who are convinced we would have done it wrong would still have had another chance to get it right after cashing two hearts – and the J showing up should at least make us stop and think!

bobby wolffNovember 6th, 2014 at 2:54 am

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for an accurate summary.

The only thing I could add (to help give you the experience in case you get deep into our wonderful game, assuming you are not already) you, in a high level game only, will see that jack whether that holder had 2 through 6 hearts.

Not that it would make any material difference on this hand since we were very lucky to have the 4 clubs where we wanted them, but in another time, another clime, seasoned opponents give nothing away and make you earn everything you get.

That’s the story of, that’s the glory of, our off-the-charts challenge.

Thanks again for your thoughts.