Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 9th, 2015

We never do anything well till we cease to think about the manner of doing it.

William Hazlitt

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


When this deal occurred at my local club, I was interested in the variety of play and defense that took place. At my table West led the club king, requesting count. East showed a doubleton so I won the second club and led the diamond jack from my hand. East won this, to play a heart, and I took the trick in hand and led the diamond queen. When East shrewdly ducked, I cashed two hearts ending in dummy, took the spade finesse, then threw East in with a diamond. He could cash his long heart but I took the last three tricks with two spade winners and a diamond.

At other tables West was allowed to hold the first two club tricks. A third club now was pointless, so West looked to try to set up a trick for his partner. The heart nine turned out to be the winner, since East was able to get in twice more in diamonds, and establish a fifth winner for his side.

But note that to defeat the hand East still needs to keep declarer out of dummy for the second spade finesse. So he must duck either declarer’s first or second high diamond, or declarer can come to three spade tricks, three heart tricks, two diamonds and a club.

(As an aside, it is very useful against no-trump to have the specific leading agreement that one of the ace or king asks for attitude, the other shows a good suit and requests the unblock of an honor, or a count signal – high for even, low for odd.)

To bid a major here requires either five cards or a four-card suit where you would not be unhappy to be raised with three. Neither of your majors meets that criterion so settle for a simple raise to two diamonds – in my opinion a cuebid raise should either have a fourth trump or should be a little better put together than this hand. It never hurts to have a maximum for your bidding once in a while.


♠ K 8 5 3
 10 5 3 2
 A K 4
♣ 7 5
South West North East
1♣ 1 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Mircea1January 23rd, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, assuming we bid 2D as indicated, if partner now bids a major is it natural (a reverse) or is it showing a stopper? He could easily have a 1=4=6=2 hand with, say 16 count

bobby wolffJanuary 23rd, 2015 at 3:24 pm

Hi Mircea,

Actually, the original overcaller may have either 4 of the major suit he bids (more frequent) than showing a stopper there for NT and, of course, a maximum hand.

However, if there is doubt, the advancer, South, could (should) if there is doubt merely cue bid 3 clubs and then differentiate with next bid (partner returns to 3 diamonds, South now raises the major). In that way, any doubt will be clarified, but if the level is in danger of going past 3NT then just raise partner’s suit.

At the table and in normal competition the “feel” of the hand will be enabling, answering doubt. When partner on this hand bids another suit, the fact that he is missing the AK of his primary suit is certainly indicative of a 1-4-6-2 hand in which you describe.

Experience is the great enabler and the only difficulty in securing it is making sure (if possible) both partner and the competition is as interested as you are in moving quickly up the ladder in ability.

Jane AJanuary 23rd, 2015 at 5:09 pm

Not sure this matters but as east I might not give count to deceive declarer. If this had happened when you played the hand, would you have ducked the second club?

bobby wolffJanuary 23rd, 2015 at 5:48 pm

Hi Jane,

If I overrated my ability, I would suggest without reservation that I would guess to do whatever would turn out right. However, while living in a real world, I would know that to be a gross exaggeration.

Consequently, I will only say that if I thought these particular opponents would be, upon my ducking the second club, then to switch to a potentially game denying heart (rather than a helpful spade) I would chance winning the second club, playing for clubs to be 5-2, no diamond honor with the good clubs.

All of the above requires sophistication, not often discussed, but certainly to be respected and therefore considered. No one has ever denied that bridge is for people of all seasons, able to take each flashpoint as it occurs, and deal with it honestly and realistically.

The game is, to say the least, difficult, but at the same time, not at the level of brain surgery or rocket science. For it to be called only a pastime does not really do it justice, but for a mind enhancer and to be begun as a youngster gets a swift and hearty, AYE from me.

I just hope that others will agree and attach themselves to a bandwagon for promotion.

Thanks for your question and I hope that my attempted answer makes logical sense.

Iain ClimieJanuary 23rd, 2015 at 5:51 pm

Hi Bobby,

In the play hand today, do you think North should have bothered bidding 3NT, assuming that the 2NT rebid shows 22-24 points (or perhaps 22-23). The hand shape is sterile, there are no great intermediates and it will be far harder to make 3N with 23 pts opposite 2 than with (say) 12 opposite 12. Also, looking at the NS hands in isolation and assuming a club lead, it looks all too likely to be 3 or 4 club losers, the DA and K plus the spade K half the time.

I realise that North was probably playing with the room, and it might be more understandable at temas, but is there a strong case at paird for passing 2N? Well played, though – maybe your partner decided you’d scramble it home if there was a way, and bid accordingly.



bobby wolffJanuary 23rd, 2015 at 6:18 pm

Hi Iain,

A good question by you, complete with compelling evidence (22+ 2, rather than 12+12) to justify your suggestion.

However, my experience (whatever that means and why I am even mentioning it) might suggest 2 pertinent facts:

1. Sometimes an honest opening leader will unfortunately for him, fall victim to its randomness and help declarer rather than threaten his contract.

2. Perhaps add more credibility to Edgar Kaplan’s often but scintillating contribution to general declarer’s play (often when being the chief commentator while on view-graph), particularly to the play of 3NT. “Where there are eight tricks available they frequently become nine”.

A 3rd reason could be, having confidence in partner’s declarer play ability is never a bad thing, even though at times it may be a stretch.

I have no other rebuttal to your suggestion and only positive admiration.

Judy Kay-WolffJanuary 24th, 2015 at 2:30 am

Hi Iain,

In scanning today’s comments, Bobby mentioned Edgar’s encouraging remark while on vugraph … “Where there are eight tricks available, they frequently become nine.”. I can personally testify to that concept with The Lone Wolff as my partner as he constantly performs the same kind of magic .. even turning eight tricks into ten. My confidence in partner’s talents often justifies my overbids. The world hates a coward!

Speaking of Edgar .. Bobby’s use today of the word ‘scintillating’ recalled a blog I penned on July 24th, 2010 on my own blogsite called RATS. (You can check it out on It was part of a private system passed on from Edgar to Betty in coded language after the hand was over. Edgar’s wife (like any sensitive spouse with marital ties to a bridge superstar) did not like to see displeasure in Edgar’s eyes or annoyance via body reflex resulting from her less-than-stellar performance on occasion. He created a private code to not upset her .. but at the same time got his message across. It has been joked about for years, but certainly improved their rapport (and results). Four letters were used to describe Edgar’s appraisal of her actions while bidding, defending or declaring. The initials stood for four words: Reasonable, Attractive, Thoughtful and Scintillating. Bobby’s use of the ‘S’ word today brought a smile to my lips.and recalled Edgar’s unique talent with the English language.

Funny the things people remember!

Iain ClimieJanuary 24th, 2015 at 10:27 am

Hi Judy,

Many thanks for this and I wished I’d seen the advice many years ago. I played with my then girlfriend in the early 1980s who was smarter than me academically (a maths PhD) but somewhat weaker at the bridge table. If we’d stuck to club bridge, things might have been OK but I’m ashamed to admit that I treated her poorly at the table, especially in tournaments. Things didn’t last, basically my fault for being a mean ****.

I’ve been married since 1988 to someone who is pretty (OK very) tolerant but she doesn’t play bridge and is hell bent on not learning, given her knowledge of my track record. I may be better mannered now, but I suspect she’s displaying sensible caution just in case.

An alternative approach to RATS is simply not to discuss the hands until the end of the session, a Bols Tip from Kitty Bethe (as she was then) but this may require superhuman restraint. My current approach is to try to accept that things WILL go wrong, and to be happy if and when they don’t, especially at pairs. An ability to see the funny side of the occasional -1100 also helps; pard opened a slightly scruffy weak 2H vulnerable in a weak field the other week, where most players don’t play weak 2s. I had a 3-1-5-4 9 count and feared the worst when it went P, P, Dbl, all pass. Blaming the system for occasional bad results (outweighed by the good ones with weak 2s) helps too, as does looking at the over-grim seriousness of games like chess, go and shogi at top level – little luck (your opponent may miss a good move he had available), but also far less sociable.



Judy Kay-WolffJanuary 24th, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Hi Iain,

The bridge world is composed of thousands of complex personalities. I have been playing (or at least attempting to) for almost sixty years .. and I have multiple scars and lacerations to prove it. My personal exposure to the world’s finest was unique and stimulating, but bad for the ego. Not being a ‘natural” player, it was an uphill struggle. I excelled among my weak contemporaries, but I later realized what I was playing did not vaguely resemble the ‘real game.’ Accepting that as gospel, gave me a different prospective. I came to the candid realization that words and letters were easier to deal with as opposed to numbers. I have had a rather active life — deeply entrenched in bridge administration, amateur show writing (mostly about our marvelous pastime), party planning, trotters and pacers ownership, originated my own successful sports memorabilia business (via the courtesy of Norman’s encouragement and financing) and my latest focus — bridgeblogging — which affords me much pleasure. So, I can sincerely say .. been there — done that.

The above blathering all boils down to the sensible reality that one must accept their talent, mediocrity or failure and make the best of it. I have enjoyed an incredibly exciting eighty years and learned to handle my bridge shortcomings .. though well above average (thanks to the tutelage, encouragement and support of Norman and Bobby). I do the best I can with the pasteboards and am not nearly as sensitive to correction and instruction in the privacy of my own den over a glass of wine as opposed to public embarrassment which only make matters worse. But, don’t feel sorry for me. I do have a few scalps on the wall thanks to my two marital liasons, but … Edgar’s solution, though viewed as humorous, trumped the other alternatives! Edgar had the right idea and enriched his relationship with his beloved Betty by the creation of RATS. Incidentally, she was extremely bright and talented in other arenas and excelled mainly in the field of music while staying in the background as Mrs. Alfred Sheinwold (whose husband was Edgar’s bridge partner). Edgar enjoyed music and began taking violin lessons from his ‘partner-in-law.’ You can figure out the rest of the story for the Kaplans .. an incredible marriage for over twenty years until Betty’s death in 1985.

All of the above educated me as to the acceptance of one’s talents and shortcomings and to dwell upon one’s assets .. not liabilities. My mother always lectured me that ‘.. you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar…’ and Edgar’s philosophy was of the same ilk.



Iain ClimieJanuary 24th, 2015 at 4:11 pm

Hi Judy,

Thanks for this but a worrying thought. Although there are many complex personalities playing bridge there are also some personalities with complexes. This can be more serious away from the table, of course.



Judy Kay-WolffJanuary 24th, 2015 at 7:57 pm

Hi Iain,

I think we must accept the realization that there is a world out there that does not include bridge. Imagine that!! I have family and friends who enjoy a normal (though probably not as exciting) routine and fortunately for them do not suffer from the tensions and common embarrassments while falling from grace before the public! Surely our game produces frustrations, anxiety, headaches, palpitations, abnormal behavior, quirks, tics, twitches, complexes, stubborn stances and many more distressing side effects, but I wouldn’t consider abandoning it for the world. Would you?

Iain ClimieJanuary 24th, 2015 at 10:31 pm

Hi Judy,

Not now, but I did have that huge break from the game. Probably a mistake but I recall a failed musician joke here. For every classical musician who manages to make a living at their art, there are dozens who practice ferociously but fall short. So, why is a double bass better than a violin if you’re a failed wannabe musician? The answer is that it burns for longer!

There is a bleak truth in there for anyone whose ambition fell short.



Judy Kay-WolffJanuary 25th, 2015 at 12:53 am

Hi again Iain:

I would not know what it is like to ‘take a break.’ With the exception of four scattered NABCs, I never missed any others .. beginning in 1957 .. continuing faithfully until five years ago. For non bridge players it must be difficult to fathom how we can be so ‘possessed’ by a deck of cards.