Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, March 12th, 2015

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Alphonse Karr

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


The Dyspeptics Club membership changes as time passes, but one thing that never alters is South’s capacity to pick up strong hands. Indeed when a member had been away for six months he said that he didn’t feel properly home until he walked through the door and heard South pick up his cards and heard him open two no-trumps.

In today’s deal South barreled his way to the best game, when North found a temporizing call at his second turn and thereby uncovered the spade fit. Against four spades the diamond jack was led to the ace. Declarer cashed the two top trumps, and when he found the bad news started running the clubs, discarding hearts from dummy. East carefully pitched a diamond on the third club, but ruffed the fourth and drew another round of trumps, and declarer had just nine tricks.

As North pointed out, East had indeed defended well by delaying ruffing in, but South should not have given the defenders the chance to make a nice play.

A far better approach would have been to take just one top spade, then to lead a heart to the queen. East can win and play a second diamond. But declarer ruffs, cashes the spade king then plays a club to the queen, ruffs another diamond and now runs the clubs.

Dummy can discard its last diamond on the third club, and regardless of when East ruffs in, declarer will take 10 tricks.

You should not pass now. Yes, you have an uninspiring hand, but remember, you passed one club. Your partner won’t play you more than five points, and probably not for a long suit either. Once you limited your hand so violently at your first turn, you are well worth a call of two spades now, after partner invited you back to the party.


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


David WarheitMarch 26th, 2015 at 12:03 pm

You state that 4S is “the best game”. I’m not so sure. The other choice, of course, is 3NT. If the opening lead is a H, as it may well be, 3NT is virtually cold. If, however, a D is led, 5 rounds of C are likely to do terrible damage to at least one opponent’s hand, not to mention the chance that D are 4-4. And of course by “best contract” you are assuming best declarer play as well, which apparently didn’t happen at the Dyspectics Club.

angelo romanoMarch 26th, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Hi Bobby, you suggest “take just one top spade, then lead a heart to the queen. East can win and play a second diamond”
But what if East play a second HEART ? Now you must discard the third dummy heart on a club without cashing the spade king, I think.

And in BWTA I’d like one of the Q in spades to bid now; partner can double again over 2D if he’s really strong

Iain ClimieMarch 26th, 2015 at 1:48 pm

Hi Angelo,

I think on BWTA that your queens are both working but, if you pass, next hand may re-raise and partner may not double again. This seems to be risking 6IMPs or so, yet bidding will hardly run into major trouble given partner’s D shortage.



bobby wolffMarch 26th, 2015 at 1:48 pm

Hi David,

When deciding later and, of course, dissecting the two hands it is sometimes not a trivial task to decide what contract is best.

In the earlier days of the formation of the Aces in Dallas, we, or at least some of us, adopted a simple formula which included
the defenders leading their longest combined suit verses NT and the declaring sides maximum vulnerability against suit contracts.

By applying that logic to today’s hand the opponents would lead a diamond vs. NT (8 rather than 7) and a heart (weakest for declarer with of course the ace being with East) vs. 4 spades.

Our assumptions are far from perfect, but bridge itself doesn’t lend itself to stereotype. However, I think on average it is relatively safe to think that 3NT is inferior to 4 spades, simply because with a diamond lead and the suit 5-3 or 6-2 (in the absence of an unlikely block or very poor defense) the contract is just down and here, even with a 4-1 spade division, 10 tricks in spades should be made.

However, David, your point is well taken, but with all the variables in the calculations and in the interest of education, a partnership, especially at the Dyspeptic Club, that overcomes the awkwardness of opening a strong two bid, but still uncovers the spade suit and lands in the spade game, should be positively recognized.

The fact that since only half the job was done, failure in declarer’s play returned, making the result of down one a just and very commonplace ending.

bobby wolffMarch 26th, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Hi Angelo,

Yes, I think (cannot afford to take the time to properly analyze) you are correct in your sophisticated comment. And, if so, it should be done guarding against the possible 4-1 trump break.

Perhaps many readers will agree with me that playing game and, of course slam hands very well should be the essence of great declarer play, but with the complications in matchpoint duplicate of every trick being so important, should there be so much riding for declarer that he should shirk his unsaid obligation to make as many contracts as he can? I, of course, think not!

Moving along to the BWTA, once the partner of the opening bidder has passed his partner at the one level, he should, IMO, go for it and respond 2 spades to his partner’s TO double rebid.

The bridge rule to be respected is that one’s hand while starting out to be what it is, constantly changes with what is happening at the time, and in relation to a hand which has technically shown 0-5 points now holding 4 and an unbid major suit should pipe up at his next turn. This fact is constantly reverberating during the bidding portion of almost every hand played and needs to be applied on a consistent basis.

I just noticed Iain’s comment and, of course, agree with it entirely.

bobby wolffMarch 26th, 2015 at 2:07 pm

Hi Iain,

See above and thanks for intervening with what I think is a very accurate summation. In bidding, there is never a better time than immediately to get in, because, if not, the opportunity for competition often vanishes and as Iain discloses, away go either the money. the victory and/or the masterpoints.

David WarheitMarch 26th, 2015 at 4:47 pm

Thank you for your response. You talk about what opponents are most likely to lead, and you say that since they have more D than H, it would be D. I think you are overlooking something, however. Suppose after N’s 3D bid S simply bids 3N, which he might do thinking partner had something in D and needing to protect his HK. If this had happened, I think a good player sitting W would have led a H. Putting it another way, although a defender is somewhat more likely to have more cards in a suit where his side has 8 cards than where his side has only 7 cards, a) when he has an equal number of cards in the 2 suits, he is more likely to lead the major suit than the minor, and b) this is especially true where the opponents have given some indication that they have something in the minor. To put it another way, W would probably lead his longer red suit, and the odds are that that would be D, but if the suits were of equal length, he would be a heavy favorite to lead H. Combine those probabilities, and a H lead becomes more likely than a D lead.

Nico de NijsMarch 26th, 2015 at 5:54 pm

Dear Bobby,

What if declarer does not discard a 2nd heart on the 4th club but a diamond, I believe then you also will always make 10 tricks?


bobby wolffMarch 27th, 2015 at 10:04 am

Hi Nico,

Yes, you are no doubt correct, but like “What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas”, what happens at the Dyspeptic club should stay at the Dyspeptic club instead of embarrassing bridge.

Thanks for your timely alert.

bobby wolffMarch 27th, 2015 at 10:19 am

Hi David,

Yes, I agree 100% that even though the diamond sequence is inviting, almost all good (experienced) players will choose a heart lead. Also of course with the 4-4 diamond suit break it matters not and 3 NT, as well of course, as 4 spades should both make.

Predicting opening leads, even with above average players around the table, can be a very frustrating exercise. If individuality seems to be in the room (and, in bridge, it usually is and at many different levels) what goes through a bridge player’s mind when competing in bridge against relatively equals, can be as varied as the weather.

IMO, how the 3 diamond rebid by the weak hand is described would have much to do with West’s ultimate decision, but, of course if he held 5 instead of 4 and to a lesser, but still some effect, how strong they were would, at least, enter his mind.

However, your point is well taken and at least IMO is not to be argued with, and to, of course, be respected.