Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Suspicion is the companion of mean souls, and the bane of good society.

Tomas Paine

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


Both declarers on this deal from a head-to-head match play were awake enough to put the opening leader under maximum pressure. One of them brought home his contract, one of the defenders looked a little deeper and saw through the ruse.

At both tables South opened one club, West overcalled one spade, and both Norths raised clubs. One made a limit raise to three clubs, one cuebid to show a limit raise or better. Both Souths tried the no-trump game, and when West led the spade king to the two and four, South contributed the jack.

Can you see the logic here? If the club finesse is working, the deal is all about overtricks. But if the finesse is wrong, then winning the first trick with the ace may leave the defenders able to cash out spades; while if South ducks at trick one, by playing the seven, then a heart switch may pose a new and equally dangerous threat.

When declarer dropped the jack on the first trick, it looked to West as though South had started with the doubleton spade acejack, and one West was indeed tempted to continue the suit at trick two. But now after winning the second spade, declarer could take the club finesse in complete safety.

The other West thought about his partner’s spot-card and asked himself why, if South held the doubleton ace-jack, East had played the four from a holding of 7-4-3. Coming to the right conclusion, he switched to the heart king to defeat the contract.

If you play a two notrump call as natural here, it wouldn’t be totally wrong to make that bid. But in my view this hand represents a raise to three notrump, not an invitation. Yes it is technically only an eight-count, but your intermediates in your long suit and the likely side-entry mean that game rates to have excellent play, so long as the opponents cannot run a side-suit.


♠ 8 6 2
 10 5 4
 K 5
♣ A J 10 7 3
South West North East
    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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Bobby WolffJuly 22nd, 2015 at 3:21 pm

Hi Everyone,

Although there has not yet been a comment
on today’s column hand, I think it worth a thought.

Whether in the real world or not, with the emphasis on air traffic control in airports, trench fighting in war, operating room behavior in hospitals, or major negotiations in business the key words are intense concentration to the exclusion of everything less during.

Such is the case, only with usually much smaller overall stakes, in bridge. After the bidding and when the opening lead is made, the bell is rung for declarer to, as quickly as possible to sometimes not give the show away, assess lines of play trying to select the best technical and tactical one to take.

Today’s hand should quickly call attention to the danger lurking (the opponent’s taking 5 tricks before the declarer can secure 9). Sure, by an ordinary duck, the spade danger is negated, but then, while always thinking of countering the best defense, what will the worthy opponents now do?

Easy to see, a heart switch and continuation (if necessary) which likely will result in no remedy (always assuming that the club finesse will fail, because otherwise, even Sadie Kumquat will score this easy one up).

Then, is anything left to consider? Oh yes, perhaps I can trick a wise LHO to continue spades, but to do that I need to create a worthwhile diversion.

Presto, magico and by George, I’ve got it. Instead of Rex Harrison requiring Liza Doolittle to sing “The rain in Spain stays mostly on the plain” the melody should revert to “playing the jack will revert LHO to a hack”.

Even without the above foolishness, with intense concentration and it always being in the bridge room may result in interesting endings. Difficult? perhaps, Good?, yes, Great? likely, but Impossible? hardly and with it, a whole lot of fun, but probably not for those opponents if and when, they fall victim.

David WarheitJuly 22nd, 2015 at 4:15 pm

The rain in Spain stays MAINLY in the plain; or is it MOISTLY. I forget.

Bobby WolffJuly 22nd, 2015 at 5:48 pm

Hi David,

Most certainly mainly, not mostly, are the compelling lyrics but as to in and on I defer.

However either Rex Harrison should be Henry Higgins and/or Lisa Doolittle to be Audrey Hepburn, is up for grabs.

Thanks for your accuracy. Methinks I couldn’t live without it, but perhaps, just maybe I could consider, at least trying.

ClarksburgJuly 22nd, 2015 at 7:31 pm

Was this Sadie actually Sadie (nee Hawkins) Kumquat?
Played on an early semi-pro team sponsored by General Bullmoose?
Often Paired with Eager Beaver? In those days snacking on Kumquats at the Table was permitted, so Beaver was always in his comfort zone.
Picky comics-history buffs might spell it Pqumquats.

Bobby WolffJuly 22nd, 2015 at 9:49 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Definitely a capped Lil Abner character looking for recognition by having a special day named after her when women became entitled to ask men for dates forever named “Sadie Hawkins day”.

I wonder if Jim2 ever met Joe Btfsplk, the sprightly kid who always traveled around sporting a little black cloud over his head (TOCM TM, anyone) as company.

jim2July 22nd, 2015 at 10:53 pm

Shhhhh! jim2 is a pseudonym ….

Bill CubleyJuly 23rd, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Bobby and David,

My bridge is inspired by Eliza Doolittle’s father who sang “With a Little Bit of Luck.” Please understand this system is proprietary. 😉

Bill CubleyJuly 23rd, 2015 at 2:14 pm

There is a lot to be learned simply by looking at the cards played and asking why partner would play a strange card to a trick.

Bobby WolffJuly 23rd, 2015 at 2:26 pm

Hi Bill,

Yes, assuming the opening leader is numerate enough to separate the missing spade spots.

Perhaps “With a Little Bit of Luck” he will be able to as long as someone “Gets Him to the Church on Time”.