Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

Some people think they are concentrating when they’re merely worrying.

Bobby Jones

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


Today’s deal from Frank Stewart’s new book “Play Bridge with Me” sees him playing in a local IMP Teams event. Frank opens one diamond, his partner responds one spade and he rebids one no-trump. Partner huddles and jumps to four spades, and everyone passes.

West leads a low heart, to East’s king; how would you plan the play? At the table South took the ace and led the diamond queen, covered by West’s king. South won dummy’s ace and next let the spade queen ride. He ruffed a diamond, cashed the spade ace and led the spade jack. East took the king and returned a heart. When the club finesse lost, that was down one.

South wasn’t happy with his partner’s bidding, North wasn’t happy with his partner’s play. But it is easy to justify the rebid of one no-trump, as opposed to a two-club call, which might easily lose hearts. And the spade queen is almost as good trump support as a small doubleton.

And after all that, four spades was cold. (Only a club opening lead would always defeat it.) After the spade queen wins, South ruffs a diamond and crosses to dummy with the club ace and king, to ruff two more diamonds. With eight tricks in the bag, South exits with a club or heart, and is sure of two more tricks with the spade ace jack.

What is more — though Frank does not say this — South might have found the winning line had he not been grumbling internally about the auction.

While you would happily have responded to one club had East passed (I’d bid one heart, some would respond one diamond) when the opponents double you are off the hook. You can pass and only come into the auction if it looks like the opponents have a spade fit or if partner reveals extra shape or high cards.


♠ 8 2
 Q 10 8 5
 K 10 9 6 4
♣ 9 4
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Dbl.

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


jim2December 23rd, 2015 at 11:57 am

Sadly, at our table South raised to 3N and partner got off to a club lead. Declarer overtook the QS and after that it was only a matter of -630 or -660 (or worse).

A.V.Ramana RaoDecember 23rd, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Perhaps this might amuse you but suppose even after a club lead, declarer wins with dummy’s A, passes Q of Spades, plays A of diamonds and another diamond ruffing in hand, leads a second club to K in dummy, ruffs another diamond and leads his third club. West may think that he will not benefit from ruffing – so he discards a heart. East wins but now- if he returns any card except K of hearts, Declarer will be romping home with ten tricks. If east returns a club, South ruffs and leads A of heart and another heart and waits for trump coup. If east leads a low heart, South plays A of heart and exits with another heart. East is compelled to play a spade/ diamond. In both cases South scores ten tricks. Of course, West could have put an end to all this nonsense simply by ruffing the third club and exiting with a heart. But-In real life how many players would rise to the occasion both as west in ruffing the third club and as east in playing K of hearts when in with the third club?

Shantanu RastogiDecember 23rd, 2015 at 12:28 pm

Hello Mr Wolff

In BWTA isnt there a case for South crowding the auction by bidding something when one has favourable vulnerability or when non vul instead of passing and coming in later especially in matchpoints ?

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

bobby wolffDecember 23rd, 2015 at 4:06 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, bridge as we know it, (even at a high-level), fiercely determines the remembered result and then can be tricky to analyze.

At one table, and against 4 spades one suit, clubs, defeats the game, while at the other table at 3NT (from the other side), takes hearts, but alas, clubs are led, (which might be thought of as normal).

Not much more to say, except perhaps the bridge elephant in the room. It then becomes the #1 concern for that partnership, in any event, to thoroughly forget that hand, whether victory or defeat, and only concentrate on what is now before them. Without which, that partnership is surely bound in shallows and miseries with its immediate future.

Ironically, doesn’t the same type of peril often befall us while living a normal life?

No doubt, the blind opening lead (not always deaf), since the bidding should come through loud and clear, but even with that advantage, this hand represents that conundrum.

However all bridge players (great or small) have to deal with such (except perhaps depraved cheaters).

Like the very old cigarette commercial, “It is whats upfront that counts” no doubt, but instead of what turned out to be poison, instead personal character, in weathering whatever is in store with bridge results and treating those two impostors just the same.

Since those travails occur to everyone we need to be ready to accept it and only move forward from there. In bridge I, for one, do not see any other positive solution.

bobby wolffDecember 23rd, 2015 at 4:28 pm

Hi A.V.,

While you have led us down an exciting path to possible success, I will sadly inject a sour note (like old murder mysteries when, before either reading the book or seeing the movie, some soon to be former friend, tells you who the murderer is).

Once declarer sets on a path of (after first apparently finessing in trumps) then reducing the numbers of trump from his hand, the dye will be cast as to declarer’s overall plan and in specifically this case, many defenders, worth their salt, will find the magic potion to defensive success by not helping declarer do his work.

And, before closing, the fact that they would do such a dastardly thing, helps make bridge the great game it is, by arming them to use their developing bridge minds as weapons.

And to quote what I always thought was a simply great truism, but adding one extra word for effect, “A bridge! mind is a terrible thing to waste”.

However thank you for writing, enabling all of us to be able to enjoy your enthusiasm and to, more importantly, better understand, what constitutes a bridge coup.

bobby wolffDecember 23rd, 2015 at 4:34 pm

Hi Shantanu,

Yes, I definitely prefer to sneak in a one diamond immediate bid, if for no other reason than to offer partner a diamond lead should my LHO become the eventual declarer.

No big deal, of course, but one which partnerships should discuss and not take partner’s bid as a sign of strength, but rather as a strategy to improve one’s scores, especially, as you suggest, at matchpoints.