Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

A man should have the fine point of his soul taken off to become fit for this world.

John Keats

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



The three bears have taken to playing with non-family members, after the post mortems at their local club started bringing them into possible violations of Zero Tolerance. But since they were all playing East in the local duplicate, they could compare performances with Goldilocks when they came home from their session.

As befitted his status as leader of the pack, Papa Bear was first to speak. The board that had upset him the most was this one.

Against four spades Papa took his diamond king and ace, then had to consider what to do next. More in hope than expectation he tried a club, and declarer won in dummy and drew trump for a comfortable +620.

Mama Bear was unimpressed; she had played a third diamond at trick three, hoping for a somewhat unlikely trump promotion. South threw a heart and overruffed West’s spade nine with dummy’s jack. However, after cashing the ace of trump, declarer played on clubs, discarding his remaining heart on the fourth one; contract made.

As Baby Bear pointed out, it was possible to go one step further along this chain of analysis. The problem with declarer discarding his heart loser could have been avoided. Baby Bear won the diamond ace, cashed the heart ace then played the diamond king and a third round of diamonds.

When West ruffed in with the spade nine, dummy had to overruff, and now declarer had to lose a trump trick; down one. And note that had West started with a singleton diamond, he could have ruffed his partner’s second diamond winner to give him a heart ruff.

Your soft values argue strongly for doing no more than inviting game. It is easy to imagine that no-trump might be right. The simple invitational call of two no-trump is entirely reasonable. But if partner has a singleton spade, clubs could be far superior. Raising to three clubs will let partner look for alternative strains if appropriate. It is arguably easier to get to notrump from clubs than vice versa.


♠ Q J 6
 K J 10 5
 7 4
♣ K J 9 6
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
1 Pass 2 ♣ 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


David WarheitDecember 29th, 2015 at 9:35 am

Imagine, we’ve always thought that Goldilocks ran away, never to return. Now we know that she joined up with Baby Bear, and they became the finest bridge partnership ever.

bobby wolffDecember 29th, 2015 at 4:28 pm

Hi David,

And to make her history more bearable and thus bear repeating, her Baby Bear partner came to her rescue when the Big Bad Wolf came a calling.

Or was that the vulnerable Riding Hood gal instead who was attracted to big eyes and mouths.

And on a less serious note, in bridge defense, imagination, as in today’s hand, often becomes the key word with attention to detail (cashing the heart ace first), necessary to bear fruit.

T GatesDecember 29th, 2015 at 6:16 pm

Not playing at your level, I hesitate but will ask two questions:

If Papa Bear had led the spade 10 instead of a club, might not South have guessed wrong?

T GatesDecember 29th, 2015 at 6:20 pm

The second question is how does the ruff with the 9 of spades cause a problem? Doesn’t the board still have an honor to run, finessing the king of spades? Maybe I didn’t have enough coffee this morning…

T GatesDecember 29th, 2015 at 6:22 pm

Coffee kicked in. East covers with the king. Thanks

bobby wolffDecember 29th, 2015 at 7:03 pm

Hi T,

In answer to your first question about South succeeding if East instead of, at trick 3, switching to a club, led the spade 10? No, South would (should) merely duck in hand, winning in dummy and eventually scoring up his game by then only losing a 3rd trick to the ace of hearts.

Remember EW are opponents of NS and are under no obligation to make it easy for declarer. It then follows that just because East led the 10 of spades (from K10) doesn’t mean that he might not have the K10.

Once you start playing bridge in a very serious way, you will get a more complete understanding of the relationships between opponents who have every legal and ethical right to try and fool each other by whatever card chosen as well as other legal obfuscations always allowed in this very competitive game.

Obviously the trick in partnership bridge is to try and make it easy for partner but difficult for the opponents. Consequently partnership understandings are never to be kept secret from either partner nor the opponents. However clever deceptive plays as well as misleading bids meant to confuse opponents are not only legal but necessary if winning is the goal.

If the enthusiasm shown by you in your posts are any indication of your interest, you are well on your way to a love for this great game which will stay with you all the years of your life.

Do yourself a favor and get involved. You will never be sorry you did. However, when you do, always have the coffee brewing, especially in the early years.

David WarheitDecember 30th, 2015 at 12:22 am

As you originally pointed out, E should carefully cash the HA before the DA, in case W had started with a singleton D, a point which I had missed when first reading your column. However, if W had led the singleton D9, how many declarers would have been astute enough to drop the J under E’s K? If he plays the 2, a little bit of thinking by E should lead him then to cash the HA and then lead a low D, not the A, forcing his partner to ruff and then, of course, return a H for E to ruff, thus eliminating any chance of W making a mistake. The lesson, I think, is that declarer should play the DJ under the A, assuming he held DQJ2, even though it’s probably too difficult for him to know exactly why, but it is a false card that might fool the opponents.

bobby wolffDecember 30th, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Hi David,

Yes, your comments cover the bases concerning strategies between declarer and defenders when good players tee off against each other.

All the way from doing so based on suspected knowledge from the bidding and perhaps the opening lead, to just, as you so clearly pointed out, perhaps not enough time to reason why, but rather the every hand caveat, the less those wily opponents know about my hand the better for our side.

Perhaps like sports stars, in so many different competitions learn, ways to make every time battles more difficult for their adversaries, while doing so in a deceptive fashion, but one which is encouraged by all knowledgeable competitors rather than frowned on by those who do not fully understand the ethics of the game. Perhaps instead of “Loose lips sink ships” in wartime perhaps “a well-timed gem may cause mayhem” in bridge.

The above is likely known by many, but when a very good opponent does throw a “monkey wrench” (like a clever falsecard or even a well-timed psychic bid) it will feel like, in a boxing match, being punched where it hurts, but if instead offended, it is time for that hurt to be understood as totally legal and be admired. rather than be treated with chagrin.

bobby wolffDecember 30th, 2015 at 4:11 pm

Hi again David and also Patrick,

Judy just piped up with “a false card in haste may not be a waste”, so, Patrick I, too, am testing!