Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 17th, 2015

When nobody around you seems to measure up, it’s time to check your yardstick.

Bill Lemley

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


In today’s deal it was a pity that South’s card play did not measure up to the optimism of his partner’s bidding. In the contract of six spades, declarer’s focus should have been on the relative solidity of his side’s trump spots.

At the table declarer won the heart lead in hand and immediately took the spade finesse successfully. (Had the finesse lost, declarer would likely have fallen into the right line, on a heart return.) But the spade finesse won, and declarer followed up with the spade ace. The writing was on the wall when East showed out, but declarer soldiered on by cashing dummy’s last trump, after which he turned to clubs.

So long as West held at least three clubs declarer would still have been in business – but, annoyingly, West did not. The third round of clubs was ruffed, South discarding a heart, but West’s heart queen was the setting trick.

It would not have helped if South had started on clubs at trick four before dummy was denuded of spades, for West could have ruffed this low, then returned a heart, to promote the spade queen.

In order to preserve his entries and not force himself, best is to ruff a heart high at trick two, return to hand in a minor, then ruff the last heart, again with a high trump. Now the spade eight is overtaken with the jack, and whether West wins his queen or not, trump can safely be drawn. The defense score only the spade queen, since dummy’s clubs will take care of South’s third round diamond loser.

Your partner’s two club call is a one-round force, but does not guarantee another call, so you must show extras. A jump to three diamonds might be appropriate if the club king were the jack. As it is, I prefer a repeat cuebid of three clubs to show that you have extras, setting up an unequivocal game force. Bidding three no-trump now seems overly committal.


♠ J 10 9 7 6
 A 8 3
 A 10 7
♣ K 6
South West North East
  1 ♣ 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


slarDecember 31st, 2015 at 2:33 pm

Good time to call for the “Big Ace” so as to avoid confusion with the “little eight”. There are some pedants out there who look for opportunities to play “gotcha” with the opponents. This doesn’t appear to happen much at the very top levels of bridge, but it is unfortunately common at the next level down.

This is a hand that every advancing (or better) player should get right in IMP/total points scoring. But what about MP scoring? Do you take the average-plus (hoping that some stop short of slam) or go for the top?

Bobby WolffDecember 31st, 2015 at 3:06 pm

Hi Slar,

By all means, play it safe to score up your good slam, rather than to fly to others who you know not of.

Also I think you have it right in your classification of the so-called, next level down.

Finally and a completed successful trilogy for your judgment, play the same at IMPs or MP scoring and while you are at it, make it a standard practice to be slightly conservative in your ambitions. The long term results will please, although against certain hated enemies, the temptation is always there to obliterate them.

However, bypassing that consideration, while a small step in avoiding both temper and greed, thus a major step in establishing a logical approach to unqualified and consistent success.

However, you may not have arrived there yet, so first things first. And BTW, good luck in arriving there.

slarDecember 31st, 2015 at 7:08 pm

Tempering ambitions is tricky when we are bombarded with hands like Monday’s where people launch into games on a whim. Yesterday’s I could see because there was a source of tricks. But the mantra seems to be to bid game and ask questions later.

Anyway, I plan to be more aggressive about playing safe in the future. Some very good players have a “no bottoms” policy. I do know that “pajama party” sessions (all tops and bottoms) rarely work out well for us.

ClarksburgDecember 31st, 2015 at 7:43 pm

One of the very strong Pairs in our area seldom or never bid a close game or slam, at Matchpoints Pairs, if they judge the field will not be bidding it. They want to be down the middle in the same contract as the field, and then outplay them. For strong card players, it seems to work out well.

Patrick CheuDecember 31st, 2015 at 8:10 pm

Hi Bobby, Happy New Year to you and Judy and our fellow contributors-Very Best Wishes~Patrick.

Iain ClimieDecember 31st, 2015 at 10:23 pm

Hi Bobby,

Maybe South was unlucky as with a trump suit like K10976 in hand opposite QJ8 in dummy, the winning line is much easier to spot.

Hi Clarksburg,

I remember a lovely comment many year ago about not bidding close games at pairs – all those who learned the game at university / college should have learned the value of a plus score!

Back to Bobby, Judy, Patrick and everyone else on the blog – all the very best for 2016. Happy New Year.