Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 19th, 2016

Soap and education are not as sudden as a massacre, but they are more deadly in the long run.

Mark Twain

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


Should the deals that appear in this column feature regular plays that my readers ought to get right, even if they don’t? Or should they feature plays that are unusual in nature, so that the reader will congratulate himself if he does find the answer? If not, maybe he can console himself with the thought that the solution was too artificial to be found at the table.

Maybe this hint will help the reader crack today’s hard nut. You play six spades on a top diamond lead and win in hand. If trumps are 4-0, you have no chance, but if trumps are 2-2, you have seven spade tricks and five plain-suit winners. Not surprisingly, therefore, the task today is to make the contract against a 3-1 trump break. After winning the first diamond you cash the spade king. Both opponents follow with small trumps; what now?

You can cash the diamond king to throw a heart if you like, but that is an unnecessary risk. The best play is instead to try and set up clubs. However, the only way to make the hand by avoiding a defensive trump promotion is to lead the club four at once, rather than playing ace and another club.

East will win the first club and shift to the heart eight. Declarer rises with the king, and next cashes the spade queen, the club ace and then the spade ace. Now he ruffs a club, crosses to the heart ace and ruffs a club. The heart ruff is the entry to dummy’s established club nine.

Playing inverted minors, your three diamond call was weak, suggesting 3-7 or so, and five plus diamonds. Three hearts from your partner shows at least the values for a gametry, and in context you now have enough to bid four clubs, showing values in that suit. You should not be ashamed of your hand, in context.


♠ 4
 8 4
 9 8 7 6 4 2
♣ K Q 10 8
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
3 Pass 3 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMarch 4th, 2016 at 9:35 am

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA is there any case for bidding 3NT suggesting something in clubs as with (say) SKJx you would presumably have shown a stop via 3S? This could go wrong of course (5D probably can’t be criticised) but 3N could be the last making game.



Yasser HaiderMarch 4th, 2016 at 10:49 am

How beautiful is that recommended play! But what if trumps were 2 -2 all along and clubs 5-1. Then the duffers like me will be making and the expert going off. What a strange and beautiful game we all love.

bobbywolffMarch 4th, 2016 at 3:45 pm

Hi Iain,

Aye, your possible choice of 3NT may produce
s. KQ10, h. KQJ, d. AK10xx, c. xx making your choice nothing short of brilliant, but what if he doesn’t? Instead something like s. s. A10x, h. AKx, d. KQJxx, c. xx or either interchange the major suits or provide the ace of clubs instead of the king of diamonds. BTW, I may suggest that with the first 3NT winner illustrated above, 3NT might be bid even with clubs not stopped since partner is very likely to have values in that suit.

Although no one has ever asked me, but if they did as to how much imagination a top bridge player should have, I might say that if there were four levels with four being the most, perhaps three is the desired level, since a bridge too far (please excuse) four, will produce more chaos than success.

However, for discussion purposes, five would be more downright interesting than four.

In conclusion, bridge is not now, nor has ever been available for perfection. The only way to come close is to cheat, and even the thought of those who do, sickens the stomach and paralyzes the soul.

bobbywolffMarch 4th, 2016 at 3:53 pm

Hi Yasser,

First, thanks for the good cheer you always add to your posts. A real bridge lover, you, and always a pleasure to hear from.

Yes, you speak true in all respects, and while it takes a fairly wise man to play bridge extremely well, it takes even a wiser one to possibly not, but appreciate and respect ones who do.

Good luck to you and for what you continue to bring, no doubt, to both the table and to our site.

Mircea1March 4th, 2016 at 4:51 pm

Hi Bobby,

So without knowing anything about the opponents’ distribution, what would be the best way to play this hand on this auction and on this opening lead? I’m just wondering if guessing which line is best can be avoided. Speaking of guessing, roughly how many time do you have to rely on it, say out of 1000 hands?

bobbywolffMarch 4th, 2016 at 6:55 pm

Hi Mircea1,

IMO, no doubt, but without hours spent of confirmation, I believe, as I think Yasser also does, that the column line is clearly superior.

Furthermore I think this particular hand would be a prototype of what a clearly superior line should be.

The general factors involved are usually:

1. Basic knowledge of the percentage table in bridge as to probabilities for distribution, but knowing them exactly is not necessary to the point of, if anything, overkill, meaning hurtful, since the player’s mind may go to that instead of many other practical advantages. Along with it, is necessary to keep track of both opponents distribution as it develops during the hand, particularly so when there will be a card to be guessed toward the end. Many will shy away from this duty since at first it will be work, but the good news is that later it will be virtually impossible to play a hand and not know what both defenders exact distribution became. I know that many will say, “easy for him to say” and they are right, but it becoming easy for one who learns to do it is also relatively not difficult, but some period of learning will be necessary and to understate it, totally critical to success.

2. Evidence during the bidding, who the opponents are and if possible, their bidding tendencies, along with slightly, and not always helpful, the system they play.

3. Tempo breaks by the opponents, but only opponents who are not thoroughly groomed in not giving away advantages. An example might be, if and when the opening leader holds the opening lead and then studies before playing to trick two, instead of almost immediately leading.

4. I guess some consideration of an “old wives tale” suggestion, when given a choice as to which defensive player to put on lead, choose the weakest of the two opponents, if there is a worthwhile difference. The above is mostly a joke, but once in a great while, possible.

5. Some form of guessing of how to play a declarer’s hand is present, instead of a slam dunk, in a large percentage of hands, probably well over 50%, especially at matchpoints where overtricks are so important. Say 75% at matchpoints and only 40% at IMPs or rubber bridge.

6. Although not asked, but nevertheless, somewhat crucial is while choosing between two lines, if possible pick the one which is more likely to induce a defensive mistake, even if it simply means forcing at least one opponent to count the cards and know what to save at the death of the hand. Once in a while this means one of the opponents must rely on his partner to give him the proper count in order to always discard properly himself.

Good luck and my percentage numbers may have no basis in reality simply because no one has ever asked me that before, and I haven’t had time to do proper research.