Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, November 10th, 2016

A man who does not think and plan long ahead will find trouble right at his door.


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


Today’s deal saw North-South stretch to slam, when North felt obliged to show his ace. South subsequently felt entitled to expect to find his partner with some values in the minors, since he clearly had no honors in trump. But dummy’s 3-3 pattern in the minors meant declarer had considerable work to do.

After a top diamond lead, how would you set about trying to develop 12 tricks? The key is to take three tricks from the clubs, which requires the finesse to work. Imagine a simple line such as winning the spade and finessing clubs. You might now draw trump and rely on clubs breaking, or play ace and another club, or even draw two rounds of trump and then either play ace and another club, or duck a club. As the cards lie, none of these lines work. Equally, if you draw two rounds of trump too early, East can win the club and a play a third trump, preventing the ruff in dummy.

You might justly consider yourself just a little unlucky. But it would not be that unlucky, since you would have missed your best line for the slam. That involves the somewhat counterintuitive line of ducking the first club. You win the return, draw precisely two rounds of trump, then lead to the diamond queen and finesse the club queen.

When it holds, you play the club ace and ruff a club, exploiting the fact that the hand with four clubs has the long trump. This lets you ruff the fourth club safely in dummy.

One of the subjects I am frequently preaching is that two-level overcalls should be kept up to strength. So in responding to such an overcall, one should trust partner to have what he has promised. This does not feel like a four diamond raise, so I would simply bid three diamonds and would like more shape than this for a jump raise. Had partner overcalled in clubs I might jump to four clubs, though.


♠ J 8
 10 6 2
 J 6 5 4
♣ K 10 8 5
South West North East
  1 ♠ 2 2 ♠

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 ClimieNovember 24th, 2016 at 10:24 am

Hi Bobby,

The same play is right if South has CAKxx but is rather harder to spot in today’s hand I think. Can you shed any light on such blindspots e.g. If south is in 4H with side suits of DAQxx opposite xx and CAxx opposite x (the aces in dummy) the diamond finesse is an obvious chance. Now swap the minors and assume a non-club lead. Players will talk themselves out of it even though the position isn’t really different.



Bobby WolffNovember 24th, 2016 at 5:10 pm

Hi Iain,

All you say, thus imagine, and then discuss is, at least from my judgment, quite true.

The learning which then may shine through comes with confidence, which originates through experience of having been there and done that.

Such is the growing period of almost all of the top level players in bridge. Unlike music and the arts, there are no (and IMO never will be, any child proteges) thus proving that only relatively long term experience is the only worthwhile teacher.

My only advice to them is not to fall for illusions, and consider each situation when it pops up. Nothing valuable, and perhaps only a disclaimer.

Iain ClimieNovember 24th, 2016 at 7:59 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for this and a quick digression. Regarding your post on bridge in schools, don’t forget the alternative of taking up the game in later life. Hitchin BC where I used to play have the following on their website:

Amusingly, if you go onto bridgewebs and the hitchin club, they forgot the word “Avoiding” in the title “Loneliness and Social Isolation – the benefits of playing bridge” on their main page. Great club, though, and really nice people.



Bobby WolffNovember 25th, 2016 at 1:37 am

Hi Iain,

Thanks for the tip and the all important prompt.

Yes, their promotion seems to be right on target, especially for the huge market of the elderly.

However, in truth, if good bridge is learned while young, attributes such as numeracy, everyday logic, working together with a partner, and a new identifiable new language called bidding used to communicate with partner, are all worthwhile learning opportunities which often greatly help solve some of life’s dilemmas.

No doubt, with a whole world playing bridge, instead of warring we would all have more respect for each other. Our major hope for peace may rely on finding a common fit which will entice many of us to use our energy for positive and constructive activities rather than negative.

Thanks for sending it along and Happy Thanksgiving to you from across the seas and, of course, to your beloved family.

Much warmth,