Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, November 18th, 2016

No one else could ever be admitted here, since this gate was made only for you. I am now going to shut it.

Franz Kafka

S North
None ♠ Q 10 9 4 2
 9 6
 A K 5
♣ 9 7 4
West East
♠ J
 Q J 10 8 3
 10 7 2
♣ K J 5 3
♠ 7 6
 K 7 5 2
 Q J 8 4
♣ 10 8 6
♠ A K 8 5 3
 A 4
 9 6 3
♣ A Q 2
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 3 ♠ Pass
4 ♠ All pass    


Keeping control of which defender stayed on lead, plus some good guesswork in the endgame, was the key to success in this contract of four spades.

West led the heart queen, and before playing from dummy South worked out that success or failure might hinge on holding his club losers to one. To maximize his chances, he decided he needed to keep East off lead for as much of the deal as possible.

Thus, when East encouraged with the heart seven at the first trick, declarer ducked. Had East overtaken the queen with the king, South would have won. After drawing trump, he would have returned a heart, hoping West would be forced to win the trick.

As it was though, declarer won the heart continuation at trick two, drew trump, and played three rounds of diamonds. If West was forced to win, he would be endplayed either into returning a club or giving a ruff and discard, which would allow a potential club loser to disappear. However, it was East who won the third diamond. Had he returned a low club, South would have played low, and now on winning, West would have been endplayed.

East (who knew his partner would duck with the ace-jack) put declarer to an additional test when he cannily returned the club 10, which went to the queen and king. West now returned a low club and declarer had a 5050 guess as to what to do. I think he did well to rise with dummy’s nine, don’t you?

One of the hardest tasks at bridge is to re-evaluate good and bad hands. Sometimes you have to prevent yourself overvaluing your good hands. Here you showed a really good hand and partner kept the auction open…just in case. In context you’ve told your story and must pass. It is a good hand – but not THAT good.


♠ A K 8 5 3
 A 4
 9 6 3
♣ A Q 2
South West North East
Dbl. 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Ray FinkDecember 2nd, 2016 at 5:52 pm

Doesn’t the 9C play depend on whether declarer thinks East is crafty enough to lead the 10C from J-10? My local club players wouldn’t find that except by accident, making the 9C an easy play. But this seems a much more interesting problem against expert defenders.

bobby wolffDecember 2nd, 2016 at 6:40 pm

Hi Ray,

And welcome to our site.

Yes, I have a feeling that you get the drift, so that I will not have much trouble into introducing you to the real game of bridge, where defenders usually know (and early in the hand) what later problems may face their enemy, the declarer.

In any kind of medium to high-level bridge game when it became time to play the clubs, all four players would know exactly (or almost) the possible deception required in order for the defense to make it as tough as possible for even a seasoned wily declarer.

When you use the word “interesting” it is telling me (perhaps subtlety) that you wouldn’t mind indulging in such mind contests. If so, that means you are ready to explore what only very good players experience within our great game.

If so, let me offer you a second welcome since going a bit deeper, if declarer is still playing the hand at trick 10 or so it means, by his lack of a claim, the problem is not as yet solved and thus all four players will usually know what that means.

Therefore it becomes strictly a mind battle like fierce negotiations between buyer and seller before a decision is reached.

Try it and I guarantee you that you will like it, especially the first time you win a mind contest against a top player, assuming this process is, at the very least, new to you.

Thanks again for writing and don’t be a stranger.

BobliptonDecember 2nd, 2016 at 7:32 pm

I think he did quite well also, but I don’ t think playing west for the CJ is even money. Isn’t the CT a restricted choice? That would make playing the C9 better.


bobby wolffDecember 3rd, 2016 at 4:09 pm

Hi Bob,

While respecting your opinion of the 10 of clubs play being similar (or identical) to Terence Reese’s brilliant identification of Restrictive Choice. I disagree, since there are more than two cards present. True the only cards of interest are the jack and ten, but here there is an extra card (bad play to offer the small one, but possible and in the sense that any one of the three cards held is possible, though obviously, at least to us, not correct). With restrictive choice the “key” principle, at least to me, is random rather than contrived, therefore the difference.

However, I am not claiming to be the governing authority on such high brow interpretation and other respected bridge authorities may agree with you.

Finally, my technical interpretation is taken from discussions involving J10x behind AKQ9 (or more) in dummy when declarer leads to the ace and the jack or ten is played by a wily opponent. That situation then obviously ceases to be quantified as a bona fide restrictive choice, simply because, to do so, is not anywhere close to being logical.

Thank you for allowing our readers to have the option of thinking about high level bridge and its sometimes challenging discussion.