Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

The universe is built on a plan the profound symmetry of which is somehow present in the inner structure of our intellect.

Paul Valery

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


Can you see the curious symmetry in the play and defense of today’s deal?

It would have been a mistake for South to open one club instead of one no-trump here. You can occasionally open a suit if you downgrade your 15 HCP, or upgrade your 17 HCP into a balanced 18-19. But these are very much the exceptions rather than the rule.

West leads a top spade against three no-trump, and when declarer puts up the king, East wins and returns a low spade. It is not clear who has the long spades, so South ducks the spade and wins the third, pitching a diamond from dummy. Now come four rounds of hearts, East discarding two diamonds.

The crux of the deal comes when South innocently leads the club nine from dummy. If East plays low, declarer runs the nine to West’s jack. The defenders have a spade to cash, but with the club king onside, South has the rest. Notice that if East covers the club nine with the king, West will be left with two club stoppers not one.

The parallel comes in South’s correctly putting up one of the black kings at trick one, and East doing the same at trick eight. The bottom line is that when you have a doubleton honor it is generally correct to cover a significant card led by dummy, should there be no realistic chance that you can score a trick with that card if you retain it. The trick, of course, is to determine what card is significant.

Even though your spade king may not be pulling its full weight, you can hardly do less than bid four hearts, if you trust your partner’s overcalls. The argument that you may be pushing the opponents into game won’t wash. If they were going to bid game under their own steam they will do so, and who is to say that they will make it just because they bid it?


♠ K 4
 Q 10 4 3
 A 10 6 4 3
♣ 9 7
South West North East
Pass 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2February 21st, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Maybe declarer should not duck the second spade on this N-S combination.

Bobby WolffFebruary 21st, 2017 at 3:08 pm

Hi Jim2,

Unaccustomed as you are to have presented, to you, while declarer, defensive layouts for success, you certainly have the penchant, as good as anyone, for what it will take.

No doubt, by, as you suggest, winning the second spade cashing the ace of diamonds and then of course, your four heart tricks, and then attempting to pass the nine of clubs, but having your wide awake RHO covering, win it and then merely lead your precious eight of spades to West and see him then squirm before having to award you your hard earned ninth trick and, of course your contract, with your brilliantly conceived end play.

Instead of only being “world class” add a couple of galaxies to the name and you’ll have a new glorified name to call it.

Of course, if you were declarer, everything would have been close to the same, except East will have started with king Jack doubleton club and the nine of spades to go with the entry to go with the setting trick in diamonds with West falsecarding the ten of spades underneath your queen.

Perhaps for solace you will understand that your TOCM (theory of card migration) only applied to when you were actually playing the hand, but for analysis add a g, TOGCM, (theory of greatest card magician).

jim2February 21st, 2017 at 3:22 pm

I will never be Good enough to merit any G, let alone that one!


jim2February 21st, 2017 at 3:38 pm

Actually, if declarer held the AD, cashing the AD and exiting with the 8S might be declarer’s best chance after taking the KC with the AC. The biggest risk would be that the 7 and 5 of spades were swapped.

Which, for me, would of course be the case …

Bobby WolffFebruary 21st, 2017 at 3:42 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your modesty is very becoming, but between you, David and Iain, not to mention many near great supporting characters of our daily tete-a-tete, if ever there became bridge classes in public schools throughout the USA, your group would be in great demand, likely not quite getting the recompense our recently past leaders have collected, but still worth their realistic due in describing and praising our always off-the-charts-super competitive constructive game.

Patrick CheuFebruary 21st, 2017 at 9:00 pm

Hi Bobby,How should the auction go on this hand,pairs all vul Acol..North T965 J72 J63 K94~South AQ4 K8542 AKT QJ? Our auction went-South 1H p 1N(5-8) p~3C X 3H p~4H pass out.-2 200.3N seems to be only making contract. Would you bid differently as South if West dbl or pass? North intended 3H to show a minimum hand,South said he would bid game regardless with his 19 point hand…West J82 A6 Q942 AT86 East K73 QT9 875 7532.If playing 5C majors,guess it would go 1H-2H,4H…regards~Patrick.

Bobby WolffFebruary 22nd, 2017 at 3:24 pm

Hi Patrick,

A combination of only 24 HCPs, balanced nature of both hands, plus relatively poor spot cards adds up to short of game.

Especially 4 hearts (very weak internal spots) so that only 3NT might have a 30% chance of success, depending on the opening lead (hopefully for the declarer to be a diamond rather than a club, with my choice the disastrous diamond).

I would vote for a 2NT opening from South (19-20+), but pass from North with only 5 including two jacks which detracts rather than adds.

Also I would not keep the bidding open from North, if South opted for a 1 heart opening.

Many players are cockeyed optimists rather than “feet on the ground, realists”. Rather it is better to be practical about letting poor spot cards break the tie when deciding about aggression or conservatism.

Yes, it would often go 1H-2H-4H among players who would keep the bidding open rather than show such weakness to the opponents. However, the reality should demand to let happen what is in the cards, rather than go to extra means to “fool”, especially worthy opponents. Also the South hand looks no-trumpish to me rather than suit oriented.

Pessimists view two small clubs with North, optimists think 109xx.

Patrick CheuFebruary 22nd, 2017 at 6:37 pm

Hi Bobby,Many thanks again for sharing your thoughts on the subject in can only learn from this~Very Best Regards~Patrick.