Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, February 13th, 2017

The unexamined life is not worth living.


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


South’s two club opening is based on the fact that his 22-count should be upgraded, rather than downgraded into a two no-trump opener. His combined honors (and great controls plus absence of jacks) make this a clear choice.

North-South should have a Stayman auction after the two no-trump rebid to allow South to play three no-trump. Just as you can check for the major-suit fits over the one no-trump opening, so the three club bid over the two no-trump opening or rebid allows you to find your fits, one level higher.

On the diamond queen lead, there is no good reason to win the trick – maybe the opponents will shift? When the defenders continue diamonds, South must win and try to find a way to turn eight tricks into nine.

The right technique is to cash the top three clubs at once — if the suit splits, all your problems are over. When West shows length, you must turn your attention to hearts, but you need to be careful with the entry position. Take one top heart from hand, and then go over to dummy’s ace. When West shows out you have a marked finesse of the heart 10 for your ninth trick. If you play the ace then king of hearts, you find out about the bad break in hearts but the absence of entries to the board mean you can no longer get to dummy to take the marked finesse.

This double carries no conventional meaning, as far as I am aware. It simply suggests that your partner thinks the contract is going down, so you have no reason to do anything other than lead your systemic small spade, whether you play fourth highest or third and fifth leads. Sometimes a cigar is only a cigar.


♠ J 9 8 2
 J 2
 K 9 6 4
♣ Q 8 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♠ Dbl.
3 ♠ Dbl. Pass 4
Pass Pass Dbl. All 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieFebruary 27th, 2017 at 6:08 pm

Hi Bobby,

Although the hand appears straightforward today, imagine that West doesn’t show out on the 2nd heart. Now would the odds favour playing HKA and then finessing as the clubs are 4-1? One point here with East having to find two discards if holding Hxxx; he/she has to remember the neutrino lesson from last week and cling onto them for dear life.



Bobby WolffFebruary 27th, 2017 at 7:12 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt, one of the hallmarks of the thoroughly seasoned very good player, is his knowledge of when to keep small cards in order to not surrender (by betraying the location of key honors held by his partner) to even just decent, but always counting, declarer. Of course one of the traits of a palooka killing bridge professional is timing a hand as declarer in order to give a lesser experienced opponent a chance to throw those neutrinos away (even one too many).

The answer to your question is, of course in addition to wait until the last conceivable play (when as much evidence as possible is obtained) to commit to the critical trick, the distribution of the other suits will usually change the percentages, so yes when clubs are found to be 4-1 there then, as in this hand, have more room in the short clubs to have longer hearts, so that finessing the 10 of hearts (when LHO follows to the first 2 hearts) will become the percentage play.

The odds quoted concerning suit breaks are always based, not only before the play begins, but also before the bidding, or lack of it, is known so the answer before the declarer commits constantly changes as all the information (opening lead, suit breaks, and even some thought processes by the defense indicating what he or she might have been thinking about during the bidding, even if all they did was both pass throughout.)

A word to the wise might be, especially when playing against one of the better pairs in the event, is to have a somewhat herky-jerky bridge tempo, not done in order to mislead (which is against the ethics of the game), but rather than just to not give the show away.

To clarify, while holding a total Yarborough (no card higher than a ten) it is not ethical to pass real fast, nor, of course slowly, but rather to establish a normal tempo…no more nor no less.

AnneFebruary 27th, 2017 at 11:00 pm

I want a reprint of your Aces on Bridge column dated Sunday January 2, 2000. I can’t find what newspapers carried your column and no archives. Any help appreciated. Thank you.

Bobby WolffFebruary 28th, 2017 at 1:02 am

Hi Anne,

The only hope I can provide is for you to send me where you live and I can then check what city would be convenient to check with, just in case they kept copies of over 17 year old columns (January 2, 2000).

This current site did not come into being until around 2008, meaning that they would have no way for it to be in their archives.

Hope I can help you.