Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

The voice of Nature loudly cries And many a message from the skies That something in us never dies.

Robert Burns

W North
E-W ♠ 10 7 4
 J 7
 A Q 10
♣ K 9 7 5 3
West East
♠ 5
 A K 10 8 4 2
 J 6 2
♣ 8 4 2
♠ 9 8 6
 9 6
 9 8 7 4 3
♣ A Q 6
♠ A K Q J 3 2
 Q 5 3
 K 5
♣ J 10
South West North East
  2 Pass Pass
3 ♠ * Pass 4 ♠ All pass



Although defenders must not exchange information illicitly, they can legitimately try to use the size of the card they play to indicate their attitude to the suit led. Sometimes they can also pass on their count in the suit led (high for even, low for odd).

Suit preference signals may also come into play, where the size of the card played indicates interest in the higher or lower of the other suits. Exactly the same principles exist when discarding, rather than following suit.

Sooner or later, though, you will find that honesty is not always the best policy. Sometimes you may encourage your partner to continue leading his suit, for fear that he will shift to something worse. Equally, you might discourage your partner’s lead, when you can see that his obvious switch will be the right defense, even when you like the suit led.

In today’s deal you defend four spades after your partner opened two hearts. You should see that if you encourage West’s opening lead of the heart king by showing a doubleton, your partner will surely lead out three rounds of the suit, trying for an over-ruff. That lets the contract make, since declarer can ruff high, then discard a critical club loser on the diamonds – which maybe should not come as a total surprise to you.

If you discourage hearts at the first trick, implicitly showing an odd number of cards in that suit, then maybe partner will find the club switch at trick three?

I could understand the attempt to play for penalties here, by passing out one diamond doubled. Give me the diamond J-10 instead of the four-three and I would consider it even more seriously, but as it is I will try to win the event on the next deal, and simply bid one no-trump.


♠ 9 8 6
 9 6
 9 8 7 4 3
♣ A Q 6
South West North East
  1 Dbl. 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


Bruce karlsonMarch 15th, 2017 at 4:46 pm

If the “wrong” signal is read, it looks as though a diamond is the only hope for tricks 3 and 4. Hard to see how a club can generate more then 1. Is that correct?

jim2March 15th, 2017 at 5:41 pm

In an interesting twist on Right Through the Pack, the JD is a key card for the defense.

Here, however, the knave tells West that declarer cannot go wrong if a second diamond trick is needed.

That is, six spades and “two” small hearts leaves declarer with five minor suit cards which must contain at least the KD or AC. With the JD onside, the diamonds will always produce 2 or 3 tricks.

Without the KD, diamonds will produce 2, as the JD finesse will win, and declarer must then hold the AC or AC for the bid, for two club tricks making 10.

Without the AC, South’s strong bid means the diamonds will produce 3 as declarer must have KD.

Hence, once East follows up the line in hearts, West has no other chance to defeat the hand unless East has the AQ of clubs.

Bruce karlsonMarch 15th, 2017 at 8:15 pm

Thnx,,, I mixed up clubs and diamonds with my question. There is hope but it is limited…

Bobby WolffMarch 15th, 2017 at 10:08 pm

Hi Bruce & Jim2,

No doubt, as Jim2 so deftly explains, West had the meaningless jack of diamonds dealt to him, which helped to allow West to "brilliantly" switch to clubs rather than diamonds since a club switch has, at least, a chance to set the contract, but if East had the king of diamonds, declarer will have the ace of clubs, then with a diamond switch declarer would have no real option if he was 6-2-2-3 to not take two diamond finesses to park a possible losing club.

Of course, as so often happens, the above is written, as it usually is, while playing in an IMP game, rather than match points, which often creates almost impossible to solve choices, since overtricks are so very important.

Bridge Whist, over 100 years ago (1904) became Auction bridge, simply because Whist was too difficult a game to solve, and then of course, when Auction became Contract 90 years ago (1927) IMO, the "Perfect Storm" was created (thank you, Harold Vanderbilt), to which so many have become addicted. Making a game too difficult is every bit as harmful, as allowing it, to become too easy.

IOW and according to the three bears or alternatively, one bear and one wolff, Contract bridge in the form of IMPs or Rubber Bridge, is the perfectly heated porridge.