Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

Believe me, wise men don’t say ‘I shall live to do that’ tomorrow’s life’s too late; live today.


N North
E-W ♠ K Q 8 6
 K J 10
 9 5 2
♣ K J 6
West East
♠ 3
 A 3 2
 A Q 10 6
♣ 10 9 8 4 3
♠ 9 7 5 4
 9 6
 K 8 4 3
♣ Q 5 2
♠ A J 10 2
 Q 8 7 5 4
 J 7
♣ A 7
South West North East
    1 ♣ Pass
1 Pass 1 NT Pass
2 * Dbl. 2 Pass
4 All pass    


In last year’s European Championships West led his singleton spade against four hearts, for the six, seven and ace. He ducked the first trump and took the second round, East having followed with the six and nine. How should West choose to get his ruff?

Had East played the heart nine followed by the six, that would have been suit preference for diamonds. His actual sequence of plays might have indicated no special preference. So West tried a club, and was disappointed with the result.

You could argue a diamond shift needs West to find less from partner, but why not lead your diamond ace and see if partner encourages? If not, shift to a club and hope for the best.

At another table Cedric Lorenzini, North, declared four spades. The defenders cashed two diamonds ending in West, then shifted to the club 10. (A third diamond was best, and would have defeated the game by force.)

Lorenzini saw that if trumps were 4-1, he would have to play on hearts before drawing all the trump. The defenders would then probably be able to duck a heart and take a ruff. So Lorenzini won the club in hand and thoughtfully advanced the heart king. When East showed an even number of hearts, West won the first heart and continued the attack on clubs. Now declarer could survive the bad trump break.

In the other room declarer drew two rounds of trump before playing hearts; now West knew to duck the first heart and defeat the game.

This is a rare hand where I think many experts would reject overcalling in a five-card major and take some other action instead. If you bid hearts, the spades may well get lost, while passing is out of the question and a one-spade overcall is not my cup of tea. I would double, and blame partner if he cannot find a major to bid.


♠ A J 10 2
 Q 8 7 5 4
 J 7
♣ A 7
South West North East
  Pass Pass 1

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


Patrick CheuJune 28th, 2017 at 8:46 pm

Hi Bobby,Was it clear for West to duck the KH(4S by North) looking at dummy and the 9H from East? It’s just that if West was trying to defeat the contract and not worry about the overtrick..ducking looks right..all said declarer by not drawing trumps make it harder for West to do the right thing.If East had JT96 hearts,is he not more likely to play ten of hearts on KH?regards~Patrick.

Bobby WolffJune 29th, 2017 at 12:51 am

Hi Patrick,

No very good player has ever said bridge in general and bridge defense in particular, is easy.

To repeat something often said, every hand is different, making it necessary to think with whatever evidence is available.

The defense to 4 spades is quite different than would be the defense to 4 hearts and signals usually mean something different simply because the defense is always keyed into hoping to set the hand.

That said, after the exact bidding and disciplined opening lead (4th best or almost whatever) both defenders then become attuned to the way an excellent declarer goes about the hand.

With that as a start each defender will tend to know what will help partner the most, whether it becomes count signals, suit preference or just attitude. To then complete this type of discussion, each defender then should know all there is to know about what to do about 90+% of the time by the 3rd or 4th trick, often sooner.

I know others may think I am speaking voodoo, but the above is a quick peek into what it takes to be a wondrous defender:

1. Partnership experience

2. Much time spent at the bridge table against very good opponents

3. Confidence with the judgment of partner

4. Intense desire to win, but always remaining actively ethical by not conveying unauthorized information by emphasis or tempo.

To accomplish the above takes total concentration, with no serious lapses.

The good news is that every average to above intelligent person with at least some numeracy can get there, if they try hard enough.

No doubt, you fit all the above, but perhaps the opportunity of playing against excellent players consistently.

Good luck and I hope I have, at the very least, answered your specific question in an indirect manner.

Patrick CheuJune 29th, 2017 at 6:43 am

Hi Bobby,It’s always good to hear your thoughts and already I feel inspired to play again,after taking a short break from the are right about the opportunity…Very Best Regards~Patrick.

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