Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 10th, 2017

Little drops of water, Little grains of sand, Make the mighty ocean And the beauteous land.

Julia Carney

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



When you sensibly upgrade your hand out of a weak two because of the vulnerability, you are driven inexorably to four spades. You have nine top tricks in aces and kings, which means that three no-trump would have been a more comfortable spot, by a considerable margin.

But this is no time for ruing what might have been. Where will your 10th trick come from? You might be able to obtain an extra winner from the hearts, or perhaps by endplaying the defenders and forcing a club lead. Is there another chance? There is, and the hidden extra chance comes from the diamond spots. You have just enough straw to turn into a single brick.

At trick one, declarer should cover the diamond jack with dummy’s king, losing to East’s ace. When East returns a trump, declarer should cash the spade ace, queen and king, then run dummy’s diamond nine, taking a ruffing finesse against the queen. If East ducks, declarer discards a heart from hand. If East covers, declarer ruffs and dummy’s diamond seven-six then force out a trick against West’s 10. The only time this line will fail is if West has found a diabolical opening lead away from the queen-jack-10 of diamonds – and if he has, he deserves to defeat you.

Note also that the defenders do best to shift to hearts at trick two, but so long as you pitch a heart when taking the first ruffing finesse, you will survive that too.

On this sort of auction you should expect dummy to put down an opening bid with a doubleton diamond, and maybe length in hearts and clubs, in other words a hand that was happy to defend to both the other two suits, but prepared to compete to three diamonds if pushed. I’d lead the heart doubleton, hoping to get something going in the way of ruffs, for want of anything better to do.


♠ K 10 9 2
 10 4
 J 7 3
♣ 9 7 4 3
South West North East
Pass Pass Dbl. Pass
2 ♠ 3 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


Bob JohnsonJuly 24th, 2017 at 2:47 pm

A low diamond lead would have worked better for the defense

bobby wolffJuly 24th, 2017 at 3:13 pm

Hi Bob,

And, as well as a heart, but not a club. My guess is that if a diamond was decided to lead by most, a low one would be chosen.

Only help proving (at least to me) a famous quote by the long ago great British bridge writer, John Brown, in his well-thought of book, “Winning Defence”, something like, “If only a relatively average player would get off to the best lead on every hand he would win every bridge World Championship”.

slarJuly 26th, 2017 at 3:06 am

I am a little confused as to why this shouldn’t be a weak 2 opener Vul vs. NV. I have been told to make sound openings when vulnerable because partner will press to game plus you don’t want to be -200 for no reason but that you can be more flexible when non-vulnerable because -100 is often a good score.

bobby wolffJuly 26th, 2017 at 11:17 pm

Hi Slar,

Your confusion is undoubtedly shared by many and for the reasons you express.

However, my experience dwells and therefore caters to a different principle. A weak 2 bid, especially spades, is an excellent preemptive effort designed to take away space from opponents, hoping to cause them to wind up in less than their best contract.

When holding an ace and an ace queen combination that defense is one expected from a one level opening so that partner can sometimes timely double the opponents if and when they immediately jump the bidding, either to game immediately or even by raising their partner to game during the first round.

IOWs, if I am the partner of a weak two bidder and hear him opening a weak two bid, I think of some such hand as, s. KQJ10xx, xxx, KJx, x.
vulnerable or not, causing me to not want partner, on the hand you speak of, to also open a WTB with that. At least to me, the hand shown is easily worth an opening 1 bid, and although if anything, the hand above represents more likely the same offensive tricks, it doesn’t come close on defense.

Also, and most important, there is absolutely no correlation between bridge, as we know it, and at all levels, as a scientific competition or anywhere near as an exact methodology..

At the very best, it is just a game of judgment, therefore it is better IMO, just to be in the ballpark keeping preemptive bids preemptive and value showing bids (both defensive and offensive) as one level openings.

And then sometimes, after the initial salvo, all four players (if worth their reputations) try to temper their bidding to what seems, by their experiences, as the most likely satisfactory final result. Yes luck often plays an important part, but in the end, and through the many years, it seems to me the same players, pairs and teams which seem to dominate (not unlike all of the world’s major sports), making bridge, at least to me, capable of being right there among them as a brilliant, exciting and worthwhile mental competition.

Finally, and only my opinion, cheating at bridge is much worse than steroid use in physical sports, since while both are strictly and clearly against the rules, cheating at bridge steals ego and enables even very mediocre players to win important events, but steroid use is usually used by already big time talent who only increase their own strength, vitality, and endurance and because of the less stealthy use of it have been, at least I suspect, more easily caught.

Others may disagree!