Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 24th, 2017

Four be the things I’d been better without: Love, curiosity, freckles and doubt.

Dorothy Parker

W North
None ♠ Q 10 9 2
 Q 4 2
♣ A K Q 6 4
West East
♠ J 8 5
 Q 9 8 7 6
 6 5
♣ 5 3 2
♠ 3
 A 4 3
 A K 9 8 7 3
♣ J 9 8
♠ A K 7 6 4
 K J 10 2
 J 10
♣ 10 7
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ 1
1 ♠ Pass 2 ♠ Pass
4 ♠ All pass    


It is a cliché (and not an especially accurate one) that rules are made to be broken. What is more to the point is knowing when to apply a rule and when external events should persuade you to vary from a principle.

Today’s deal comes from last Summer’s Nationals in Washington. Everyone knows that missing four cards to the queen (or a lower honor), it is right to play for the drop. This is based on the phrase ‘Eight ever, nine never’. But this statement about what to do when missing four trumps is only true in a vacuum. The concept is based on the vacant space principle, which gives you very slight odds of playing for the drop. However, when you get a count of a side suit, it may affect your decision one way or the other, and this hand exemplifies that theme.

When the field played four spades by South, West obediently led a diamond, in response to his partner’s overcall. This would have been a splendid moment to find the false-card of leading the five, but in real life everyone would lead the six, top of a doubleton. East cashed his three red-suit winners, and led a third diamond.

Without the clues from the auction the way forward for declarer would not be clear. As it is, though, the auction strongly suggests that declarer should ruff high, cash the other high spade and play a spade to the 10. This is because the 6-2 diamond break makes West rather more likely to have three trumps than two.

You should expect that declarer will have an unbalanced hand with about 15 HCP, dummy four hearts and 6-8 points. It feels wrong to play for diamond ruffs to me; instead maybe try to set up tricks in a black suit. This hand is a toss-up, but I’d go for clubs rather than spades, since partner didn’t raise the overcall.


♠ K J 6 5 3
 A 10 2
♣ 10 7 3 2
South West North East
1 ♠ Dbl. Pass 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


Bruce karlsonAugust 7th, 2017 at 11:08 am

BWTA: playing with a strong partner before the late board “sleeps” have set in, I would be headed to the wood shed for leading my DQ. P “knows” I have a high trump so should give me a suit preference entry signal if lacking the DA. That should garner four tricks with the SK to pull on a good day. Further, it is the cowards way out since I have no idea which C to lead. Is that overly aggressive?

Bobby WolffAugust 7th, 2017 at 11:37 am

Hi Bruce,

One thing the diamond queen lead is not, the coward’s way out. True, the diamond queen, located behind the diamond bidder, may be more valuable to hide, but to expose it at the table will never be thought of as cowardliness (at least by me). Also, perhaps only the 4th highest club (or 3rd if so playing) would be OK (as suggested by the column), but in truth, your choice, and the reason for it, is likely as good as any (at least in my theory).

However to project ahead where the defensive tricks may appear, before even the dummy comes down, is far too optimistic even to dream about.

None of the above should keep you from using your imagination, but only to warn you against
the nature of the blind opening lead and its results.

Unlike music and the arts, great bridge players are not born, but rather evolve after their earlier experiences, especially against competent players. Have patience and let your judgment and talent grow, but don’t expect early miracles.

And BTW, fight those late board “sleeps”, which if done, becomes as beneficial as winning finesses in close contracts.

Above all, HANG IN THERE!

Bruce karlsonAugust 7th, 2017 at 12:22 pm

Thnx much…you give me hope I will learn how to play this game…