Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Our knowledge is a receding mirage in an expanding desert of ignorance.

Will Durant

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


South has enough to try for game, but not to bid it on his own, when North raises hearts. His three club call focuses on needing help in that suit. When North shows diamond values, South bids the game. While it might be right for North to use the three diamond call as ‘last train’ — meaning a buck-passing device — the result would be the same.

Consider how declarer should play four hearts on the defense of three rounds of spades, as East pitches a club. He ruffs and … what next?

It looks natural to cross to the diamond ace and finesse in clubs. But when West wins and leads a fourth spade, forcing South to ruff, East gets to pitch a second club on the fourth spade, and is now out of clubs. If South tries to cash the club ace, East will ruff. If South draws trumps, he will lose a second club trick. So from this point on the contract can no longer be made.

South’s interior clubs are a mirage; the hand would be easier to play if South had the ace and three small clubs in hand. The simplest way to ensure 10 tricks is to play ace and another club at tricks four and five. Having given up a club, and ruff two clubs with dummy’s high trumps. For the record: South should cash his high diamonds before starting the cross-ruff. This prevents the opponents discarding their diamonds during the cross-ruff.

And finally, the defenders would have done best to shift to trumps at trick three to prevent the cross-ruff.

An easy one, I hope. Your partner’s two heart call suggests a limited hand in the range of 6-9 HCP, but game your way is still very much in the picture. Your spectacular intermediates mean you are well worth an invitational call of two no-trump, to let your partner decide where to go from here.


♠ 9 5
 A Q J 10 3
 K 6
♣ A Q 10 9
South West North East
1 Pass 1 ♠ Pass
2 ♣ Pass 2 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 ClimieAugust 31st, 2017 at 11:21 am

Hi Bobby,

I agree that West should switch to a trump at T3 holding those clubs but South can still get home with a partial elimination, at least double dummy. One way is to win the trump in hand, play DKA, ruff a spade, lead a heart to the King and ruff another spade. Now Play CAQ putting West in to lead away from the CJ.

At the table, though, I think taking T3 in dummy and then a club to the 10 before deciding on a 2nd finesse or trying to ruff down the K seem far more rational lines. Just as long as partner doesn’t chirp up with the first line a few hands later saying “You can make that 4H, you know….”. Sometimes silence is golden and truth needs to be gagged for a while in the interests of preserving morale and performance.



Iain ClimieAugust 31st, 2017 at 3:30 pm

Sorry and rude words – it isn’t going to work as East is going to dump clubs.

Bobby WolffAugust 31st, 2017 at 5:05 pm

Hi Iain,

Everything noted, especially about table demeanor.

Although playing bridge for many years certainly entertains and better, challenges our minds, perhaps the most interesting learning experience is getting to know the habits of others:

1. We all want to be thought of as good (a euphemism for better than we are), at what we do.

2. In bridge, both your partner and you have equal big time roles in influencing others as to where you rank.

3. Many players are often competitive with his partner as to who is the better player and therefore take aggressive roles by resorting to criticism of him or her, rather than just letting it happen and perhaps bringing it up at a better, less public time.

4. The frustration of even losing just one hand unfortunately causes some otherwise thoughtful people to cause an unnecessary scene.

5. Like I believe Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, once said, something like, “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one ever does anything about it”, the bridge truth of the result of partner criticism, only causes more future disasters than it prevents.

And the above is written by someone (me) who has had to learn the “hard” way about that subject as Paul Harvey, a late and great American newscaster would call, “The Rest of the Story”.

BTW, everyone loves people like you, if only as a role model, who are always so open and honest, (good or usually, not so) about yourself. Perhaps the Bible should change its wording, from the “meek” inheriting the earth to the “self-critical”.

Iain ClimieAugust 31st, 2017 at 8:32 pm

Hi Bobby,

Many thanks for the kind comments but, when I played more seriously around 35-40 years ago, I wish I’d been able to hear and even take my own advice about not griping at partners. Sensible I wasn’t, and it cost me in more ways than bridge. One very nice young lady wound up as not just an ex bridge partner but an ex girlfriend. Ignoring the logical paradox, I think I’d like to go back in time and have the 59 year old me smack the younger version round the head with something quite hard in an attempt to get some manners and decent behaviour in!

Still, you live and learn.


ClarksburgSeptember 1st, 2017 at 1:03 am

Frank Stewart nicely covered part of this in a recent column:

“Some issues are issues of the Partnership…but not Dummy play.
Your Partner’s Dummy play is none of your concern.
If you’re unhappy with it, get a new Partner! ”

On a more-general note, I require an agreement from all Partners that nothing will be said by either of us at the Table…that would not get the best out of either of us…and it is generally rude and offensive to the other Pair being forced to listen to it !!

Bobby WolffSeptember 1st, 2017 at 7:46 am

Hi Iain and Clarksburg,

It would be very difficult to argue with Frank’s advice about partner’s dummy play. To do so, just doesn’t jive with anything positive happening.

If it is just to remind him to be more careful, that would be considered rude and unnecessary and anything specific would then
hint that at the very least, his talent doesn’t measure up to yours.

The being rude and offensive to the other Pair may be thought of as wrong, but even though I agree that it may, it is not as bad from a personal vantage point as a public reprimand for all to see and hear and the very worst, live with it.

Iain ClimieSeptember 1st, 2017 at 8:24 am

HI Clarksburg,

You take a very sane and sensible approach; after all, if you are really keen on winning, why do anything like shouting at partner which will make it less likely? Yet many of the hyper-competitive players I’ve met over the years seem utterly incapable of such behaviour.


PS As an extra painful admission, the aforementioned young lady was quite rich; I shot myself in both feet several times there, although I got lucky in later life to find someone tolerant but who doesn’t play.

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