Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap rhythms for bears to dance to.

Gustave Flaubert

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


Goldilocks has now completed her training at bridge, and has advanced to competing at the duplicate. Papa Bear expansively invited her to partner him, “So she could see how the experts play.” Keeping her doubts under firm check, Goldilocks accepted with as much grace as she could, and was privileged to watch him get his paws on the dummy, often with singular lack of success. In four hearts, he won the opening club lead in dummy, led a club to the ace, and tried to ruff a club in dummy. East over-ruffed and led a spade to his partner. A fourth club sank the contract without trace, when East could over-ruff.

Mama Bear improved on that line at her table. She won the club lead in dummy to lead a club to her hand, then ducked a spade to cut the defenders’ communications for immediate ruffs. Now when a third club came through she ruffed in dummy and was over-ruffed, but she was still in decent shape. She would have survived had trumps broken, or had East held a singleton. But not today.

Baby Bear showed how it should be done. The club queen went to the king, and he next led to the club ace. Now came a third club, throwing a diamond from dummy. When West led a fourth club, declarer threw a second diamond, rather than ruff.

West shifted to a diamond, and declarer won in hand, drew two rounds of trump then ruffed his diamond loser in dummy for his 10th trick.

You have a stark choice here. Pass the two no-trump opening bid or transfer into spades, after which you can pass, or offer a choice of games with a call of three no-trump. I prefer to start with a transfer, but I would plan to pass the completion of the transfer. This doesn’t have to be right; however, since partner can always break the transfer with a super fit, I’ll settle for partscore if he doesn’t.


♠ J 10 7 5 4
 6 4 2
 Q 6 4
♣ 8 4
South West North East
  Pass 2 NT 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


Mircea1September 19th, 2017 at 7:30 pm

Hi Bobby,

This is an excellent hand for my level. I would have never thought about this play. Does it have a name, something like “ruffing transfer”? It just makes it easier to remember it.

I guess it would be easier to see it if the plan declarer makes before playing at trick one goes something like this:

“From my hand, I have one quick loser and 3 slow losers (a spade, and a diamond plus two clubs, respectively). This means that I have 9 immediate winners (6 hearts, 1 diamond and 2 clubs). All I need is one more trick, which can only come from a ruff in dummy. I could ruff a club easily, but there is a significant danger of being over-ruffed. Is there a way to ruff a diamond in dummy? Yes, there is. Bingo!”

I hope you’re not laughing at me, but if my above rant is correct, this is the kind of advice that intermediate players (or “aspiring players” as you graciously call us) need. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was thought in our schools?

Moving this a step forward, is there a way to set this contract? Following the same logic as we have for declarer to be successful, it appears that all it takes is to give East just 3 diamonds (and one more spade). Now, when declarer pitches diamonds from dummy, East does the same. Eventually he gets a diamond (or a club) over-ruff.

But what if, on the actual layout of the cards, West starts at trick one with a trump? This would be a legitimate play since declarer bid clubs, West’s strong suit. All that would be needed now is for East to have one more outside entry so West can put him on the lead twice. Swap a top spade from West for a low one from East (and give West the courage to lead low when in with the clubs) and it works.

I hope I’m not too far off with all of these, although something tells me that things are a lot more complicated than this!

BobliptonSeptember 19th, 2017 at 8:17 pm

The problem I have with these brilliant declarer plays is they bar brilliant defender plays. Should west divine divine south’s plan, he can shift to a diamond after winning the third club and frustrate south.


Iain ClimieSeptember 19th, 2017 at 9:07 pm

Hi Bob,

Can’t declarfer just take te DA and play the 4th club himself sheddding a diamond from dummy? Mind you, as Mircea says, what if East had 3D and 2C, but change East’s hand to be without the DK? Then just playing CA at T1 and Ace x of diamonds works nicely.



Bob BordenSeptember 19th, 2017 at 9:36 pm

Wouldn’t it be easier if west simply found the brilliant lead of a diamond?

bobby wolffSeptember 19th, 2017 at 11:47 pm

Hi Mircea1, Bob, and Iain,

Yes Mircea, you have captured much of the drama, featuring excellent bridge, throwing two losers away on opponents winners (the ability of East to overruff clubs) in order to be able to ruff something in dummy (a losing diamond) without the real fear of East being short enough in both suits to foil the master plan.

I sincerely wish the ACBL (the parent organization in my country) had a competent enough bridge salesman to go to our National
Educational Department and sell the idea of teaching bridge in our primary and secondary schools.

By so doing it teaches so much about numeracy,, logic, problem solving, partnership harmony, concentration, code language (bidding), and sheer competitiveness under pressure.

Since eleven countries in Europe and all of China (two hundred million students) have contributed rave notices arriving from the students, teachers and parents of the students about this single effort. However, that salesman has to have a real love for the game, himself, or herself, which will echo through the room and serve to allow our government to realize just how important and necessary such an adventure would result.

However, I am not holding my breath until it happens, since our home office, in spite of my screaming for years how important it is, have ignored me for whatever reason they may have.

Sad, but true. Today’s hand is just another good example of the mind involvement necessary to succeed. Being at the table the declarer should feel from the opening lead and the likely count signal or just demeanor of East, that the clubs are the way they are.

Everything the three of you say is all true, but these kinds of hands, played by experienced and aspiring players only serve to illustrate how to think under pressure. Not everyone is capable of reaching these heights, but all who would like to take a course in bridge (as an elective) should have the chance.

Thanks much to the three of you for joining in about this hand. There are many more like it, with various twists one way or the other.

I am still hoping something good will happen, but that can only originate from our home office.