Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, September 8th, 2017

I’m a dealer in magic and spells, In blessings and curses And ever-filled purses, In prophecies, witches, and knells.

W. S. Gilbert

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


At the Dyspeptics Club there have been hints dropped that South might be practicing the dark arts. West has gone so far as to suggest exorcizing the stock of unused playing cards, since South appears to be able to direct every available ace and king into his own hand. Were it not for the fact that he does so little with them, his opponents would be even less happy with him.

As it is, though, he manages to floor more contracts than anyone else – helped no doubt by the fact that he seems to declare as many as the other players put together.

Today’s deal was no exception. Having managed to restrain himself from bidding the grand slam, he expansively claimed his honors at trick one, winning the ace and king of hearts, then cashing the club ace and king, and coming up short when East discarded. He tried ruffing a spade and leading a diamond towards his hand, but when East did not fall for the bait, he had to go down one. After North shook his head, South realized he might have missed the point of the deal. Can you see his mistake?

Win the heart eight at trick one, ruff a diamond, cross to the heart queen and ruff another diamond, then cash the club ace and king. Claim if they break, if not, ruff out the spades and lead the diamond king. When East covers, you pitch one of your club losers, and wait for the ruff/sluff, that lets you pitch your other club loser from hand.

You can go low and pass, or you can respond either one no-trump, or two clubs. I prefer the last of these options for two reasons. The first is that a call of one no-trump potentially wrong-sides that strain, and is an overstatement of your values. Second, the opponents rate to have a major-suit fit and raising clubs makes it harder for them to find.


♠ Q 10 3
 5 2
 Q 10 7 3
♣ Q 10 9 6
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ 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


jim2September 22nd, 2017 at 1:01 pm

So, the text line succeeds when clubs are 3-2 and also when they are 4-1 and the short club holder has the AD.

That is almost certainly the best play, but another interesting line would be:

– win 8H
– D ruff
– QH
– D ruff
– AS, KS, ruff S
– D ruff
– 2C

bobby wolffSeptember 22nd, 2017 at 3:37 pm

HI Jim 2,

Not if West pretended he was a Crocodile, opened his jaws. and played the queen of clubs, followed by the 10 or 9.

And since West already should know the count, declarer having, six hearts, no diamonds, by inference three spades since with four he wouldn’t be playing this way and also believing partner’s spade count signal, leaving him with four clubs, so that he might as well guard against the singleton jack, if for no other reason and declarer had 4 spades and three clubs missing the king queen he would play ace and another club.

Of course, with the holding West did have, he would thank his luck, that he was dealt the nine also to go with his ten, enabling his jaws to open.

However your best point is that you may think this whole hand is a croc and you would be almost half right, 4/9s. However, if East’s singleton club was the king you would have the bridge story of the century, if you were declarer.

Perhaps you could call it the counter attempted Crocodile coup (CACC) to go with your already patented TOCM, no doubt allowing you to be promoted to Jim1.

jim2September 22nd, 2017 at 3:52 pm

I knew the Crocodile Coup was the defenders’ solution, but doubt it would be recognized in practice.

As for becoming Jim1 – that would be a 2-step promotion! I think I would first have to become jim1 or Jim2.

bobby wolffSeptember 22nd, 2017 at 4:24 pm

And to think that I have been oversizing your name all these years. MANY apologies, or is it many APOLOGIES?

Perhaps I didn’t realize your name has been on a diet.

bobby wolffSeptember 22nd, 2017 at 4:36 pm

Hi jim2,

No doubt, crocodiles often look like only logs in the water so why should they be any more recognizable at the bridge table?

Dan BurkhardSeptember 22nd, 2017 at 4:40 pm


We are newbies at bridge (started about a year ago). Our (wife & me) favorite morning activity is to test ourselves on having the correct answers to both segments of your daily bridge.

I assume that your general audience is probably at a much higher level of play but….it would be nice if, some of the time, you could dumb down a bit.

Thanks for listening,

Dan B.

bobby wolffSeptember 22nd, 2017 at 6:00 pm

Hi Dan,

No doubt your query is echoed over the mountaintops and through the glens.

We need to provide 365 columns a year (except one more on leap year) challenging us to provide a variety of bridge problems, preferably ones which have right and/or wrong solutions.

I, for one, and perhaps all my talented staff, would love to primarily discuss basic bridge learning which, in turn, would endear ourselves to both your wife and you, as well as contribute to allowing a positive and solid base for which you two could slowly learn this great game we play, all its wonderful nuances, and, at least as in the storybooks, eventually grow for you to love it unconditionally.

However, by only concentrating on accomplishing that, what have we offered to at one time in this country was estimated to have 40 million bridge players (1950’s) which come with all sorts of levels from beginner to highly expert.

On Monday we usually feature an easier to understand basically beginner type hand, but still needing for the reader to think it through in order to hopefully proceed, so that greater challenges ahead will not seem so overwhelming.

However, please understand that we endorse your position, and besides that, welcome any and all questions you might have right here on this site, promising to answer them as thoughtfully as we know how.

But in return we hope you will still grow your knowledge of this majestic mind game, which, as we speak is being taught on a daily basis to 200,000,000 young Chinese bridge students plus eleven major countries in Europe, all to rave reviews by the students, teachers and even the parents of those students.

Of course, I apologize for our recent spate of unusual and difficult hands which we have been featuring lately. No doubt we are aware of what you are suggesting and only hope that both you two can still appreciate what our great game will offer once you grow with it.

Mircea1September 22nd, 2017 at 7:04 pm

Hi Dan,

The greatest thing about this site is that you get one of the greatest player of all times to answer your questions in a timely manner and with most humility and frankness you can expect for someone of his caliber. I could be wrong, but I don’t think there is any other place on the ‘net today where you can get this free. Yes, the problems are fairly complex but the payoff is that if you put in the time and effort to understand them you will climb up the (infinitely long) stair to bridge perfection very fast. And if you have questions, no matter how simple, our gracious host and other contributors will be quick to answer them.

Not to be neglected are the other contributor’s input. Every time I read the column problem I wonder what questions had been asked, what angles have been overlooked so I can pitch in my 2 cents. This blog had truly opened my eyes to the complexities of proper analysis in bridge, which is as amazing as the game itself.

Finally, the civility and the very mature nature of the postings we see here are something to be appreciated. All this is thanks to the tone and atmosphere given to this blog by our wonderful host. Thank you, Bobby.

Mircea1September 22nd, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Hi Bobby,

South’s 3-loser hand is a beauty. Assuming this partnership plays 2H response to 2C as showing a bust, do you think it would be worth investigating for the grand after responder’s 3H bid? It wouldn’t really need much, Qxxx in clubs would do. With all controls visible, I’m not sure what purpose the 3S bid serves other than finding out if partner has wasted values in diamonds? To my knowledge, there are methods available to inquire about the third round control in a particular suit. Playing with your favorite partner (of all times), what would be your most likely bidding sequence?

bobby wolffSeptember 23rd, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Hi Mircea1,

First, I picked a very poor time to be out of pocket for so many hours yesterday, since it delayed my reading of your overwhelming tribute to bridge, the game we both so thoroughly love, and, of course, which also left me glowing with the extremely kind things you offered about both our mutual site and my role with it.

It is difficult (and emotional) to express what that means to me, but perhaps, suffice it to say that a single word, cherish, might come closest to summing it up.

A by-product of your post might better explain, than I could hope to begin to, why much (perhaps overly) of the site’s time is spent on the so-called high-level game. Rather than the necessary process of bringing along a new, willing and enthusiastic couple on what it will take to convince them what they will miss, if they do not further pursue, this very much underrated (in so many ways) our enterprise.

No doubt, newbies need to learn the essentials of how to begin playing the game since that part is never as easy as some believe, fraught with wicked witches and poisoned flowers to overcome, and to add, the sometimes difficult task of finding at least four to be able to find time (in this busy world), to even just sit down at a table and play it.

In any event I am hoping that Dan and his wife will overcome the above obstacles to at least, be able to (at this very early point in their bridge careers) begin to see and feel the upside of what staying with it might both bring and continue to add to their common relationship. No doubt that both you and I can attest to its unbelievable and undeniable glories of life’s logic, problem solving, everyday psychology, importance of numeracy, legal partnership code communication (bidding) and adhering to the little discussed, but vitally important, ethical strictures which are inborn within our marvelous competition.

I’m still positively reeling from your delightful post, but it is now time to get back to bridge and your specific questions.

First, pertaining to the column’s suggested bidding, although many (including me) prefer a 2 heart response to 2 diamonds to show a terrible hand (0-5) when responding to an artificial very strong opening bid of 2 clubs, this hand (at least for discussion purposes) lends itself better for 2 diamonds to be the weakest response available.

Therefore the auction stated would be basically the one I would recommend. No doubt true, that partner could have 3rd round club control, 4 small hearts but the queen of clubs instead of
hearts (as well as the magic doubleton spade, instead of three), allowing the heart grand slam to be the percentage choice; but unfortunately, even the modern day updated top-level bidding systems will rarely, if ever, have the ability to pinpoint exact distributions enabling magical results.

In answer to your other question about how my best partner and I would have bid that hand, I would suggest 1 club by the opening bidder, (artificial, but forcing and unlimited), 1 diamond by partner (the same 0-5), 2 hearts by me (even stronger hand), 3 hearts by him, 3 spades by me, 4 diamonds by him (cue bid), 5 clubs by me (another cue bid), probably 5 hearts only by him, but possibly 6 because of his queen of hearts and then either 6 hearts by me or pass to his slam choice already.

Our theory would be that it is just too much to expect to cover both 3rd round club control and enough trumps to arrive at a percentage grand slam, so that our judgment would settle for 12 tricks.

IOW, even excellent bridge does not lend itself to perfection and when the weak hand shows a diamond control, likely the king rather than the ace, it is just not the right thing to do to gamble, rather than settle for a compromise choice of a small slam.

Perhaps some total relay systems could locate what is necessary to ascertain and pinpoint the specific requirements for exact bidding, but I rather doubt that would apply in most situations (especially if those worthy opponents were unkind enough to rob us of bidding space with a nuisance preemptive bid at an early stage).

ClarksburgSeptember 23rd, 2017 at 4:44 pm

Hi Dan
To reinforce Mircea’s point, I would encourage you to stick with this site just as it is, and stretch yourselves and learn.
I started checking in here as a virtual Beginner about 8 years ago. I have learned far more here, about actually playing bridge against real opponents, than from any books, courses etc.
Again to reinforce what Mircea and Bobby both said, Bobby respects all of us, whatever our level of skill, and answers our questions.
Take another look at the Tue 19 and Wed20 blogs from earlier this week, and also the Sat 23 blog. These “play” items, understandable by any Intermediate, and hopefully by hard-working determined Beginners, illustrate the challenges and opportunities Bridge offers us all!