Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 11th, 2017

No-one gets an iron-clad guarantee of success. Certainly, factors like opportunity, luck and timing are important. But the backbone of success is usually found in old-fashioned, basic concepts like hard work, determination, good planning and perseverance.

Mia Hamm

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


North has a hand slightly too strong for a direct raise of one heart. If not playing two over one, it looks better to bid diamonds, then raise hearts to invite game. If you play two over one, you can use the forcing no-trump planning to jump to three hearts next. Either way, you should reach four hearts, though North might briefly consider making a slam try en route to game. If a call of four diamonds shows a source of tricks, he is certainly worth it – consider that South might have the same hand with the diamond queen instead of the heart jack.

In four hearts on a spade lead South can see the danger of four top losers (three in clubs and one in spades). One possibility would be to take a diamond finesse — not a success as the cards lie, and not the right play in theory either. The correct line requires careful manipulation of the entries.

Best is to win the spade lead and play one top trump from hand. Then play the diamond ace and king, and ruff a diamond high. Lead a heart to the eight for another diamond ruff, then cross back to dummy to draw the last trump. Now the last diamond allows you to throw away a loser and you can take the club finesse for the overtrick. I hope you are pleased when it loses — that means that if you had mishandled the play, you would be down.

Your partner took no part in the auction so he surely does not have a decent red suit and values. If he did, he would have bid. Maybe the best chance to beat the game is to lead a club and hope declarer has only three? At pairs this hand is even harder, since a club lead is quite likely to cost a trick. I might lead the heart seven and hope to hit my partner’s length.


♠ Q 5 4 2
 7 2
 J 9
♣ K 10 6 5 4
South West North East
    Pass 1 ♣
Pass 1 ♠ Pass 1 NT
Pass 3 NT 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


David WarheitSeptember 25th, 2017 at 9:37 am

Slightly better play: win SA, then cash DA then HA and now lead a second D. This gains when W has singleton D & E has CA, although in that case W would probably have led his singleton, but it doesn’t hurt to play as I suggest.

I also note that 3N by S is 100%, although it seems impossible to get there. Any thoughts on this?

Bobby WolffSeptember 25th, 2017 at 2:14 pm

Hi David,

Yes, your play of declarer leading a diamond to the ace first before returning to the ace of hearts is good technique and may only lose when East has been dealt a diamond void and only a singleton heart as well as the defenders leading 3rd and low vs. a suit contract (more or less, a practical impossibility).

And, while, no doubt, 3NT is a sure trick contract, I see no legitimate bidding sequence which will allow it to be bid, but if so (and 4 hearts also going set) any well known pair arriving there, is worth the local bridge recorder investigating the case
for advanced knowledge.

Probably, just trying for a lucky result, but nevertheless suspicious and worth recording.

slarSeptember 25th, 2017 at 7:10 pm

I have an ethics/procedural question. LHO opens 3S. Partner goes in the tank (with Axx/Jxxxx/AKx/QJ I can understand the dilemma) but ultimately passed. I had a strong hand myself (x/AKQ/Jxxxx/AKxx) and had a routine double and life went on. We were not questioned about the hesitation, but what if we were questioned? I made my decision to double before I realized that partner was tanking. Would that carry any weight with a director should the situation be called into question?

Bobby WolffSeptember 25th, 2017 at 9:41 pm

Hi Slar,

You are presenting a very real life bridge problem, the answer of course, should be then properly used as a precedent, assuming the exact same cards were duplicated.

Yes, no one should question your right to reopen with a double, but the next item of interest, in which I will differ from the majority, would occur if you exchanged your ace of hearts for the deuce.

Surely, most players, even after the exchange, would likely still double (almost right distribution, except for not having a 4th heart and enough strength, especially in the balancing seat, where most all good players relax their immediate seat requirements), however my vote (remember, I said it first) would be to not allow it.

The TD, after his routine investigation would, IMO get at least a 75% vote for acceptance, but not my vote.

My reason is to alert my passing partner, that it helps negatively compromise the game for his actions to be condoned. Sure, he has a problem, but once he violates the time requirements for action and then contritely passes, he does and should make an ethical partner (strictly for the future of our beautiful game) to lean over backwards to give up that hand and, discuss with partner later, how he cannot do that to him, and after the study, bid something (dbl., 3NT, or even 4 hearts) in order to set positive examples for active ethics.

I’ll remind you that mine would be a minority position, but I think by so doing, I would be setting an example of my bridge responsibility to the game itself.

Sure, the reopening hand is enough to balance and I wouldn’t think twice about not doing it if partner had passed in tempo, but, the example set by not doing it, would forever be ingrained in my partner’s mind and likely he would never do such a thing again, which makes it worth the ruling. Not only for him, but also for the opponents and everyone who eventually reads about this ruling.

Of course, an in tempo pass by him is also fine, but that subject need not be discussed, except to allow partner to not embarrass the game and himself by taking so long to pass and thus allow his partner the illegal information to take a sure fire action rather than a possible risk.

The fact that you made your decision to double before the tank should have no effect on the committee decision (simply because it is only self-serving and could be said as a matter of course), but as I have already bellowed, if one would bid with the 4th seat hand he would likely win the TDs decision and/or the later committee.

Shoot me, shoot me, shoot arrows through me, but our game is just too great to allow a long study and then pass, and give his partner free reign to have that illegal knowledge to benefit his decision.

However, if that single low spade was a 4th heart even I, would allow 4th seat to balance with a double, since to not, would distort the game more than my lesson would promote it.

Now, let the arguments begin, to which, over my many years of being involved with appeals, I have heard it all, meaning it is doubtful that I have not heard every argument pro or con.

And finally you as the 4th seat bidder, should not feel guilty about your balance, simply because IMO a sound majority of players would reopen. However, by you doing so, perhaps your partner will not have learned the lesson he needs to happily accept.

“When breaking tempo, bid something!”

ClarksburgSeptember 25th, 2017 at 9:48 pm

Hi Bobby
Today ACBL members received an e-mail outlining “Big Ideas” for future development.
Here are two:

“…Integrate Social Bridge – Create systems and change rules to encourage social players to integrate into both clubs and tournaments…” and

“..Redistribute Tournament Activity – Reorganize regionals into four levels; shift sectional activity into clubs and create regional and national STaCs; change how clubs, units and districts get paid for member tournament activity…”

Obviously, a main thrust is to accelerate the “dumbing down” of everything, and to create ever more avenues for “selling” increasingly meaningless Masterpoints .

No doubt this is very painful for you to see, but I know you will not be surprised.

What’s next?…Platinum Points for social Players at Clubs ??

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 25th, 2017 at 10:57 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

You are very much on target! Instead of making any effort to start an educational program in the school system, they focus on special club games, robots and what appears to be their primary goal .. to get more card fees by opening the floodgates with ridiculous masterpoints!

Bobby WolffSeptember 25th, 2017 at 11:52 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

At the risk of offending some, but still creating an analogy, and although I have not seen their letter yet (hasn’t arrived to me), yours and Judy’s comments have likened it to “rats leaving a sinking ship, but before they go, finding new ways to steal as much cheese as possible”.

Having said the above, I’m hoping I have misread their intent and whatever they are expecting us to believe what will happen. Many dedicated bridge players will come out of the woodwork and become good players, but just in case that doesn’t happen I will not expect much.

At least to me, the ACBL represents (or should) tournament bridge as we know it, which should always cater to the best and brightest players who play the game, as well as they can and at the same time practice Active Ethics at every tournament.

When we dishonor the Masterpoint to the status of ridiculousness, Bill McKenney, the original creator of that denomination in the 1930s must be openly crying at wherever his final destination has taken him.