Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, September 15th, 2017

They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Benjamin Franklin

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


In tales of the Three Little Pigs we normally see two failures for every success, but every pig (or is it dog?) has its day. So in today’s deal we shall see one of the less rational lines rewarded.

Each of the three little pigs declared three no-trump on a low spade lead. The first little pig gave up a diamond at trick two, won the next spade and then tried to run the diamonds. This would have worked if diamonds broke three-two; when they did not, he needed a miracle in hearts, which did not happen.

The second little pig went to dummy with a high diamond and tried a heart finesse. When it worked, South could cross again to dummy with a high diamond to repeat the finesse. That generated two extra tricks for South. But even if the finesse had lost, South would still have come home had hearts been 3-3

By my calculations, the first little pig’s play is slightly better. However, when the cautious and calculating member of the trio emerged, it transpired that he had found an even better line. He won the first spade to give up a diamond, ducked the next spade, and won the third. When he cashed off the top diamonds, East was squeezed on the last winner. Whether he came down to three hearts or three clubs, declarer could discard from the other suit, then take a heart finesse, and set up an extra winner for himself in the appropriate suit.

A satisfying way to bring home the bacon.

A raise to two spades cannot be criticized. Still, if the simple raise to two might be this hand or the same hand with a small heart instead of the king, it can be very hard to compete constructively or reach game. One way to distinguish between raises here is to use the direct raise as weaker, and subvert a call of two clubs to show a constructive raise to two spades – say 7-9 points. With more, redouble.


♠ Q 10 6
 K 9 8 5
♣ Q 10 8 7 5
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♠ Dbl.

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 29th, 2017 at 8:32 pm

Two interesting things about declarer’s play: first, I would have ducked the second spade but not with any thought of a potential squeeze; second, if E shifts to a C after winning the second spade, S must cash the SA before trying to run D. I doubt I would have thought of that.

Bobby WolffSeptember 30th, 2017 at 5:30 am

Hi David,

Yes, sometimes technical bridge play reminds me of professional dancers, timing with attention to detail. Both are beautiful to watch, but while everyone can be enthralled with dancing, others will have to know the rudiments of bridge, otherwise it will go all for naught.

And unless bridge is encouraged to be taught across the board, it will never be accepted, and even if it is, there will be a time delay before many will fall in love with its magical logic.

Iain ClimieSeptember 30th, 2017 at 11:12 am

Hi Bobby,

Your BWTA query was relevant last night. I was palying with a new partner (whom, ironically, I first met 40 years ago but who now lives in the same small town as myself. We’re playing ACOL but with opening 1S guaranteeing 5 and, after 2 paases at favourable, I held KJ108x x A10x Axxx. I opened 1S, LHO doubled, parrtner bid 3S (which we hadn’t discussed in detail but it either pre-emptive or shows a normal raise to 2S) and RHO bid 4H. This is the sort of decision to sort out the men from the boys, so I promptly wound up in shorts. Should I take the push, pass or even double?



Bobby WolffSeptember 30th, 2017 at 2:33 pm

Hi Iain,

Obviously one hand and its judgment in bridge is not like being visited by the first Robin in spring, no doubt, signalling a great season, with predictable, not to mention delightful, weather coming on.

However, I will, no doubt, take the high road and chirp 4 spades and believe it or not, expect to make it, Sure partner may have his values in hearts, easily holding 4 of them with bite. Then again, the first cards he lays down may be s. Qxxx, and h. xxx wherein even before I see the last six will make be almost sure I will score up my ten tricks, while at the same time, might not like my defensive chances against hearts.

Conversely if his first seven cards were. s Axxx, h. QJ9 I would slink back in my seat, almost sure I have made a significant mistake since 4 hearts will very likely be going set with practically no chance to score up my contract.

To the late and great Edgar Kaplan, the difference between a daring bid (always making) and a foolhardy one (not) depends entirely on the result and I never found an applied hand which didn’t fit that description.

One advantage in bidding is that once in a blue moon or possibly a bit more, by bidding, sometimes foolhardy opponents bid on, making your “poor” choice of aggression work through the “back door”.

The above is only my way to defray being wrong in a public forum, but can you blame me?

After all, if one finds a way to win the post-mortem of a bridge hand problem, he need not have to fare well at the table to carry on a respectable reputation.

Iain ClimieSeptember 30th, 2017 at 3:14 pm

Hi Bobby,

I bid 4S and the difference between a sound raise to 2S and a pre-emptive 3S was gruesomely shown when Qxx Jxx Kxx J98x hit the deck. Not exactly what I wanted and partner did say “Sorry, I should probably have more shape!” I got fed 2 rounds of hearts and ruffed the second. then played one top spade which held. It looks horribly like we have 4 tricks off 4H (while many might not be in it) so I played CA and another, LHO winning, and a third heart shortened me again. I played another club, LHO winning and RHO shedding a small diamond, and now a diamond came through to the Q and Ace. I should probably hope for a small miracle now, playing a club, hoping that spades are 4-1 and that baling out for 300 or 500 won’t be too bad (as somebody might make 4H).

Nope, I went for the vague hope of -100 and played another spade. LHO showed out, RHO gleefully played SAx, ruffed the next diamond (having started with DQx) and cashed his hearts for 800. Oh well, -300 would have stunk the place out too and -500 would have been 0% so it was just one bad board. As we’d bid and made slams on a combined (total freak hand) 23 HCP and then a combined less greakish (but lucky) 18 count in the first 4 hands, we were probably due a fall. Anyone after the deranged details can see

We only got 50% on the 23 count, despite my efforts to get doubled in 6H after a game forcing 2D (Benjaminised Acol) opening from North and a 2H overcall from partner finding me with AKQ10xxx K8xxx None J. A very enjoyable evening despite the odd manic result.

Nice to know I wasn’t being a complete lemming, though. An extra trump from partner would have made all the difference (well, some anyway).



Bobby WolffSeptember 30th, 2017 at 7:11 pm

Hi Iain,

The good news is that you had an enjoyable evening in spite of the (ugh!) 3 spade raise.

Of course, the proof is in the winning (not the pudding) of the tournament, and that you and partner proudly accomplished, which does have its redeeming features and tends to anesthetize feelings for at least a few hours, until, at the very least, the next disappointment occurs.

Finally, a full bridge book could be written, with an unlimited number of pages devoted to extra trumps in hand for partner in bridge, since the more one has, the fewer losers the opponents tend to have, making it a double edge sword in hand evaluation, during competitive auctions.

The above, at least to me, causes experience, not sheer talent or anything else, to be the most important quality in raising one’s game. Not easy, I think impossible, for child proteges to suddenly emerge in bridge, like they do in music or sometimes art.

Yes, they master the techniques and numeracy required, but it takes them a good deal longer, if ever, to acquire enough experience.

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