Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

The wise man bridges the gap by laying out the path by means of which he can get from where he is to where he wants to go.

J. P. Morgan

N North
None ♠ 10 5
 A J 5 3
 K 7 4 3
♣ Q J 9
West East
♠ A 4 2
 K Q
 A J 10 9 8 2
♣ 10 2
♠ K 7
 10 9 8 7
 Q 6 5
♣ 7 6 5 3
♠ Q J 9 8 6 3
 6 4 2
♣ A K 8 4
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 ♠ Pass 1 NT Pass
4 ♠ All pass    


Our last board this week from the 1996 world championships at Rhodes shows two different approaches and results in the delicate game contract of four spades.

It was one of the more difficult defensive challenges of the event, and because duplicated deals were in use, the commentators had the opportunity to see how well everybody could do. The problem was rarely solved correctly — that is, if declarer chose the line of maximum pressure. We shall look at four spades, played first by North, then by South.

When Miguel Reygadas and Georg Rosenkranz of Mexico defended game from the North seat (after a transfer auction) Rosenkranz as East found the heart lead. Reygadas contributed the king and it was now relatively easy for Rosenkranz to duck when declarer led a low trump from hand. Reygadas won his trump ace, unblocked hearts by cashing his queen, then played a second spade, allowing Rosenkranz to give him the ruff for one down.

At another table Dennis Koch of Denmark had also overreached to get to game, from the South seat. On the lead of the heart king he won immediately, then led the spade 10 from dummy, to tempt the cover. When East obliged, the communication for the heart ruff had gone.

(You can imagine that if East had two hearts and the doubleton spade king the winning play would be to lead the low spade from dummy at trick two, to discourage that player from putting up his honor.)

A simple option would be to drive to four hearts, but that seems a real overbid to me, since you may be short on both trumps and high cards. I’m not sure I like a call of two no-trump either, with this spade weakness. So what does that leave? Maybe a game-try of three diamonds. I’ll accept partner’s sign off, or if he chooses to bid three no-trump or four hearts.


♠ 10 5
 A J 5 3
 K 7 4 3
♣ Q J 9
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Pass
1 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 ClimieOctober 7th, 2017 at 11:13 am

Hi Bobby,

How culpable is East’s cover of the S10 at least if 4S is played by South? If declarer held (say) AJ8xxx then covering would be essential.



bobby wolffOctober 7th, 2017 at 3:39 pm

Hi Iain,

No intelligent bridge player, nor bridge analyst could dispute your inference of how difficult overall defense often becomes, particularly so when a very clever declarer is trying to make it that way.

However, the only answer I can give you, is that the VERY best players seem to better sense what to do, perhaps relying on a magical feeling (that they shove into gear) which informs them of then doing the opposite of what a very good declarer is enticing them to do. However sometimes (and today’s hand is an excellent example) a winning defensive plan, when cards are thought to be where they are, turn out to be envisioned correctly.

Of course, when playing against lesser experienced players that feeling is less reliable, since the declarer is often just playing by rote.

Yes, my opinion needs to be only taken moderate seriously, since these crucial situations seem to arrive often, but no “duck”, such as it used to on Groucho Marx’s famous long ago TV quiz show, “You Bet Your Life”, comes down from the ceiling, informing the contestant, but not the bridge victim, that a result changing answer or play, is about to happen.

Patrick CheuOctober 7th, 2017 at 5:46 pm

Hi Bobby,If the bidding goes All NV W pass N 1N(12-14) E 2H S Dbl(lebensol-raise to 2N)~W p N 2N(min with Heart stop) E p S 3S(GF he thought)..pass out+1. South AKJ2 T3 A974 932 said he would not bid game with a twelve count for it rarely makes and that he gave me the chance to pass 2H for penalties by Dbl first.I venture that if adv vul might he not consider 3H(4S no heart stop) with 12 count to which he said yes. I suggest a hand downgrade if too many jacks,but he seems to stick by the view that 12+12 is not good for 3N. Does that make 3S right on the above hand? North held Q876 A76 Q2 KQ85.Do you think North should bid more with 13 or 2S instead of 2N? A long time ago,I was told that if pard opens 1N and you hold 12 bid game..regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffOctober 7th, 2017 at 6:58 pm

Hi Patrick,

Your description of the auction, (therefore the problem) is not as crystal clear as you usually present, but trying to adhere to exact point count, especially when staying out of game, is not IMO. winning bridge.

No doubt, bridge is a bidder’s game and even if a contract is not meant to be made (finesses off or suits bad breaking) sometimes the opponents come to your aid and miss defend.

Winners tend to put pressure on their opponents to defend well, but not if they are continuously staying one trick shy of game.

Whether your old advice is good or not quite so, it is good general practice, when facing a close decision to go for the “gusto”!

As always, it is great to hear from you.

Patrick CheuOctober 7th, 2017 at 9:56 pm

Hi Bobby,North opens 1N on Q876 A76 Q2 KQ85 East (2H) South AKJ2 T3 A974 932 decides to double playing Lebensol,which I do not agree and would rather he had bid 3H showing 4spades and no heart stop and game force with the 12 count…which pard did not seem to he prefers 13 count..sometimes it seems the longer one plays the more we differ..Thanks again for your thoughts on the matter,it has helped my bridge no end and hopefully others too! Very Best Wishes to you and Judy.

bobby wolffOctober 9th, 2017 at 3:40 pm

Hi Patrick,

Although certainly not perfect, I prefer to double with South’s hand, but, especially while playing weak NT, the double is for take out with no Lebensohl to be played.

Reason being, while playing 12-14 NTs the auctions usually become competitive, so that there needs to be provision in one’s partnership bidding style which provides for that. Then 2 spades by you, a raise to 3 and your accept to 4.

I believe on percentage that is the most effective way to play with BTW 2NT just being competitive and hoping to play there, not really invitational to 3, although if the WNTer has a decent 5 card minor and a maximum he might bid game.

Again that is my advice, but if both partner’s agree on a different approach than, by all means, play what you both like.

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