Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Every man I meet wants to protect me. I can’t figure out what from.

Mae West

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


South has a fine overcall of one spade at any vulnerability. He cannot afford to double first and bid spades later, for that would show a hand with greater high-card strength. If North cannot take independent action, game is very unlikely.

North is pre-empted out of the auction by West’s raise, but when South comes again, North has enough to bid game. While he could opt for no-trump, he can see that the defenders rate to be able to establish hearts easily, so spades looks safer.

The first few tricks are routine. South plays low from dummy (hoping to force an honor), but East defends strongly by putting in the nine. South ruffs the first heart, gets to dummy with a club and tries the trump finesse.

The finesse loses, and South is forced to ruff another heart. Now South must be careful not to run out of trumps. He must go after the diamonds, putting the trumps on hold. If he does so, by the time South has knocked out both top diamonds, dummy will be out of hearts. So when the defenders lead a fourth heart, dummy will ruff and South can save a trump. As it happens, the defenders will lead a club instead, and South can win and draw trumps.

If South had drawn trumps before attacking the diamonds, he would have left himself with only one trump. He would knock out one top diamond, and West would win. Then a heart return would allow East to defeat the contract by running the hearts when in with the diamond ace.

The practical call is to bid one no-trump now. With four diamonds in your hand, what’s a stopper between friends? This call represents your values accurately since it shows 8-12 or so, an approximately balanced hand with not much in partner’s suit, and mildly constructive values.


♠ 7 6
 K J 2
 9 6 5 2
♣ A K 7 4
South West North East
  1 1 ♠ 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 ClimieDecember 1st, 2017 at 9:39 am

Hi Bobby,

What if West ducks the first spade, South goes back to dummy with a club, repeats the spade finesse and walks into a club ruff? Time to find an easier game, perhaps?



Bobby WolffDecember 1st, 2017 at 11:41 am

Hi Iain,

Yes, no doubt, but then to mention East’s excellent use of the Rule of Eleven (if playing 4th best leads), to not waste the queen on the first trick, after East shrewdly saved the queen by not playing it at trick one, when declarer guessed to not play the jack. And for declarer to go for the spade finesse, in case it worked and, of course, a third round diamond ruff, was available for the defense.

No doubt, your proposed spade duck by West, (in tempo), may work, since declarer needs to get the kiddies off the street (slang for drawing trump) in fear of an impending diamond ruff.

This hand then becomes the mother of all ducks, making its name synonymous with “motherducking”. I wonder how that name will play in Peoria (a relatively small town in Illinois, where new shows are often shown and tested first, before starting their hoped for, long term run in nearby Chicago).

Always thanks for your eagle eye and, of course, most of all, your very sophisticated suggestions.

As they would say where you live, “Table Up”, but perhaps not including you, who they know would take their money.

jim2December 1st, 2017 at 2:47 pm

There is no way to protect against a diamond ruff, so diamonds must be 3-3 (or else AK — xxxx).

If we can assume hearts are 5-5 (due to the bidding) and that trump are 3-2 (else we have no chance), then neither defender can have a singleton club. However, if hearts are 4-6, then West could be:


That’s not much for a 4H bid, but is it impossible?

If not, then at IMPs/rubber, maybe starting spades by advancing the QS from hand might be best.

Bobby WolffDecember 1st, 2017 at 4:13 pm

Hi Jim2,

How about East being: s. K, h. A109xxx, d. Kxxx, c.xx leaving West with: s. xxxx, h. Qxxx, d., Ax c. xxx or EW exchanging an x in hearts for one in clubs making the hearts 5-5?

Or also: West s. xxx, h. Qxxxx, D Ax, c. xxx
then E. s. Kx, h. A109xx, d. Kxxx, c. xx, certainly not an unlikely holding.

And remember West only bid 3 hearts not 4.

Mircea1December 1st, 2017 at 4:39 pm

Based on trump length alone, isn’t it better for West to bid 4H instead of 3H? This will make life (much) more difficult for N-S. How should they react?

jim2December 1st, 2017 at 4:53 pm

I suppose declarer could play AS instead of QS, then shift to Ds.

TOCM ™ is a powerful thing, as West could morph into:




Bobby WolffDecember 1st, 2017 at 7:16 pm

Hi Mircea1,

The latest discussions regarding the number of hearts West should bid, discounts another likely possibility of, from West’s point of view, after first passing and having it go pass, 1 heart, 1 spade, either underbidding (2 hearts as opposed to 3) or overbidding (4 hearts instead of 3) runs the risk of deceiving partner who may have a very good hand and particularly so, if North now raises spades (not an unlikely occurrence), changing this hand into a competitive battle. East may be deceived as to West’s choice of bids (assuming West is jousting with the opponents) and, either way may cause him, to then choose wrongly.

Simply put and a major learning experience for a player with talent but little high level exposure, when ethical players compete (IOW, no easily read tempo breaks or emphasis) the reality is that all players must recognize that if partner is also deceived by tactical considerations by his or her partner, risks with finding the winning action now become more likely.

While not wanting to linger on this conundrum, to ignore its existence is Ostrich like, and often causes more harm than good.

Finally taking charge, and engaging the enemy unilaterally should be done only, when partner has already had his say (bidding 2, 3, or 4 hearts), and by exercising the proper bridge discipline, has already appointed you Captain of this hand, and then will always, leave the final decision to you.

At least to me, learning and exercising the above is fundamental to a partnership, without which, they will have no chance to ultimately succeed.

Bobby WolffDecember 1st, 2017 at 7:33 pm

Hi Jim2,

SOS, we need to find an ATCM (antidote to card migration) and though being difficult, because most will not like to play with transparent cards, I suggest having a heart to heart talk with Dame Fortune concerning lifetime equity.

It’s time a doctor of fair living evolved with enough medical acumen to overcome card playing maladies. After success, we may then be introduced to an entirely different person than who we have gotten to respect.

And to think, if we do, we will have the ingredients for a highly successful soap opera, entitled “Bridge to Paradise” starring Jim2!

Bill CubleyDecember 1st, 2017 at 9:52 pm


As a fearless NT bidder my partners sometimes found fault with me. Maybe because I called 9xxx a length stopper. But I did make some hands where they hoped to get partner in to lead through me. 😉

Bobby WolffDecember 2nd, 2017 at 1:50 am

Thanks Bill,

Next time we compete against each other, I’ll be sure to lead my side’s suit against your NT contract sure that whatever stopper you have will be in the dummy.