Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

Satisfaction does not come with achievement, but with effort. Full effort is full victory.

Mahatma Gandhi

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


It is always satisfying when, at an early stage of the deal, you can work out the likely shape and honor structure of the unseen hands, and defend accordingly.

When Sweden took on Monaco at the 2014 European Championships, Fredrik Nystrom for Sweden opened the East hand with one club, a call that could have been made on as few as two clubs. The South player for Monaco overcalled one no-trump, and that ended the auction.

Johan Upmark started by cashing the heart ace, which in his partnership methods asked for attitude. On receipt of an encouraging card signal from East, he continued with the heart king, then the jack, declarer discarding a diamond from dummy.

Upmark now knew South had four hearts and surely four spades, since that suit would almost certainly be 4-4-4-1 around the table. Since South would have doubled (instead of bidding one no-trump) with a doubleton club, he must surely have three clubs — and therefore could hold only a doubleton in diamonds.

So Upmark got off lead with a low diamond, and East won with the ace, collecting the king from declarer. Nystrom next cashed his heart queen and returned a diamond, taken by South’s queen, but setting up West’s jack in the process.

Declarer now had five clubs to cash plus the diamond trick he had already scored, but there was no way he could set up a spade or diamond winner before the defenders could cash out for down one.

A simple one here. Jump to three no-trump to offer a choice of games. Even if partner has four hearts, he might pass if his values are outside the heart suit — which is what you want, of course. You can explore with a call of two spades, but this time the direct approach is better.


♠ K J 7 5
 10 9 6 2
 K Q
♣ K Q J
South West North East
    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


bobbywolffDecember 13th, 2017 at 6:34 pm

Hi Everyone,

Up to now, I’m somewhat surprised that there haven’t been any comments about today’s hand, since, while advanced, it embodies the specific touch of high-level defensive thinking, after the bidding and the opening trick is quitted.

Since all bidding roads lead to declarer being 4-4-2-3, thus East being 4-4-3-2 in spite of his club opening bid, except it is pointed out that opener may only have two clubs, (which is another way of explaining that a one diamond opener will always show at least 4 of them).

Using that information to best advantage, not without some risk of declarer holding AJ doubleton diamond instead of KQ or less, the expert West, noting partner’s positive heart signal, cashed his three good hearts, following it with the “killing diamond switch, winning the race to seven tricks before declarer was able to lead to his potential spade trick #7, in hand.

To me, this hand, more than any I have seen lately, embodies what it takes to grow in bridge, on the way to successfully compete against the best.

The key words and ones which should be consistently used in describing defending at bridge at its finest are: 1. analysis of the 26 card unseen distribution, 2. knowledge of how top players bid and what their choices are likely to be, 3. choosing the winning defensive plan which is closest to reality.

Note: As this hand is an example, nothing superhuman is even remotely required, only solid concentration based on what is known or at least highly suspected.

However, in truth, even many of the teachers of our beautiful game are not privy to teach how to get there from here, which, at least up to now, is not their fault, but rather perhaps the fault of others who have never been previously taught to think that way.

Of course, both defensive players have the responsibility, wherein any careless play (or non-system bid) can destroy the teamwork necessary for success.

Hands come and go, even those which are written up, but this one caught my attention as an excellent example (although a simple low level part score), to set (the right adjective) a high standard.

Patrick CheuDecember 13th, 2017 at 9:02 pm

Hi Bobby,Perhaps this hand also highlights how difficult it can be playing against certain club systems and also better minors’ opening bids..when defending.However on trick 1 here if EW were playing reverse attitude on Ace and Q leads (no-trump contracts) the five of Hearts from East being encouraging as it’s harder for declarer to conceal the two,as East has the 9 or 8 or 7 to discourage if holding 9875. Concentration is never easy when defending low level contracts..regards~Patrick.

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 13th, 2017 at 10:44 pm

I have been privy to valuable tidbits like the above for fourteen years since Bobby and I were married. I was content and relatively successful with my peers with my rigid KS system over forty years .. but improved immeasurably (even at my age) when Bobby converted me to his style. It look a long time to adjust, but studying at the knee of a man blessed with such natural talent, made me gape in awe of how little I knew and how much I have learned .. with no end in sight.

bobbywolffDecember 13th, 2017 at 10:46 pm

Hi Patrick,

No doubt there are random type real roadblocks involved with a partnership exchanging enough information to defend double dummy (eg. perfectly) since those clever declarers (in this case) will always be on guard to make legal signals at least to the naked eye, appear to be showing opposite to the signaler’s intention.

Furthermore, since tournament bridge already has standard, upside-down, Smith, some odd and even attitude signals, not to mention when count (standard or upside-down) and suit preference (also standard and upside down) are also in the mix with relative new partnerships, determining what partner was trying to show, can get very complicated.

Add all of the above to the ethics required in making every effort to play your intended card in the proper tempo (not too fast, nor too slow) hopefully making it unlikely to be enabled to convey unauthorized information (UI) serving to make the task even more difficult.

If possible I am going to create a questionnaire asking a polyglot of players to give their opinions as to what are the characteristics necessary to rise above the herd and be a special player, worthy of winning important high-level events.

Perhaps a starting point may be this site, wherein I would like as many of our posters to give their lists, and annotate them when thought necessary. Also add one’s own thoughts on whether or not he or she thinks he can become one (if not already there) and if not, why not?

The goal of such an adventure, at least to me, would be to find out what other important players think, what playing bridge means to them, and whether or not they think bridge is a good educational tool, besides being a significant challenge.

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