Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, December 8th, 2017

If somebody is gracious enough to give me a second chance, I won’t need a third.

Pete Rose

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


At the Dyspeptics Club, there is little doubt (except in the minds of the players habitually sitting South and West) that the players in the North and East seats are technically more proficient than their partners, and are certainly more adept at transferring blame to their partners.

In today’s deal, North could have followed an invitational sequence rather than driving to game, but the final contract would have been the same. The play in four spades followed a predictable course over the first couple of tricks. In response to his partner’s bid, West led his doubleton heart. East won the trick with the 10 and cashed the club ace in case his partner had the king. When West followed with a small club, East took the ace and king of hearts, West discarding a small diamond. Declarer ruffed the third heart and finessed in trumps, and when they behaved, he took the rest.

South remarked compla cently that he had followed the only chance for his contract, and North, who had been supervising proceedings carefully, commented drily that he was lucky to have been given that chance. Neither East nor West rose to the bait, but can you see what he meant?

When East discovered his partner did not have the club king, he should have cashed a second high heart and continued with a low heart, persuading West to ruff in with his precious five of trumps. That forces an honor from dummy and gives East an eventual trump trick.

Typically, opener tries to find a second call in this auction, but is more inclined to do so when short in hearts. With three small hearts, you must assume partner is weak rather than having a penalty double of hearts, and he’s certainly not going to have spades. Everything points toward passing now, since heart length is so unlikely in light of your own holding in that suit.


♠ A 9 8 7 6 4
 8 7 5
 A Q
♣ K 8
South West North East
1 ♠ 2 Pass 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


December 22, 2017 – 凝縮収斂December 22nd, 2017 at 10:05 am

[…] Aces on Bridge » Blog Archive » The Aces on Bridge: Friday, December 8th, 2017 […]

bobbywolffDecember 22nd, 2017 at 10:44 am

Hi Someone,

While not being able to decipher the likely Chinese letters, I can only comment that, while North wasn’t terribly guilty for conjuring up the raise to 3 spades (instead of passing), simple common sense should dictate that he should possess QJ5 instead of QJ3 in trumps to do so.

Giant errors such as those can lead to hollering, screaming and other vulgarities which lead to partnership demise, eventual partnership breakups, unless, of course, West does insert his fortuitous 5 on the third heart from his partner.

Can one just imagine how proud that 5 of spades would have been if his master (West) would have seen fit to use his giant killing to deftly stab a knave?

And when not done, can anyone really attach a contributory negligence charge against East for not leading a low heart at trick four instead of the king? Sure, a very young child may need to be spoon fed, but good partners should lick this boondoggle, all by himself.

At West’s trial he defended himself by saying, yes he could have inserted his five, but in truth he personally hated the declarer so much that he preferred South to then after leading the first high spade (covered by East) declarer would win it, but then finesse the nine coming back, because West out foxed him. Or was it out wolffed him (I sometimes get those two animals confused).

Michael BeyroutiDecember 22nd, 2017 at 11:02 am

Dear Mr Foxx,
that was an inspired piece you just wrote early in the morning!
Best wishes to you and Judy for this Holiday Season.

bobbywolffDecember 22nd, 2017 at 1:02 pm

Hi Michael,

Thanks for your inspiration and for your best wishes.

Changing seasons mean colder weather and often chilled bodies mean bad colds. Such is my case, so like a fierce competitor, I’ll make good pals suffer along with me.

A return very happy holidays and great 2018 to you and your loves. Somehow our group, being my second family, has remained harmonious, thus not taking a bridge too far.

The only necessity lacking is finding a satisfactory answer, if indeed there is one, of curing our very troubled world of all its ills, or at the least, just a few of them.

I suggest more love and also more winning finesses, unfortunately, not necessarily in that order.


slarDecember 23rd, 2017 at 2:46 am

Let’s try another hand this Friday evening.
S(dealer): AQxxx/AJTx/T9x/Q
W: K/Kxx/Qxxx/AKTxx
N: JTxxx/Qxx/KJ/xxx
E: xx/xxx/Axxx/Jxxx
Bidding goes 1S(2C)4S which is a little pushy for my tastes but north felt the vulnerability was right so there we were. West plays two top clubs and south ruffs. Now what? I played a diamond to the king which led to down 1 immediately, even when I dropped the SK later on.
My counterpart decided to cash the SA immediately then cross in spades to finesse in hearts. Unfortunately for us, that west (not realizing that south had a source of tricks in hearts) returned a passive club and south was safely home after sluffing a diamond on the 4th heart. But what if west returns a low diamond?
This is now a three-part question.
1. How do you decide which path to take as declarer?
2. Should west know to lead a low diamond?
3. If it comes down to a diamond guess, how do you choose or is it a coin flip?

bobbywolffDecember 23rd, 2017 at 4:26 am

Hi Slar,

However one decides to slice it, since there is no pressure coming from anywhere, at least toward me, I prefer to answer with generalities and let you match your experience to where you are, at this stage of your bridge career, and what you intend to learn (if anything) from this type of open book quiz.

Without me treating you as my student, I’d prefer to create the possibility (or, if you wish, pretense) that I was trolling for a high-level partner, one who has no predictable weakness, but, instead of merely marking time, playing in the toughest settings against the best competition around.

Now, back at the ranch, you’ve lost a club and need to find a way to be in as good a position as practical to hold your other losses to only 1 diamond assuming that one (or both) of the major suit kings can be finessed, or with trump, simply not lost.

Next, my dear Watson, we are restricted by the actual auction, but even so we may be able to judge (against most good players, but not the best ones) by the tempo as to whether West had a normal 2 heart overcall (likely) and/or depending on the vulnerability (which was not mentioned, so I’ll just figure that we are and they are not). Let’s begin: Perhaps East might then over your partner’s rousing jump (I think a simple 2 spades is enough, East would probably then bid 3 clubs, which later, assuming we still got to 4 spades (although probably not) would at least give us some worthwhile information as to how to guess the spades and the diamonds, with the heart king cast in stone, but against lesser competition (as you mentioned) you may be able to pull off a coup.

Since guessing the king of spades isn’t as easy as this declarer may have thought (since Kxx onside would be a fairly common holding, except for West’s failure, with his void and having been supported, to then bid 5 clubs (assuming partner only bid 2 spades and his partner then raised his suit).

Meanwhile only giving the facts you gave, with no mention of tempo then perhaps just laying the ace of spades down and having the king not falling might be OK if, and only if, the king of hearts was held by your RHO and you guess the diamond. If I led the ace of spades and nothing good happened I would lead another one immediately and then if that king was on my right I would certainly play West for the ace of diamonds since East had to have the king of hearts for me to get home.

However once the king of spades fell Iwould lead another spade to dummy and take the heart finesse. When that loses I would tend to think that with: West having, s. K, h Kx(x), d. ?xx(x) , c. AK?xx(x), and East, of course, the reciprocal, I would mull in my mind and would wish that partner did not immediately bid 4 spades if only that if he bid only 2 or 3 (assuming eg a limit raise), wouldn’t East at least think about bidding, certainly over 2 or only perhaps over 3.

IOW, Slar, all that is involved is the reconstruction of both opponent’s hands and see which one matches up best against what you know of their talent, experience, and most important view of the game we play (eg either active or passive).

However, like Ponce de Leon in search of the Fountain of Youth in Florida, he thought he might have found it, but damn it, why did my idiot partner not allow me to glean winning information as to how to guess the diamond but instead thought he was doing our partnership a favor by silencing them forever.

Yes, our game has many twists and turns, and it is likely on this hand you haven’t learned a single thing that you didn’t know, but, if so, it is not my fault, since that is all I have to offer.

Sometimes we learn with just sheer experience and what we learn, like principle habits of our specific opponents can be of great value and allow future winning guesses. However, in no way am I saying your partner should not bid 4 spades, but only sometimes a more picture type auction can be very helpful to a keen declarer.

Good luck and I believe that you are going about learning this very strange game the right way, if there really is, such a thing.

bobbywolffDecember 23rd, 2017 at 4:47 am

Hi Slar,

After blathering the above, I turned to my 2nd favorite hobby, sporrts to see the basketball results, but while doing, I realized one fantasy which should be quickly dealt with.

As to the sloppy play by West, after winning the heart king, even though his spade king was gobbled, of not having a low diamond on the table after now winning the king of hearts and came up with that holding: s. K, h. Kxxx, d. A, c. AKxxxxx or perhaps one more heart and one less club. No good player, past or present would overlook what could happen if he didn’t now put you to a diamond guess… reminds me of, “the time has come the walrus said…….”

And I lied again since that singleton diamond may also be the queen. Very good players NEVER make an error that egregious, so count on that and continue to make every effort to join their ranks.

slarDecember 24th, 2017 at 2:25 am

Thanks for this response. Let me try to walk through it now on my own terms and see if I can come up with something logical. I am missing two aces and have as many as 5 losers. I don’t have a ton of information on the auction (District Six players are known to be off-the-charts aggressive and I would have been satisfied with a preemptive jump to 3S) but I need to go 2/3 outside of clubs: 1. Stiff or onside SK 2. HK onside 3. Hold diamonds to 1 loser. Since entries to dummy are a problem, I might as well try for the stiff SK immediately so I can try the hearts. When LHO shows up with 4 prime cards (albeit one unprotected) and doesn’t act over 4 spades, it might be reasonable to expect RHO to have the other one that is unaccounted for. This suggests playing low if LHO puts me to the test after the failed heart finesse. This is fair.

As for “very good players never make an error that egregious” well maybe but I saw some pretty big blunders the other night. I think half the room had checked out for the holidays. Maybe that is why the youngest team ended up winning. Meanwhile my middling result (exactly 40 VPs) was typical for 2017. Hopefully my experience playing against better competition than most of my peers will make a difference in 2018.

bobbywolffDecember 24th, 2017 at 4:09 pm

Hi Slar,

Thanks for your always open response.

No doubt, your honest approach and burning desire will not only make 2018 a positive learning year, but as far as I’m concerned you appear to be on the way to making yourself as far as your natural talent and excellent attitude will take you.

You can do yourself a favor by singling out (where you live) that under the circumstances (and they are never perfect) you will rise faster, when dealing with someone who sees bridge the way you do. Obviously that request may not be practical, but you will need someone you feel comfortable with and will not let you down when eventually “crunch time” appears.

It would be a normal situation for one of you, likely yourself, to show quicker speed in learning, but if you used a winning psychology it is possible for him to move in the direction which will most please you.

May work and may not, but I can assure you that the deeper you get into this challenge, the more you will look forward to continuing.

One word of caution, do not take much, if any, advice, from players you now even respect, since likely it will be not much time passed before you leave them in your rear view mirror and not a victim of old wives tales.

Good luck and keep in touch.