Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

I feel like I’ve cheated. I never knew what to do. I was never a good enough painter to earn a living, and so I drifted into the theater, and I’ve had a successful life. I feel guilty that I’ve never done a day’s work in my life!

Barry Humphries

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


Today’s deal comes from an international match between the women of Australia and Chinese Taipei. Both tables played six spades here.

The Chinese Taipei declarer received a heart lead and decided to protect against 3-0 trumps in either hand. She won the heart lead in dummy and led a low trump from the board, covering the jack with the ace and playing a second trump. When the defense exited passively in diamonds, South eventually fell back on the club finesse and doubtless considered herself a trifle unlucky when it lost.

That was not a bad line, but in the other room Cathy Mill correctly decided that her endplay chances were better if she played trumps from the top, and that the combination of 3-0 trumps on her right with the club finesse onside was too small to worry about.

Mill won the heart ace, cashed the spade ace and diamond ace, then crossed to table with a heart and threw two clubs on the diamond king-queen. Next she ruffed a heart to eliminate both red suits, and only then did she play a second spade to endplay West.

That player could either lead a club into the tenace or concede the ruff-sluff and let declarer pitch her last club from hand as she ruffed in dummy.

For the statistically minded, the chance that East has all the spades and the club king comes in at about 1 in 20, while the chance that West has the doubleton spade king and the club king is approximately 1 in 5.

This hand does not have a right answer. You could pass, but that seems too likely to let the opponents reach slam. You could leap to six hearts at once, which does have a lot to recommend it if not vulnerable. However, if vulnerable, you could try a more restrained approach and bid four hearts, which might allow the opponents to stop in game if they are feeling cautious.


♠ J
 J 8 6 3
 10 9 8 7 6 3
♣ 10 2
South West North East
    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


jim2December 26th, 2017 at 12:06 pm

On BWTA, maybe 5H is the Goldilocks answer.

Jeff SDecember 26th, 2017 at 5:23 pm

I like it when BWTA hits me with an unexpected answer that makes me look at things differently. I thought it as an automatic 4H, the possibility of instantly sacrificing in 6H never crossed my mind!

bobbywolffDecember 26th, 2017 at 5:27 pm

Hi Jim2,

As they would have said to you in a long ago well-watched TV show, “Laugh-In”, “Very interesting”!

The good news is that 5 hearts is better than 6 (one less undertrick, in case they go the defensive double route), just in case your side gets permanently doubled there, but does suffer from being totally recognizable as a barracade (instead of serious, which one of the two opponents might misinterpret if only 4 hearts was bid).

While I love your industry, it is difficult to predict its result, since, bridge being the game it is, may have partner produce: s. Q10x, h. Axxxxx, d. x, c. QJx for three defensive tricks.

However once chosen (Goldilocks’ 5 heart special, “not too hot, nor too cold”) both partners need to pass, no belated 6 hearts (violation of partnership discipline), if the opponents now wind up in 5 spades.

“Aren’t we devils” as Ralph Edwards used to say on Truth or Consequences with you, Jim2, representing all of us bridge players.

bobbywolffDecember 26th, 2017 at 6:00 pm

Hi Jeff S,

Well expressed, but don’t get carried away about the possibility of 6 hearts ringing the victory bell.

It well might, but for a good result to be almost assured it would require the opponents to now bid 6 spades and fail rather than to just double, beat us to death (of course possibly depending on both the vulnerability and the number of down tricks and, of course how many tricks they could take in spades,

The immediate below is what is important: Once the partner of the 2 heart bidder has spoken and the fur has flown, both of the defensive heart bidder MUST accept that contract, and then, of course, let what happens, happen in order to fully enjoy the high-level game, as we should know it, by following the iron discipline required.

For either heart bidder to bid again is losing (no matter that it might work), destructive, and totally ruinous to a partnership in development.
Until that is learned and respected, that partnership will never get off the ground and working, regardless of what any one result produces (BTW, an immediate good result by violating, is the absolutely worst thing which could occur, since it might keep those one or two bridge miscreants together and waste both their time).

Strong opinion to follow!