Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, February 12th, 2018

Let schoolmasters puzzle their brain
With grammar, and nonsense and learning,
Good liquor I stoutly maintain,
Gives genius a better discerning.

Oliver Goldsmith

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


The deals this week come from the NEC tournament in Japan last February.

Today’s deal was the penultimate deal of a knockout match, with the Hackett team (the eventual winners of the tournament) trailing by a small margin. Both tables reached three no-trump, and in both rooms a spade was led.

In the first room, West led the spade six (high from three small in a bid suit). South covered with the jack, ducked Alex Hydes’ (East) king, won the spade return and played a diamond to the jack, queen and king. In again with the third spade, declarer led and passed the diamond nine to the 10, and Hydes quickly cashed two spades for down one.

In the other room, Paul Hackett was declarer. He also played dummy’s jack at trick one, but took the king with the ace to lead a diamond, losing the queen to the king, as in the other room.

When a second spade came back, Hackett ducked. Now the best the defenders could have done was clear the spades, but they actually shifted to hearts to make his life easy. What would have happened if the defenders had played a third spade?

Hackett would have won and led the diamond nine from hand. When West showed out on the second diamond, declarer would have risen with dummy’s ace and turned his attention to clubs instead. The fall of the jack-10 would have meant he would have taken four clubs, a diamond and two tricks in each major.

An easy one this time, I hope. Your partner’s initial silence and subsequent double must be based on a chunky diamond holding. He does not need a great hand to double, since both opponents have limited their hands. I would lead a count-card diamond four, not the nine, which might confuse the count for partner.


♠ J 4 2
 Q 9 8
 9 6 4
♣ Q 9 7 2
South West North East
  1 Pass 1 NT
Pass 2 NT Pass 3 NT
Pass Pass Dbl. All 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitFebruary 26th, 2018 at 9:08 am

Easy one? Yes, but here’s a hard one. Suppose partner didn’t double; now what do you lead?

A V Ramana RaoFebruary 26th, 2018 at 11:33 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
What either declarer wanted to achieve by diamond finesse early is not clear. Even if the finesse wins there are only eight tricks. I think declrer should duck first spade( as the first declarer did) win the spade continuation and try clubs cashing A and K and continuing clubs.He will make the contract if clubs are breaking or QJ , Q10 or J10 are doubleton in either hand . In case west turns up with four clubs and cashes his club winners, east must have diamond K and perhaps hearts Q for the bidding gets squeezed. And if west does not cash clubs, south retains a valuable tempo.And in the unlikely case of east turning with four clubs, declarer’s only hope would be to play west for all diamond honors, K ,J and Ten. Hope I am right . As you often mention – if west is dealt with K of diamonds , it will be there with him whether on second or on any later trick unless TOCM manifests.
( And perhaps it would be too bad not to make 3NT after being dealt with 28 points)

jim2February 26th, 2018 at 1:21 pm

I confess that I do not understand the first declarer’s reasoning for ducking the second diamond to East once West shows out. After all, East overcalled 1S, so must have two more spades to cash. If the declarer simply gives up on the diamonds and plays clubs at that point as Hackett did, would that not produce the same result? That is, both ducked a spade and lost a diamond, and are left hoping for East not to be able to win the third club, letting declarer score 2S + 2H + 1D + 4C = 9 tricks.

Thus, the delta is not which spade was ducked, but declarer’s odd duck of the second diamond, which conceded 2D + 3S = 5 tricks.

jim2February 26th, 2018 at 1:24 pm

A V Ramana Rao –

On playing on diamonds, I suspect both declarer’s hoped the 10D would come out in the wash, letting the superior diamond spots pave the way to extra diamond tricks.

A V Ramana RaoFebruary 26th, 2018 at 1:43 pm

Hi Jim 2
But if east happens to hold K and J of diamonds, ( quite probable)south has to lose three spades and two diamonds

jim2February 26th, 2018 at 2:09 pm

I do not disagree, but I think both expert declarers expected otherwise to the point of letting East win the first diamond in hopes to knocking out that entry while West still had a spade to lead. Then, should West win the second diamond once spades were cleared, that defender would not have a spade. The error, as I said, was letting East win another diamond after spades had been cleared — that makes no sense to me. When West showed out on the second diamond, shifting lines by going up with the AD and then playing for a low probability clubs layout was a LOT better than the give-up play of letting East win the diamond and cash two known spade winners.

bobbywolffFebruary 26th, 2018 at 2:23 pm

Hi David,

Yes, the double made it easy, but, for what it is worth, I think the nine of diamonds, instead of the four will be more often appreciated by partner as to the specific defense going forward.

While a case can be made either way, since partner is going to have excellent diamonds and apparently well located for the defense the disclosure of holding the nine, plus the possible advantage at trick one of the opening leader holding the lead, swings the choice, at least in my taste, to the card which has been in ancient bridge history named the “Curse of Scotland”.

As to the choice without the double, a low club, because of the routine bidding indication of the declarer not holding a 4 card major, swings me to leading from a major suit and although the eight of hearts may be not read correctly, the stronger overall heart holding, than, of course, spades, convinces me to lead it. However. and possibly having to do with the lack of experience of my then partner, the deuce of spades might be my choice, only because it might be more readily understood and, of course, the choice between the two major suits is a relatively close one.

Only barely worth a mention, this might be a good time to shy away from convention and offer the queen of hearts, especially while holding the 98 since again that choice has some chance as the only card to defeat 3NT when partner happens to have AJ10 or even AJ32 with the king in dummy and the 10 with declarer.

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive” only to be done however, when it triumphantly, works.

bobbywolffFebruary 26th, 2018 at 2:36 pm


Yes and to further respect your line of play, your mention of NS having 28 hcps only becomes important in the play (since West did conjure up a raise with likely only 3 small spades and 1. West then would devalue the king of diamonds and 2. East would upgrade that king, both factors strongly suggesting to an aware declarer that the king of diamonds is offside for him, plus of course, EW do not figure to have completely balanced distribution (because of their both bidding with a combined 12 hcps).

While the above is not always an accurate barometer of where the cards are, it, along with the bidding habits of those specific opponents, often make the difference in deciding how to declare.

bobbywolffFebruary 26th, 2018 at 2:47 pm

Hi Jim2,

Again, yes it is odd to have basically by declarer just given up, by conceding that second diamond trick to a hand which surely held the setting trick by surely holding his fifth spade.

The only additional comment worth adding is that after one high club is played by declarer without an intermediate one falling (not true in this case), declarer should lead his jack of hearts to the king and lead a club from dummy to make every effort to not allow East to win the third club, taking the queen if played but ducking a small one if East follows low.

That type of technique is well known and practiced by all good players, if and when it is available (and it often is) so all up and comers need to keep an eye out for how to have the best chance to bring home a close contract by not falling victim to what some players may later say, “I just got careless”.

jim2February 26th, 2018 at 2:54 pm

Dear Host, I think declarer should have gone down that club road even sooner.

That is, when West shows out, go up with AD and advance a club, intending to cover East’s card. When East plays J/10, declarer goes up and THEN leads to the AH to repeat the club lead. Here, he would again go up with last high club, advance the 9C and all would be well.

bobbywolffFebruary 26th, 2018 at 4:11 pm

Hi Jim2,

While I agree with you, East, while feeling the setting tricks in his (or her) hand will likely rise with whatever he can to keep declarer from ducking a club into partner (with partner, at least at a competent playing level also trying to cooperate). However, I do not see any way that EW can win a battle, except, of course, when East has all three honors or when West, doesn’t jettison the queen if given a chance by declarer not doing what you suggest and from Qxx immediately.

jim2February 26th, 2018 at 4:38 pm

Playing off one high club honor and THEN crossing to the board to advance the second round fails to protect against club layouts like:

Jxx —- Q10x
10xx — QJx
Qxx — J10x

That is, East cannot be prevented from gaining the lead with any of those holdings if declarer cashes one high club first.

However, leading twice from the board DOES win on those holdings

bobbywolffFebruary 26th, 2018 at 5:16 pm

Hi Jim2,

Far be it from me to argue with the one person in the bridge world who has had to deal with, as declarer, the worst holdings possible since TOCM is, by definition, the name of that affliction.

However, 0% because of the above and 100% because you are right, have you informed all who are listening how the hand should have been played, instead of a high club originally from declarer’s hand.

No doubt TOCM doctors have taken note to, if for no other reason than to offer more encouragement to TOCM victims, informing them to play more bridge since one’s bad fortune during play will tend to make him a championship player, by, at the very least, enticing him to read up and then execute more safety plays.

Technology Videos DailyMarch 2nd, 2018 at 12:12 pm

Mobiles produce an avenue the place that the
information could be transmitted seamlessly either by using short messaging
services (SMS) or by logging in to the net facility provided inside mobiles.
Vizio is really a privately held producer of gadgets and was
founded by William Wang, Laynie Newsome and Ken Lowe
in 2002. In the early days of auto insurance there was clearly
often one rate for every driver, regardless in the driver’s age,
and regardless of the car’s make or year.

TawannaMarch 2nd, 2018 at 4:11 pm

Through its own programs in greater than 90 countries all over the globe, UNICEF is actually functioning making really good health and nutrition a fact for the youngsters, households and areas that require it most.
authorities, like the Fda as well as They’re the people are actually just resisted to the fact that there is actually,
as you claim, an outright nutritional fact – our team merely have no idea all from this but.

Tim Johnson on the ABC NewsNow network, A state-of-the-art graduate workshop training program concentrating on the molecular methods including
B as well as D-group vitamins, mechanisms of pathologies
brought on by their shortage, along with, the current research studies
on the nutritional criteria, populace intake levels as well
as use of the vitamins for therapy as well as prevention of human ailment.
authorities, such as the Food and Drug Administration as well
as Individuals who advertise magic services like fat burning supplements are in fact causing injury, considering
that this sidetracks people from the many things that in fact matter.
Tim Johnson on the ABC NewsNow network, Human Nutrition M9750 MS Thesis Investigation (3 debts)
Each MS candidate is actually demanded to devote 10 full weeks
of constant work (350 hrs or additional) during the summer; any kind of alternate program has to be actually
accomplished within one year and also needs to be approved by
the Plan Director.