Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, February 24th, 2018

Human institutions depend for their existence and stability on the impulse of self-preservation and its close associate, the fear instinct.

Boris Sidis

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


Today’s deal occurred at matchpoints, which might partially explain South’s imaginative rebid of one no-trump. His partner was somewhat less than complimentary after South failed in his contract of three no-trump, West leading the spade 10.

Declarer called for dummy’s spade two, and East took the trick with his king and shifted to a low club. South played low, and West’s queen won. The club return was ducked to declarer’s now-bare ace, and he crossed to dummy with a spade to the queen to run the jack of diamonds. West allowed this to hold, but took the next diamond and shifted to the heart nine. Now declarer was cut off from his hand, and took only seven tricks.

Observe the difference if you play dummy’s spade queen at trick one. If it holds, declarer will always make at least two spades, a heart, five diamonds and a club. On the actual layout, East would take the spade queen with the king and shift to a low club. Be careful: If you duck the club at trick two, the defenders may find the unpleasant shift to the heart 10!

But your counter to the club switch is to rise with the ace, then cross to dummy in spades, to run the diamond jack. Whenever West takes his king, the defense can only cash two clubs. If West shifts to a heart, you win with the ace and cross to hand with the spade jack to run the good diamonds. You take two spades, a heart, five diamonds and a club.

You have too much to sell out cheaply. While a double would be card-showing not penalty, there is no need to do more than bid one no-trump and take it from there. If the opponents rebid in spades, I would probably let them play there.


♠ K 6 3
 K J 10 6
 6 3
♣ K 9 8 3
South West North East
Pass Pass 1 Dbl.
1 1 ♠ 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


A.V.Ramana RaoMarch 10th, 2018 at 11:47 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
I think, since this is a matchpoints event, south is justified in his play. From his point of view, west could have led from an interior sequence K 10 9 8 and if J holds, he can take the spade finesse again and take the diamond finesse and even if it loses , he has at least ten tricks and he would definitely look sheepish if rest of the field scored ten tricks and he alone nine for an absolute bottom . ( Honestly I would credit this particular south with this line of thinking after his imaginative bid of one NT at second turn)
However, in a team event , it is imperative south makes sure of nine tricks by playing Q as foolproof way of making nine tricks as indicated in the column line ( He is dealt with nine tricks and he should not reduce them to eight with faulty play) I think he can even get melodramatic by winning the first trick with A and take diamond finesse and even if it loses , though it looks that hearts are wide open but see from west’s point of view, If he holds heart K , he may not lead a heart fearing south may take the finesse and if he does not, he may cash spade K if he holds in which case south can get jettison Q from dummy ( though not necessary as club A is a sure entry to hand but south can afford the ostentation)before shifting to hearts in which case south has easy time and if west does not hold spade K, he may continue with spades after winning diamond K as east must have signaled in spades at first trick.
( And perhaps north should not have carped south for his play)

Iain ClimieMarch 10th, 2018 at 11:55 am

Hi Bobby,

Maybe Nortb felt South should have rebid 2D and he could bid 3NT. As a club lead makes that something between difficult and cold off, I’m not zure he should be so grumpy.



Bobby WolffMarch 10th, 2018 at 1:03 pm

Hi AVRR & Iain,

Between the two of you, with AVRR the master of the detailed gist, and Iain the practical philosopher, particularly about result, very little necessary is left to be said.

Only and just possibly a valid comparison between matchpoints (at times a practically impossible game to guess how to play because of the critical importance of overtricks) and IMPs or rubber bridge, which I have always regarded (rightfully or not) as real bridge, the way, when invented (and, to which, the scoring system was directed), was meant to be played.

However others disagree and genuinely think matchpoints adds, not subtracts, to the skill level required. While I may, at times, grudgingly agree with that overall assumption, that individual skill is too often wrought with unconscious luck, if only because of the randomness of guessing the location of cards, often very early in the hand, for declarer, with little to no evidence, only chance, to guide.

The end result, at least to me, then makes our wondrous game easier to play, by needing less luck to succeed, therefore clearly emphasizing, the making of one’s contract.