Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, March 26th, 2018

However entrancing it is to wander unchecked through a garden of bright images, are we not enticing your mind from another subject of almost equal importance?

Ernest Bramah

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


It never ceases to amaze me that declarers so often rush the play in a grand slam. After all, if a grand slam isn’t worth thinking about for a few extra seconds, what contract will you consider worthy of reflection?

In today’s deal, an efficient bidding sequence led to seven spades, and West led a trump. Declarer reasoned that as long as clubs broke no worse than 4-2, he was home free. So he took the trump lead in dummy, played a diamond to the ace and ruffed a diamond on board. A heart to the ace was followed by the ruff of declarer’s last diamond with dummy’s final trump. Then came the club ace for a heart discard, which passed off peacefully, but when he continued with the club king, on which he threw the heart queen, West unkindly ruffed.

What South had not noticed was that he could have coped with the 5-1 club break. Although it is not strictly a dummy reversal, if declarer had used dummy’s high trumps for the purposes of drawing trumps and use South’s high trumps for ruffing, he could have found his way to 13 tricks without any real problem.

Win the trump lead in dummy and ruff a club high. Play a spade to dummy and ruff a second club high. A third spade to the table draws the last trump, and now the clubs are established, allowing all of South’s red-suit losers to be discarded. He ends up with four clubs, two aces and seven trump tricks.

The question is whether we need to lead diamonds to set up the suit before declarer gets rid of his losers in that suit, or whether now is the time to lead a top spade, since it might be our last chance. Even a trump lead might be right if clubs aren’t running. I’d go for a diamond, but without much confidence in my choice.


♠ Q J 6
 9 8 2
 6 5 4
♣ Q 10 6 3
South West North East
Pass 1 ♣ 1 1
Pass 2 ♣ Pass 2
Pass 3 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


Michael BeyroutiApril 9th, 2018 at 11:06 am

Dear Mr Wolff,
the line described in the article is very elegant and foolproof. I think it must be adopted against a club lead.
With a trump lead, though, I would ruff a diamond, draw trump and discard the two red queens on K-Q of clubs. Simple, no? Fails if diamonds are 9-0… but surely we’d hear some noise from the player with 9 diamonds to the K-J when the auction starts 1S-2C.

Michael BeyroutiApril 9th, 2018 at 11:16 am

Come to think of it, the column line also fails when clubs are 6-0…
So, all in all, the original lead must have been that singleton club, which necessitated the column line.

Iain ClimieApril 9th, 2018 at 11:39 am

Hi Bobby, Michael,

I suspect we’ve all seen beginners taking ruffs in the long hand for no terribly good reason but here it is the key to success. Funny game, bridge. Plaudits to Michael for his extra chance line, though.

On BWTA I’m leading a diamond in the hope that there was a good reason for partner’s overcall as it hardly takes away any space. Also it allows me to complain about his pointless bid whereas if I try the S (which could be right) I’ll never hear the last of it if a diamond was better. With CQ10x, which is more vulnerable, I might be tempted to try something more aggressive while the oppo stopping in 3 also maybe argues for caution – or does it mean I should be trying to beat 3H instead of 4, especially if East thought before passing 3H?



Iain ClimieApril 9th, 2018 at 12:06 pm

Hi again,

One further annoying possibility. West leads a club from (say) 8x and he has all 4 trumps. You ruff a club at T2, play a spade to the King and swear inwardly as you seem to need the H finesse now. You can cope with East having al 4 of course once clubs are 4-2 but the situation above seems more likely than C6-0.


jim2April 9th, 2018 at 1:15 pm

As Michael Beyrouti posted, my first thought was that the simplest line was to ruff a diamond high, draw trump, and claim.

In fact, the column declarer had made the contract by the diamond ruff if he had simply drawn trump at that point.

Michael BeyroutiApril 9th, 2018 at 1:46 pm

Jim2: The column declarer ruffed two diamonds in dummy… in an attempt to demonstrate the validity of today’s quote!

Jeff SApril 9th, 2018 at 2:22 pm

I went for the diamond ruff too. It just jumped out that no matter how clubs break, we have two sure discards on the clubs so if diamonds hold up for one round, we are home.

Wen TaoApril 9th, 2018 at 3:10 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,
Perhaps, the probable explanation of South’s line is that he had a great time the night before. So when playing the hand, he was exhausted, still in fantasy, or under the influence of that fermented grape juice. Otherwise, ruffing two diamonds doesn’t make a lot of sense (waste a good club, put a barrier in communication…) since both establishing the club and ruffing one diamond are good lines as mentioned above.
Enjoy reading your column as always.
Wen Tao

Peter PengApril 9th, 2018 at 3:29 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff

why is this “strictly not a dummy reversal?”

Peter PengApril 9th, 2018 at 3:41 pm

Hello Mr. Wolff:

can you give us some examples in two issues I have been finding problems –

1. Captaincy

Mostly in bidding, but also in playing.

2. Moysian fits

I have noticed that I have much less difficulty in accepting 4-3 fits and passing than my partners.
Could it be because I learned bridge in Brazil, in the 60’s, where there was an European influence larger than American (in that age, at least, I do not know now).

Thus I have much less difficulty in pulling the green card and putting it on the table.

BTW, about the captaincy issues, all for my partners, not for me, of course!!!

A V Ramana RaoApril 9th, 2018 at 3:45 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
I think perhaps south was void in clubs ( substitute the clu for a red card)for the column line else the hand appears too simple. & if so it is not a dummy reversal in strict sense but only way to make the contract

Iain ClimieApril 9th, 2018 at 3:47 pm

Hi Wen Tao,

I know what you mean. many years ago I was playing in a match after a really good party and held None None AKQ107xx AK108xx at favourable vulnerability and RHO opened i1> Keep it Simple, I thought and just bid 2H alerted by partner who, when asked, said “He should have spades and clubs” while giving me a look because I was hungover. A bemused LHO holding SAQJ to 7 and HQ alone amongst his assets, plus xxx xx in the minors, passed (X would be sensible), pard bid 3C and I manfully bid 7C knowing that what partner thought I had was UI. Dbl on left (why? What is my spade holding?) was passed out and pard had x 108xxxx xx QJxx; he was not tested in the play.

The hand was played 6 times and created havoc. Pride of (wrong) place goes to the player with the minor suit monster who decided to take the money off 6S X. His partner was on lead and had heard of Lightner doubles. Still, he kept his hearts and stopped 6S X making an overtrick. Other insanities were a player with my hand who got doubled in 6D so bid 7D. Shocked opponents had the wit not to hit it but missed the good save in 7S X off only 2.


Iain ClimieApril 9th, 2018 at 3:48 pm

Sorry, 1H above is the opening bid from a 5-6-1-1 hand.

Bobby WolffApril 9th, 2018 at 5:07 pm

Hi Everyone,

No doubt I should pay penance for misleading about the right way to play today’s hand. Yes, 9-0 is less likely than 6-0, therefore ruffing a diamond in dummy is less dangerous than setting up dummy’s 4th club for the contract trick.

And perhaps and at the table a club was led instead of a spade which would then require the club establishment rather than the diamond ruff (because of the 3-0 trump break).

Of course today is April fools day in Transylvania (Count Dracula takes the first eight days of every month off to catch up on his daily sleep), where the columns are written, and we thought it a good time to check out our readers enthusiasm in pointing out what is right or in this case, and of course, from our point of view, fake news (to coin a topical phrase), intentionally wrong.

Of course, I guess, that all of you above have the right to think this ploy was a mistake, but,
if so, I guess I will just have to accept the possibility of such an unlikely gaffe. The above is known in bridge as a key defensive excuse, a condition well-known in bridge circles.

And directly to Peter (to which AVRR replied) a dummy reversal only becomes so when by declarer ruffing in hand (declarer’s trump start out, as is often the case, with more than in dummy) but after ruffing in hand become fewer thereby enabling declarer to discard a loser in hand on dummy’s long trump while later (after ruffing) extracting the opponent’s fangs (trump) with dummy’s higher ones.

BobliptonApril 9th, 2018 at 5:14 pm

I join with the general confusion. On a trump lead, declarer has seven spades, two red aces, and three top clubs for twelve tricks, so unless West is void in diamonds,, one diamond gets ruffed in dummy, trumps get drawn extravagantly and one heart and one diamond get laid off on the King and Queen of clubs. Should a club be led, there is a momentary frisson of terror, lest they split an unlikely 6-0 — but why no double and no Jack lead?, whereupon you ruff a low club with the Ace, return to dummy with the trump 9, ruff another club with the Jack, play the trump ten to the queen, draw the last outstanding trump, and cash the clubs. Seven spades, four clubs, two red aces.

Does this hand date to the era when you could bid at the eight-level? Or is it just a case of declarer foot being able to count up to 13? I notice that a lot of players can’t count beyond that when figuring out if they have a 15-17 NT these days, but 12?


Iain ClimieApril 9th, 2018 at 5:29 pm

Hi Bob,

While your line works well with trumps 3-1, on a club lead (the 8 say), what do you do after ruffing a club with the Ace, leading back to dummy and East shows out while West echoes in clubs? 4-0 trumps, even specifically with West, are more likely than some of the cases considered above. Now I think you need the heart finesse.

Hi Bobby,

I know this is tempting Gremlins but any chance of occasional play / defence hands with only 26 cards on show?



Bobby WolffApril 9th, 2018 at 5:53 pm

Hi Peter,

Captaincy rigidly applies in bridge bidding to one who preempts (whether opening or in response to partner’s bid) and basically passes future decisions to partner, making him the so-called captain in later decisions. He may be just bidding naturally, but sometimes engaging in strategies with your opponents in order to get them to do something wrong, benefiting your side. Therefore once someone passes captaincy to partner he allows him to make all future decisions on that hand, so as not to stupidly overruling him after he has set the trap.

Even a strong hand such as a NT opening bid usually passes control (thus usually captaincy) to partner since the opener has announced a certain amount of strength as well as a balanced hand and only answers his partner’s questions (in the bidding) but let’s his partner set the final contract unless he is asked a further question.

No doubt, it is critical not to violate such strictures, since to do so will not only often produce poor results, but sometimes, new partners.

And while I am remembering Brazil as a beautiful place to visit, it is sometimes referred to, “as where the nuts come from” (only kidding) I fully realize that your question was only about your errant bridge partners not you, and I am extremely heartened to hear that you do enjoy playing 4-3 fits as did I back in my earlier days with my beloved 4 card major systems. Yes opening 4 card majors often made it difficult for the opponents to get proper reads at the table, lessening their results, and Sonny Moyse (the first editor of the Bridge World magazine) was one of their first very enthusiastic proponents.

I get your point about wanting to be captain, but the bad news is that then all bad boards following are often caused by the captain’s decision, allowing oneself to sometimes dance to the music of “changing partners”.

However the above is not really true while in the 4 card major mode of finding compatible partners, since there are so few left. I chalk it up to most seeking the comfort of 5 card majors, but in reality allowing one’s hated opponents to be able to evaluate their hands much better, both in the bidding and, of course, also the defense.

BobliptonApril 9th, 2018 at 6:10 pm

Ian, how are trumps going to split 4-0 when the declarer has 7 trumps and dummy has 3?


Bobby WolffApril 9th, 2018 at 6:10 pm

Hi Iain,

You, like I, might be looking through a blind eye to the number of trumps outstanding in today’s calamitous bridge effort. And just when I was getting ready to offer you a job, which while requiring a move to Transylvania, might allow you to put your royal blood to use.

No doubt gremlins are more likely present when 26 rather than 13 cards are unknown, but remember it can always get worse. For example, consider the poor creature who becomes dummy where 39 cards are unknown and, although it might appear early to him that his declarer partner has made a mistake he, for his own good, should wait until later since too many cards are still unknown, especially when one reaches a certain age, the memory of previous plays often becomes problematical.

Iain ClimieApril 9th, 2018 at 6:19 pm

Hi Bob, Bobby,

Good point, I’ve got my “Diamond Disease” but in spades! I went through a phase of counting diamonds (but only diamonds) as 5-4-3-2 or whatever round the table about once a month some time ago but clearly it has changed suit. Homer Simpson language beckons – sorry about that! As you said earlier, the ability to count to 13 does help.


Bobby WolffApril 9th, 2018 at 6:34 pm

Hi Bob,

While, of course, agreeing to your slam dunk assessment, should be told a true story of an American bridge hustler hearing about an off the charts huge stake bridge game, long ago when, I believe, Iran was then called Persia. I think it was before Contract bridge was invented, but perhaps Auction bridge was in vogue, but in any event he arrived there and after being introduced to the Shah he sat down to play with his partner against his highness,

On an early hand he fortunately (perhaps by card manipulation) dealt himself 10 solid clubs from the AKQ on down and the other three aces (or so he thought) and in order to score the most opened 1NT to get the 4 ace bonus (remember in Auction bridge a partnership didn’t need to bid any special number to get bonuses but instead reaped the benefits of whatever he made, but did not have to bid). His LHO (either the Shah himself or his partner) strangely doubled upon which after being passed around to him he greedily redoubled and chanced it being taken out. His fears were not realized so there he proudly and confidently sat. That is until a green card was led and continued until a significant set took place, but when declarer showed out during the first trick, his learned partner cried out, “No Graphilites”?

And you Bob, only worry about the difference between 13 and 14.

And about the 8 club bidder. Yes I have sometimes wanted to take a save over a major suit grand slam bid against me, so once I did, hoping to buffalo an unknowing opponent to allow me to. However, my experiment had the best thing happen when instead of either citing the rules or merely just doubling, he carried on to 8 spades, citing to his partner that he feared I would make it, which against his defense, perhaps I would.

Bobby WolffApril 9th, 2018 at 6:47 pm

Hi Wen Tao,

Yes the night before often played a part in how bridge players play the morning (or afternoon) next.

However in the early beginnings of the “Aces” bridge team, our discipline hungry coach, the late and great Colonel Joe Musumeci by name, demanded that each Ace (all male of course) would only be allowed one visitor in his hotel room at a time. Sort of restrictive, of course, but one has to deal with such finesses at times or should one call them coups.

And now you know. BTW thanks for your comment and your very kind words.

Bobby WolffApril 9th, 2018 at 6:52 pm

Hi Jeff,

Why, if you also did the same thing, only have to write a very short message, while I haven’t stopped apologizing since?

OK, I get it, you weren’t wasting other player’s time.

Wen TaoApril 9th, 2018 at 6:56 pm

Hi Iain,
Thanks for sharing. It is hilarious. I guess situations like these add more fun to the game of bridge.

Bobby WolffApril 9th, 2018 at 7:00 pm

And finally to Michael and AVRR,

You both make too much sense to even comment except to say “Mia Culpa”.

Oh well, I must admit I had some fun, proving that bridge, even at its worst, can still be entertaining.

Thanks to all involved, proving like the politics of today, even terrible publicity is more interesting than none and, at the very least, keeps the media busy.

Iain ClimieApril 9th, 2018 at 8:25 pm

HI Wen,

I did feel obliged to apologise to the opponents for my mistake but the hand was the closest I’ve ever seen to Russian roulette in the game (except for Myrtle Bennett of course – but I’m sure you’ve looked her up).



Wen TaoApril 9th, 2018 at 9:37 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,
Thanks for sharing the Aces stories. I am a big fan of the Aces.
It is a pleasure for me to take part in the discussion and I don’t have to lie about it.
Wen Tao

Wen TaoApril 9th, 2018 at 9:40 pm

Hi Iain,
Thanks. That’s very kind of you.
I can only assume that everyone enjoyed and had a good time regardless of the game’s outcome.

Bob LiptonApril 9th, 2018 at 9:44 pm

You’re absolutely right, Bobby. As my friend Marcel Friedman used to say when I went down in a contract I could make (when he was dummy), “It’s only one trick.”