Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

There is no mode of action, no form of emotion, that we do not share with the lower animals. It is only by language that we rise above them, or above each other — by language, which is the parent, and not the child, of thought.

Oscar Wilde

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


Kit Woolsey’s latest book, “The Language of Bridge” covers a lot of ground. One of the topics discussed is how to help your partner do the right thing, as well as instructing you when to make the decision for the partnership if you know what is appropriate.

Here, after North has shown a balanced 12-14 points and you have discreetly decided to stay out of the proceedings, your partner leads the diamond queen against South’s four spades. You can see your own hand as East, plus the dummy, and the route to four tricks on defense may seem straightforward.

Defeating the contract should be simple, assuming declarer wins the first diamond, draws trumps and loses a club finesse. You will underlead your diamond king, and partner can put a heart through.

But can you see a potential problem? Declarer might sneakily duck the first round of diamonds. If you have encouraged, partner will not think to shift to a heart — why would he, since you might have king-third of diamonds and no heart queen? After a diamond continuation, the defense is kaput since West no longer has an entry for the heart play.

The secret is that you must discourage with the diamond two at trick one, even though you are happy with the lead. Now if declarer ducks, partner will know to shift to a heart.

Moral: it is worth remembering that attitude signals relate to the whole hand, not just the suit led.

Some people play a redouble here as a good hand, short in spades; others treat it as a support redouble, guaranteeing precisely three spades, with a raise promising four trumps. I’m on the fence on this issue, so I won’t urge you to go one way or the other, but you should be aware of the options.


♠ Q 8 2
 K J 4
 5 4 3
♣ A Q J 10
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 ♠ Dbl.

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 BeyroutiMay 2nd, 2018 at 9:51 am

I’m having a hard time accepting Oscar Wilde’s assertion that language is the father, not the child , of thought.

Iain ClimieMay 2nd, 2018 at 10:16 am

HI Michael,

I think that without complex language and a good knowledge of it, the range of thoughts (especially abstract ones) you can generate is quite limited. Possibly a chicken and egg question for the philosophers, though, and I wouldn’t take my word for it. I was half asleep at the card table last night (see yesterday’s posts) for a start.



jim2May 2nd, 2018 at 11:08 am

So what do you lead against 3N if South bids that instead of 4S?

Iain ClimieMay 2nd, 2018 at 11:35 am

Hi Jim2,

A diamond as anything else makes 9 tricks easy for declarer – but that is seeing all 4 hands. At the table, it would be a red suit of some variety. The Heart really needs partner to have the King (or dummy to have the King and declarer not the Jack). The D will need partner to have DQ10 or QJ to work (budgeting partner to have 2-3 points only) assuming that the contract can be beaten of course. Little to choose but TOCM will probably rule.


BobliptonMay 2nd, 2018 at 11:50 am

Michael, in formal linguistics it’s called the Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis.


jim2May 2nd, 2018 at 12:19 pm

On language-behavior, the notion has been played with a lot in fiction, especially SF. One relatively famous example is Jack Vance’s _Languages of Pao_.

Michael BeyroutiMay 2nd, 2018 at 9:11 pm

Thank you Boblipton. I love to read on the internet about anything and everything, especially topics I know nothing about. So now you got me reading about the Whorfian hypothesis… Interesting stuff.

Iain ClimieMay 2nd, 2018 at 10:07 pm

Could I ask Bob Lipton about his background, as I did the same as Michael and looked up Wharf-Sapir too. The consequences may be worrying, though. Doesn’t the hypothesis lend credence to the view that violence is the language of the inarticulate?



Michael BeyroutiMay 3rd, 2018 at 12:03 am

No Iain. those violent people of whom you and me are thinking are highly educated and very articulate.
Violence maybe at the animal level. But there, it’s not violence in the human sense. Which leads me to what I call the paradox of life: One has to kill to live.
But let’s not wander too far from Bridge… our host is watching!

BobliptonMay 3rd, 2018 at 1:00 am

Ian, I did some graduate work in communications theory at NYU in the 1970s. That an a scattergun continuing education (I’m rereading Jonathan Swift at the moment — Kindle edition of his complete works is free! — keep me from making myself crazy over current events or the evils of bridge partners.


Iain ClimieMay 3rd, 2018 at 8:38 am

HI Bob,

Thanks for that and sounds like a good approach to life, not just bridge.



bobbywolffMay 5th, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Hi Jim2,

Regarding your question about leads vs. 3NT (instead of 4 spades) a diamond should be up the list (perhaps 55% to 45% instead of a low heart).

However the forever enigma of bridge would make a low heart from 5 ever the advantage, although the patient then will die since the reason for making that choice just did not materialize and the soft heart lead gave declarer that precious ninth trick. GO FIGURE!

bobbywolffMay 5th, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Hi Michael, Iain & Bob,

Seems to me that language is not either one, child or father of thought, but rather merely the way humans can better intellectually communicate than animals, who do so (like Tarzan found out) in less formal ways, but still effective enough to survive.

Of course, if the issue is restricted to only a child or father answer, I would choose father, since, without any form of communication, life would be like playing novice bridge instead of high-level. (hooray, we stayed on subject)!

And thus referring to Whorf-Sapir and or languages of Pao to be damned, renders sophistication of thoughts to be overrated.

Life would go on, perhaps even happier (and much less barbaric) than history will confirm.