Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

Greed is all right, by the way. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.

Ivan Boesky

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


One of the most common questions I receive from rubber bridge players who want to learn duplicate is how the approach differs from one game to the other. Today’s deal is a fine example of that difference.

Against three no-trump at both tables, the spade two was led. The first declarer played low from dummy (yes, playing the jack would have had some deceptive effect, but declarer wanted to be in hand), and East won with the king and thoughtfully switched to the heart queen. South ducked two rounds of hearts, but won the third to continue with the diamond queen. East was able to win and cash out for down two.

The second declarer saw the potential problem and rose with dummy’s ace at trick one. She had noticed that her contract would be safe unless diamonds were extremely unfriendly. She came to hand with a top club and led the diamond nine, which held. West showed out on the continuation of the diamond queen, but declarer let it ride, and East had to take the king now or lose it forever. Nine tricks made.

This hand would have been far more difficult to play in a matchpointed duplicate pairs tournament. Declarer now has a very awkward guess at trick one. If West has led a low spade away from the king, then by playing low from dummy and winning with the queen, declarer will end with at least 11 and maybe more. Unless both the spade and diamond finesse lose, the contract will be safe.

Whether or not you think this hand is too good for a two-diamond opener (I could go either way), over your partner’s forcing two-heart call you should bid two spades now. This is natural in principle, suggesting either a four-card suit or a holding like this one.


♠ A J 5
 9 7
 A J 10 8 6 5
♣ 8 6
South West North East
2 Pass 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJune 5th, 2018 at 11:57 am

Hi Bobby,

An interesting if minor point about the lead on today’s hand. I know some players who would determinedly lead the S8 from holding’s like West’s, treating the S10 as not really an honour. Even at pairs, this is a dead give away for declarer (unless the lead is from K108 alone, a little unlikely) showing East has the SK and highlighting the need to play the SA and get the diamonds going. Attitude leads (the 8 from 108xx) would face similar problems.



Bobby WolffJune 5th, 2018 at 1:42 pm

Hi Iain and all others interested,

This type of problem occurs often in every type bridge, whether social rubber bridge (still going on, only not as many in the USA participating), or/and in tournament bridge, matchpoints or IMP teams.

In all games the choice, at least to me, is relatively simple, in social and team bridge (except B-A-M), take the safest route to your contract, which certainly (as the column indicates) is to rise with the ace of spades and play for all diamond holdings, except for King fourth offsides (less than 5%, 1 in 20) rather than both the pointed suit kings offside with the non-opening leader and enough information and thus smarts to switch to hearts (perhaps almost 25%) especially so if the opening leaders have led, which Iain has suggested, which looks like a higher one, rather than 4th best or, of course, attitude, which tends to deny a major honor.

However, while playing matchpoints or Team BAM it beomes close to bridge suicide not to, as the quote suggests, not take a greedy approach and play for the likely 75% chance of at least one of the pointed suit kings to be onside.

IOW, frequency of gain indigenous to most often vs. amount of gain, tied to the strategy of playing the game, the competent bridge declarer was usually taught by his or her original instructor of how to win in rubber bridge and later IMPs.

Not nuclear physics, but only common sense.

However, one can call it what he or she wants, but at least IMO the above is sound enough to always act on and then, of course, be consistent with.

Thanks Iain, for your learned advice, with examples, of what to do and most importantly, why.

Iain has intelligently amplified other clues sometimes available in order to better judge what to do, when the declarer has to face this type of decision.

Bobby WolffJune 5th, 2018 at 2:00 pm

Hi again,

As an afterthought, it should be noted (to those who want to be serious about becoming a much better player) that all positive examples of a partnership attempting to make it easier for his partner to “read” his play in a more accurate manner (leading 2nd highest to deny a major honor, is one of those ploys). However to do so is also open and therefore clear to an observant declarer in how to judge the play to his best advantage. Therefore sometimes in one’s zeal to help partner, the enemy is always intercepting that information, sometimes acting on it, and thus thwarting its intent.

The result of so doing usually results in being sorry for “giving away the farm” to a clever declarer, leaving him in the catbird position of power. However, all the above means is to, while on defense, try to determine before passing on that sometimes valuable tweak, who will it help the most, partner or declarer?

And being right about that decision has, over time, changed untold numbers of results, only proving that what is written above is VERY much a factor in making partnership decisions of how to legal signal partner and when to decide not to do it.

“Loose lips sometimes sink ships”!

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