Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 20th, 2018

Busy as a one-armed man with the nettle-rash pasting on wallpaper.

O. Henry

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


Larry Cohen has written material for players at all levels. In one of his intermediate books, he discusses card reading, and he gives this example of the theme.

In fourth seat, North gets to open one club. After some exuberant bidding, South ends up in three no-trump and receives the lead of the diamond two. East puts up the diamond king and returns a low diamond. Declarer has no real choice but to try the queen, more in hope than expectation. When it holds, declarer can count on five club tricks, one diamond and two spades. The ninth trick will have to come from hearts.

Declarer can run the clubs first, ending in hand, and then lead a low heart toward dummy’s king. When West plays low, declarer has to guess … or does he? Fortunately, at this point in the play, he can confidently expect 4-4 diamonds. If that were not the case, West would win the heart ace and cash out, or East would be sitting with a bunch of winners to cash.

So let’s assume the defense can take only three diamond tricks. If declarer gets hearts wrong, he will go down; but did you remember the bidding? East dealt and passed. He is already inferentially marked with the diamond ace-king and at least one spade honor (West would surely have led from the queen-jack of spades). If East also held the heart ace, he would have opened the bidding. So, declarer should guess correctly and put up dummy’s heart king for his ninth trick.

You can infer that declarer has five hearts, with probably close to a 2-5-3-3 shape. Opener has only five spades and at most two hearts, while your partner is maybe 3-3-3-4. I would lead a club to play for ruffs, thinking that I should be able to score my heart queen later on in the hand.


♠ Q 7 2
 Q 9 2
 Q 10 5 4 2
♣ 7 3
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Dbl. 1 NT
2 Pass Pass 2
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


Bill CubleySeptember 3rd, 2018 at 5:32 pm

Negative inferences or failure to bid 1NT by an opponent are often the difficult issues in play of the hand.

Back from Augusta Regional. There must have been budget issues for the Daily Bulletin. Only pair results plus the top 100 MP winners. So for the first few days we were treated to the MPs won by Donna Rodwell. Finally on Thursday the more famous names appeared but not the events. A cute bit of mystery and humor for us.

Barry Rigal and David Gold both recognized my name and complimented me in Atlanta. Anyone may feel this is definitive proof of the famed British eccentricity. But Steve W. said this is a good thing.

Bobby WolffSeptember 3rd, 2018 at 6:32 pm

Hi Bill,

Yes, advanced bridge learning, since the 1930’s, only available to a very few privileged characters often related or good friends to the special great players, is a very necessary commodity in order to break through the glass ceiling to winning and all the good things which go with.

And, of course, negative inferences fully fit the bill, and, as a matter of fact, are probably more ever present than the positive ones.

No doubt, and from all reports, former great tournaments are really suffering from budget items brought on my significantly lower attendance, caused by both higher expenses in Horn Lake, less caution by the ACBL BODs and, of course the economy which hasn’t been at all kind to all classes of people especially the middle variety.

Finally kudos to Barry and David Gold for recognizing your accomplishments and also to Steve Weinstein (I guess he is Steve W.) and has always been a super and great person.

Peter GallSeptember 3rd, 2018 at 8:20 pm

I am writing about your column in the September 1, 2018 edition of the Vancouver Sun. The contract was 6 spades, which you said was made on a diamond lead, as was 6 no trump at the other table. You then went on to describe how 6 spades could be made on the more difficult lead of a club.

My problem is that I can’t figure out how either 6 spades or 6 no trump can be made on a diamond lead. It seems to me that you have to lose the King of diamonds and the Queen of spades. I would very much appreciate you explaining this to me.

Thanks very much.

jim2September 3rd, 2018 at 10:09 pm

Peter Gall –

I am not Our Host. With that said, the on-line column here lags the print version by two weeks, for contractural reasons.

So, that will appear here in two weeks.

Ken MooreSeptember 4th, 2018 at 12:38 am


On BWTA: It would appear from the bidding that East has the high hearts. So, if you can engineer a heart ruff, aren’t you just cancelling out your (hopefully) natural trump winner?

Perhaps a Diamond lead would bring in a ruff for partner.

bobbywolffSeptember 4th, 2018 at 11:43 am

Hi Peter,

Jim2 has explained about our contractual obligation to not comment on current hands, within the last two weeks, until they age for a fortnight to give our client newspapers what they pay for, autonomy, resulting in an advantage in presenting new material before competition in what our column represents in discussing that specific hand.

However after that waiting period, when that hand will be featured here, if you remind us of your concerns, we will be pleased to delve into that hand as well as any previous or upcoming bridge situation which interests you.

In that way we can allow all others to share in the discussion, a process which seems to have worked quite well, right here, for many years.

No doubt the results have been what they are because of excellent players and thoughtful and accurate bridge writers such as Jim2 who take their time, along with many others, to help make our so-called bridge party an enjoyable and constructive time for all.

Thanks for your necessary patience.

bobbywolffSeptember 4th, 2018 at 11:58 am

Hi Ken,

Although partner did not raise your diamond bid, which was made voluntarily (since you might have passed once your RHO bid 1NT) says little about your partner’s hand except what you have already inferred, partner very likely has a minimum take out double.

Yes, he might not possess 4 or more diamonds (even with a minimum hand in high cards, 13 pts.) but for sure he will have 3+ hearts while holding minimum values for his bid, but in no way should you be expecting him to not have 3 diamonds, and perhaps even 4 with an absolute minimum hand in values.

Therefore you as an opening leader can get lucky and catch partner with the AQ of clubs over the king in dummy who will give you a 3rd round club ruff, and likely still have Qx left, which together with your partner’s sure heart holding (would never have doubled 1 spade with only 2 hearts in hand and fewer than 16+ hcps).

The above is gleaned, not necessarily from bridge literature, but rather from experience of playing the game where everyone at that table has grown his game with their previous play.

If that sounds a little too expert, it will not for long, since, by playing, it will become more simple and get easier as time goes by.

Peter GallSeptember 6th, 2018 at 1:18 am


Thanks for responding to me. I will get back to you in two weeks.

ChristalSeptember 7th, 2018 at 11:32 pm

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