Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, August 30th, 2018

When we last gathered roses in the garden,
I found my wits; but truly you lost yours.

John Ford

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


This was a deal from the quarter-finals at the world championships in Lyon last August. When South declared four spades, West generally led a top diamond.

The New Zealand West then played a second diamond, and the Dutch declarer ruffed and guessed to take the club finesse, a simple and seductive line. But when it lost, a heart back settled his hash immediately for down one.

By contrast, after the same first two tricks, the New Zealand declarer ruffed and led a low spade toward dummy at trick three. West correctly played low — which would have been necessary if his partner had the spade ace rather than the club king. The spade queen won, and declarer played a low spade back to his ace, dropping the king, then took the club finesse and was home against any defense.

A far tougher defense would have been for West to switch to a club at trick two. If declarer finesses, East wins and can switch to a heart. However, declarer can (in theory) riposte by going up with dummy’s club ace and then playing a spade to the ace and a spade.

At yet another table, the Bulgarian West cashed just one top diamond, then led a low heart away from his doubleton king! Declarer won the queen and led a low spade, West taking his king and continuing with a top diamond. Declarer ruffed, cashed dummy’s spade honors and now should have led a club to his 10. Instead, he played a heart to his jack and lost both a club and a heart trick.

One of the areas in which I may find myself at odds with my readers and other experts is that I believe, with hands like this, it is best to raise to two spades directly, not rebid clubs. Three trumps plus ruffing values constitutes enough support for my partner; and if we have a game, it rates to be in spades, not clubs.


♠ Q J 3
 7 2
 J 6
♣ A Q J 9 5 3
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 ♠ 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 ClimieSeptember 13th, 2018 at 11:11 am

Hi Bobby,

If East dredges up a 3D raise, which I admit is ropy, then West at least knows the 2nd diamond won’t stand up. The small heart switch by the Bulgarian West strikes me as a bit too imaginative but you can’t argue with success, I suppose. The ability to see all 52 cards does make a massive difference, of course but, if the club finesse is right, there may not be the hurry to take it. If it is wrong, then West seems more likely to hold the SK with East silent.



Iain ClimieSeptember 13th, 2018 at 2:44 pm

Also, can anyone remind me of the link for BOLS bridge tips? I gather they’re available online (and for free) somewhere.

Many thanks,


bobbywolffSeptember 13th, 2018 at 7:28 pm

Hi Iain,

Bridge always seems to astound me with when different lines of play (and, of course, often relatively insignificant raises or not, such as you mention with East which, with three out of three finesses onside would only be one down in 5 diamonds doubled EW, materially effect the play and thus the result of that particular hand. So much of bridge play (both declarer and defense) is based on up to then clues, to which both sides are privy, but, in reality, only in effect, helps one pair,

To me, those small differences, seem to represent what it takes to win and thus are “guessed” right by those who can be rightfully labeled as “born to the game” rather than just as bright (or sometimes even brighter) others, who mindlessly but not intentionally reduce their chances for success.

Yes, bridge can be said to be a many “splendored” experience, replete with a winning style, as well as intellectual brilliance.

Those cherished monikers seem to appear out of nowhere with some, but sadly, and for no really known reason, do not with others.

And bad news, although I well remember those BOLS bridge tips (having participated) I do not know how to resurrect those usually outstanding, not to mention, original gems.

Of course BOLS is (was) a well known European liguor company who took a fancy to sponsoring high-level bridge.

jim2September 13th, 2018 at 8:38 pm

I confess that I would have led a small spade from hand after ruffing the second diamond.

My reasoning would be, well, let us posit that West gravely misdoubts East has the AS, and rises with the KS. What can West lead?

Declarer is poised to concede a club, draw trump, and run clubs. Say West exits with a club and it rolls around to declarer’s 10C. Once all follow to the AS, I think I would rely on East (who did not raise diamonds so likely has fewer than 4) being longer in both round suits that West, and continue clubs. (Also, if West had 3 spades, that suggests a singleton heart or club, and led neither.)

The reason NOT to play clubs first is that its failure dooms the contract. OTOH, if the KS is with East, declarer can win the AH, draw trump, and essay the club finesses with a basis for confidence.

bobbywolffSeptember 14th, 2018 at 1:50 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks for your ultra sophisticated approach, together with bridge logic, for your overall declarer bridge plan.

Sometimes, even while employing impeccable overall (whole table) good bridge thinking, we become thwarted by one or sometimes even both defenders, e.g. (East not raising diamonds with four), but as once was intelligently said post hand by declarer, “I tried, and that’s all even a mule can do” but to do so is no doubt, the way to a winning bridge career, sometimes even magically overcoming TOCM TM, especially if that dreaded disease needed it get its 40 winks.

Thanks for pointing out, as you invariably do, the logical reasons for your winning line. 17th, 2018 at 1:50 pm

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