Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 10th, 2018

The studies preliminary to the construction of a great theory should be at least as deliberate and thorough as those that are preliminary to the building of a dwelling-house.

Charles Sanders Pierce

E North
None ♠ 8 3
 K Q J 4
 10 7 6 3
♣ A 7 3
West East
♠ A 5 2
 9 7 6
 K J 9 8 5 2
♣ 9
♠ J 10 9
 10 8 5 3 2
♣ 6 5 4 2
♠ K Q 7 6 4
 Q 4
♣ K Q J 10 8
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 1 NT Pass
3 ♣ Pass 3 Pass
4 ♣ Pass 5 ♣ All pass


All the boards this week come from the 2017 Yeh Bros Cup, which is surely the strongest invitational teams event in the world.

The tournament is sponsored by Chen Yeh, who has set up an event that attracts the best teams in the world with generous sponsorship and excellent organization.

Today’s deal comes from a match where neither North-South pair could reach the ideal contract. It was up to the defenders to make them pay. If you want to put yourself in the hot seat, look only at the North and East cards.

The eventual winners of the teams event, Eric Kokish and Fred Gitelman, could not get to three no-trump after a strong club sequence where West had bid diamonds, and neither player could identify the half stopper in diamonds opposite. The other room failed to do so on a natural auction.

Both Wests astutely led diamonds. Both Easts won with their aces and needed to put West in at once to allow him to cash the second diamond winner. In the match we are focusing on, one defender switched to a heart, while the successful defender, Huub Bertens played a spade, declarer’s suit.

The spade shift is right both in theory and practice, I believe. Yes, declarer could hold five solid spades and a singleton heart — but then the losers don’t go away from dummy, do they? It is the discard of diamonds from hand that East has to worry about; if declarer has the heart ace, that is a real possibility.

I cannot see any reason not to lead the unbid suit. In situations like this, I’m torn between leading a high card to deny an honor and a low one so that my partner can work out the count. I’d choose the two here, thinking that my partner may be able to see most of the high honors in his own hand and dummy.


♠ J 7 4 2
 K 3
 6 5 2
♣ K 10 9 4
South West North East
  1 ♣ Pass 1
Pass 1 ♠ 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


Iain ClimieSeptember 24th, 2018 at 3:49 pm

Hi Bobby,

It is a good hand for the pairs-obsessed. North bids 3N, not 3H at his second turn on the basis that it is a long way to five of a minor. I admit that 3N could be off 4 diamonds and the SA but, apart from the blockage in diamonds, 5C really has little chance. Tricky for Kokish and Gitelman, though, as the diamond bid really does make life difficult on a hand where they “know” they’ve got game. I still know players who’d cross their fingers and hope partner had DJx, Q(x) or similar, though, and bid 3N regardless. Give South a diamond less and a heart more, though, and 5C is still not trivial with the Clubs 4-1 and two rounds of diamonds led.



Bobby WolffSeptember 24th, 2018 at 5:38 pm

Hi Iain,


No one, notably bridge purists, nor very high level players or teachers can or will recommend merely bidding 3NT on his second round.

However, while that bid will be classified in the EK as a punt or worse by some others, nevertheless some extraordinarily great players would choose it.

Simple, direct and while, never to be confused with artistic, can be, perhaps shamefully considered, “winning”.

Finally, after all and maybe even 100%, that designation may be the highest compliment with a final take on the result. For the winning contract to be arrived at, the rules require someone to bid it and no one would expect that to be South.

Thanks for you taking the time to at least introduce such a heresy.

Bobby WolffSeptember 24th, 2018 at 5:56 pm

Hi again Iain,

And let this be a dangerous lesson to learn when dealing with a self-thought pragmatist.

When, at the likely critical point (2nd round North bidding) never forget (as if it is possible) that oft times 9 tricks are oft times easier to take at NT rather than to prevent 3 losers (in clubs) or 4 losers with insufficiently strong trumps (in spades).

Ken MooreSeptember 25th, 2018 at 1:58 am


This brings up an old guideline that I have followed. Lead through strength (for East) and lead to weakness (for West0. Any comments?

Bobby WolffSeptember 25th, 2018 at 4:55 am

Hi Ken,

Yes, I vividly remember what you call an old guideline of leading through strength, but up to weakness.

Still, for the most part, more truth than fiction, but bridge being the game it is, just doing that is not near enough to make one’s mark.

However, instead of that everyone should try counting the hidden player’s hands, mostly for the 13 card original distribution, but also, when necessary. for the high card points.

And to not do that on every hand played, will keep even a super IQ genius, well below, anyone who does. Just sayin..
but at the same time, deadly serious.

Thanks for the memories.

Ken MooreSeptember 25th, 2018 at 2:06 pm

Another old line: Bridge becomes a much easier game once you learn to count to 13.

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