Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

What is merit? The opinion one man entertains of another.

Lord Palmerston

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


The Yeh Bros tournament consists of generously sponsored teams and pairs events. There are consolation events in each category, and today’s deal sees a coup by the two pairs who finished third in the main pairs, Fu Zhong and Ji Lie, and third in the consolation pairs, Paul Hackett and Tom Hanlon. Both Hanlon and Fu were faced with the same declarer play problem; see if you can match wits with them.

Declaring four spades as South, you receive a friendly heart lead (the two, suggesting three or five cards) which goes to the king and your ace. Can you see anything better than hoping either diamonds or trumps will behave?

Both declarers passed a club honor around to East, who won the queen and returned a heart. The declarers won and played the club jack, covered by West. They cashed two top trumps and found the bad news, then ruffed a club to hand, hoping to see the nine appear.

Finally, each took the heart ruff. When West produced the jack and East followed suit, it was crunch time. The opening leader appeared to have jack-third or jack-fifth of hearts and three spades, and three or four clubs, the nine not having appeared. Should you finesse diamonds, or is there anything better?

Both declarers backed their judgment by ruffing a club to hand as West followed with the nine, then exiting in trumps. When West won his queen and had nothing but diamonds left to lead, they were home, no matter who had the diamond ace.

Having found a heart fit, are you going to play in two hearts, drive to game or invite game? Of the three positions, the invitation seems like the middle-of-the-road action. It looks logical because one of your minor-suit queens will surely be wasted. Partner will be short in one suit or the other. Give me an ace in a minor instead of the queens, and I’d bid game.


♠ 10
 K 8 7 6 3
 Q 10 4 2
♣ Q 6 2
South West North East
    1 ♠ Pass
1 NT 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 ClimieSeptember 26th, 2018 at 11:41 am

Hi Bobby,

Interesting hand but can I ask a question from a much less exalted level (i.e. last night’s club session)? At Game All (Pairs) you hold J10xx AQx Jxxx xx and here 1C on your left (natural, 4 card majors), 1S from partner, 3C inverted. Do you take the push to 3S? The partnership’s overcalling style is forward rather than lemming-like.



Iain ClimieSeptember 26th, 2018 at 11:41 am

Sorry, hear …..

Bobby WolffSeptember 26th, 2018 at 2:10 pm

Hi Iain,

Following up with quoting the old “saw”, “All generalizations are false, including this one”, bridge and its forward going history, particularly the practical development of constructive bidding has always preached, when having trump support for partner, please disclose it.

Therefore since my experience seems to strongly support that theory, the answer is definitely “yes”.

There may be three good reasons:

1. By doing so, it seems to make partner happy,

2. When our side has a fit, chances are that so do the opponents, (more room in their hands for longer trumps) allowing them to likely have a better chance to fulfill their future suit contracts.

3. By doing so, it seems to make partner happy.

Since, IMO, at least two out of three of the above reasons apply, yes, even though, “yes” a three level raise is “pushing it”. “bid ’em high and risk sleeping in the streets” is my definite answer.

Besides, if, at least, some of the above is correct, partner may be playing it, and whatever then happens, he will likely not complain.

If only all of bridge were so easy to judge, we would all live happily ever after, but perhaps, if playing for money, slightly poorer.

Bobby WolffSeptember 26th, 2018 at 2:23 pm

Hi again Iain,

Undoubtedly the right bid, straight from Stephen Potter (author of “Gamesmanship”, would be two spades only, and then when told “insufficient”, change it to three spades, with no penalty (at least strictly according to the bridge laws) in order to keep partner better informed.

“Only kidding” (required by the food, drug and bridge administration), in order to pass inspection for possible corruption.

Iain ClimieSeptember 26th, 2018 at 2:37 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for that. 3S was bid at the table, and found AQ8xx xxx K9x Jx opposite. Both major suit Kings were wrong and it needed a defensive slip to escape for minus 200 – the oppo didn’t manage their potential diamond ruff. I just wondered whether this was bad luck or whether the Cxx should sound warning bells, but I felt 3S was an OK bid with a horrible result.



Bobby WolffSeptember 26th, 2018 at 3:32 pm

Hi Iain,

You escaped the most likely terrible board, of down 1, but doubled for the same 200, but that would probably only come to haunt, while playing against top players who were just wed to proper match point tactics.

However, your 4th spade should doubt the above happening (together with likely not playing against such aggressors who have confidence in their defense). True, your holding in their suit Jx is much worse than either 3 or 1 of them.

However, to get a full measure of investigation, you would have to ascertain what defending 3 clubs would have gotten you.

All in all, not a pleasant experience, but when and if the opponents either now bid one too much or relax (which they did, by not doubling) but only defeat you one for your benefit.

Nothing certain, especially in competitive bridge auctions, and I, like you, would have suffered the same fate. One good thing, it toughens one’s resolve to be a competitive opponent, but not without sometimes paying too great a price.

Some would say, “like whistling when walking past a graveyard”

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