Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 25th, 2019

O fat white woman whom nobody loves,

Why do you walk through the field in gloves…

Missing so much and so much?

Frances Cornford

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

*Strong, artificial


Today’s deal was a missed opportunity in the match between Zimmerman and the Netherlands: If the Netherlands had made their game here, they would have won their match instead of missing out on a chance of winning a large prize purse.

For Zimmerman, Lauria-Versace had played in three no-trump rather than four spades. After a club lead, declarer naturally finessed in spades and was down at once.

In the room shown, Simon De Wijs played four spades after a blind auction where his partner’s initial response to his strong club opener had shown a balanced positive. After a trump lead, De Wijs finessed, and Geir Helgemo won to return a club, reasonably enough. What should De Wijs do now?

Declarer led a trump to dummy and a heart to the nine and jack. (Yes, maybe leading the heart 10 from dummy wouldn’t hurt — even against a player of Helgemo’s class.) Back came a club; now De Wijs simply played for hearts to break and went down.

A slight improvement at trick three might have been to lead a high trump from hand, or after playing a trump to dummy, to ruff a club back to hand. When East discards, West is more likely to have begun with honor-doubleton in hearts than with two small, since in that case he likely would have led a heart, not a spade, to trick one.

That being so, the right play is to lead a low heart to the eight at trick four or trick five, as appropriate. As the cards lie, you will now have three heart tricks and your contract.

This hand is on the cusp of a jump to two hearts, for which the range is approximately 9-11 high-card points. My view is that the balanced nature of the hand argues for a simple call of one heart rather than the jump. You are relatively unlikely to miss game by hearing everybody pass now, and if the opponents bid again, you will be able to show your extra values one way or another.


♠ A 10 5
 K 10 8 2
 J 6 3
♣ J 7 6
South West North East
  1 Dbl. 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieFebruary 8th, 2019 at 12:34 pm

Hi Bobby,

Shouldn’t declarer ask if West is honestly leading a trump from Kxx(x) when his partner might have singleton J and dummy A10x? Dropping the singleton King at T1 makes life so much easier although East may give you a hard stare!


Iain Climie

JudyFebruary 8th, 2019 at 3:17 pm

Hi Iain,

The same thought occurred to me immediately! Hard stares don’t bother me. I too might have risen with the ace!



Iain ClimieFebruary 8th, 2019 at 3:43 pm

Hi Judy, Bobby,

Would it be possible to occasionally present just the N/S hands on a declarer play problem, and North + East or West on defence, or would it be too difficult to mess around with the format?



Bobby WolffFebruary 8th, 2019 at 4:04 pm

Hi Iain & Judy,

Yes, in life the early bird is supposed to catch the worm. Also the right guess at trick one every so often while declaring in bridge, also beards the lion. However, almost as often there is either no winning guess at trick one, or, if so, declarer sometimes, but not often for either of you two, chooses the wrong one. (how is that for diplomacy?)

Therefore, if declarer miss guesses (you two would call it erring) he or she needs to compensate by guessing which hand to lead a heart from, especially when on this combination of cards, the diamond suit is “frozen” for the defense (I love that seldom used term which means that the defense cannot attack that suit without giving up the crucial game going trick (unless the defense throws smoke in that poor declarer’s eyes and East perhaps switches to the queen of diamonds at trick two. followed by another unfortunate guess if West is somehow permitted on lead before the heart suit produces an extra trick for declarer (that should not happen!).

As a matter of common sense all roads lead to a make for declarer today, except the unfortunate line he took.

Of course for both of you, triumph came at trick one, which could be called a premature climax.

jim2February 8th, 2019 at 4:14 pm

One bit not mentioned is that declarer does need to play a trump before trying hearts.

If both defenders follow, then I think the right heart play is to cash the AK then small.

Bobby WolffFebruary 8th, 2019 at 5:21 pm

Hi Iain,

While no doubt, your suggestion would enable
the reader to legitimately assume the task of declarer or defender and try his luck.

However, my guess, is that most readers are only interested in a perfunctory manner and are happier to let others make the mistakes, but still read about the game and its virtues and/or pitfalls.

Besides by doing so, it becomes something akin to fooling around (or more vehement) with the falcon, a violation with tradition, and to do so, is likely taking on a dangerous risk.

However, one day that may come to pass, but even if you or I were being born tomorrow, I do not think that would happen in our lifetime.

A worthwhile thought, but likely only a dream.

PaulFebruary 8th, 2019 at 5:32 pm

Hi Bobby,
May I ask you to comment on some bidding decisions I took today at match points. I held Aqj Axx Kqjxx jx and playing a strong club opened 1c 1s X 3s X 4d p p p. The double from my partner showed 5-8 HCP. I doubled 3s which was penalty feeling that is probably my best chance for a positive score and passed 4d for the same reason. We were cold for five diamonds as well as 3nt . my partner held X Kx Axxxxx xxxx. How should I look at these situations?should my partner have bid 5d at his turn or tried 3nt?

Bobby WolffFebruary 8th, 2019 at 5:35 pm

Hi Jim2,

No doubt your suggestion becomes the right percentage play (3-3 or honor singleton or doubleton).

However, also like usual, there are extra considerations taking categorical solutions longer to describe.

Is it at all possible that your advice represents better bridge than do the robots on BBO? And will better to best bridge ever be enabled to be programed into non-humans?

Tune into the daily news in the year 2200 for the answer (that is probably rushing it!).

Bobby WolffFebruary 8th, 2019 at 6:07 pm

Hi Paul,

Assuming you want me to be forthright and candid about your provocative real problem hand, let me explain:

Yes, while playing a random forcing club (and they come in many colors, shapes and sizes), your partner”s double should (and is) a TO double showing perhaps 6 points or more. Because of the fact that then after the preemptive raise by your RHO, a double by you is better played as a TO also since on frequency, a TO will be called for perhaps on a ratio of about 10 to 1 (even here the opponents figure to take perhaps 7 to 9 tricks with their suit as trump).

Then partner should obviously bid 4 diamonds to which you should either simply raise to 5. However if you decide to cue bid 4 spades, partner will have a losing option of jumping to 6 diamonds, but might content himself with only bidding 5. Since your QJ of spades and your great interior diamonds are somewhat overrated, since small ones (all of them) would serve the purpose as well, compared to the mirage of what they actually represent.

Once you chose to bid 4 diamonds, it is indeed strange that your partner merely passed since from the above discussion it is more likely at least to me that he instead may cue bid 4 spades with his singleton spade, a sort of raise to 5 1/2 diamonds allowing you to make the next mistake.

Finally and realistically, over partner’s double you might very well just bid 3NT, the practical bid, one you may have chosen over the 4 diamond effort you did choose.

We all learn by experience, especially while playing our beautiful game. One of the earlier lessons is to be as practical as possible meaning you bidding 3NT with the response after partner made an original negative double and RHO raised his partner to the three level.

Good luck and hang in there since in time, you will be gratified if you do.

PaukFebruary 8th, 2019 at 6:24 pm

Hi Bobby,
Thanks for your valuable advice..Much appreciated. Regards Pauk

Iain ClimieFebruary 8th, 2019 at 7:32 pm

Hi Bobby, Jim2,

Cashing HAK and then another also removes any chance of a misguess, either working or not. It saves some stress on occasion.



Bobby WolffFebruary 9th, 2019 at 11:17 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, looking for a face, any face, but if not, we will probably have another chance on the 3rd lead.

Speaking of stress, compare the above with losing to the QJ doubleton offside.

Bobby WolffFebruary 9th, 2019 at 11:41 pm

Hi Iain,

Excuse me with the 2nd paragraph since I was thinking of AK109x opposite xx, which had come up recently.

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