Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

The years teach much which the days never know.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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


Put yourself in declarer’s shoes, playing three no-trump as South, before I disclose the theme of today’s deal.

When West leads his long suit against South’s game, declarer should be able to see that the risk of taking the first trick and playing on diamonds is that East will get in with the diamond queen and lead back a heart. This establishes West’s long suit, while that player still has an entry in the form of the diamond ace. Indeed, that is exactly what will happen if South takes the first trick and leads the diamond jack around to East; but South does not have to allow this position to materialize.

The crux of the deal is that South should allow the heart jack to win the first trick, which has the effect of beginning to exhaust East of hearts. East can play a second heart, but South will take West’s heart king in dummy and play a spade to hand, then run the diamond jack.

East gets his diamond queen, but no longer has a heart to play. He shifts to a club, but South carefully hops up with the club ace and plays a second diamond. West can only score one further trick in each minor suit. That is four tricks for the defense — but declarer has his contract.

In a similar position, declarer might be able to tackle diamonds deceptively by leading the suit initially from dummy. (Switch the heart 10 and nine, and declarer might choose to approach the play in this way.)

Your opponent’s double does not really affect your call, except that it makes it sound as if your kings might be pulling their full weight. It is hard to do more than invite game with a call of three diamonds, but you are certainly full value for that action.


♠ 7 5
 K 9 8 6 4
 A 6 5
♣ K 8 3
South West North East
    1 Dbl.
1 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieFebruary 12th, 2019 at 9:41 am

Hi Bobby,

There are interesting possibilities from declarer trying a spade to the Queen then a small diamond off table, whether he has HQ9x or Q10x. East here could shoot up with the DQ successfully but this is far from sensible if South has DA10x or AJ alone; in the 2nd case declarer can just overtake the DJ with the K to set up extra tricks. If South had HQ9x though, there is the ghastly possibility that West has DAQ, AQx, Qx, Qxx or even Q alone when the roof caves in as West gleefully takes it and plays the HK. If West doesn’t have the DA South may be OK (3D, 2H, 3S, 1C) although it is a poor pairs score and possibly losing at Point A Board. If West does have the DA as well as the Q, team mates are going to be asking (like yesterday) exactly where the game swing went.



Bobby WolffFebruary 12th, 2019 at 4:06 pm

Hi Iain,

Your posts, as usual, show, or better said, prove, your very high-level knowledge of card combinations, which in turn indicate both a supreme interest and immence talent for simple numeracy.

That quality would likely set you apart as
being able to both shine in engineering, other mathematical endeavors and in this case go to the head of your class (or at least close) in our mutually loved game of bridge.

Is that talent innate or learned? My guess, a combination of both, but, in whatever case, you come alive, just like a few other really top bridge players I know (and some are fortunately for us on this site) and, especially when numbers are discussed, you lead the way with both joy, enthusiasm, and above all, accuracy.

My guess is that while being born that way will be a mighty gift from up above, but methinks that at least some of it can also be learned, rather than just inherited.

One thing for sure is that, if born that way, not to then be at least acquainted with our superior game, would, and no doubt, be a dastardly deed, brought on by fickle fate.

Forgive me for my rant, but cause and effect is also largely evident with the game we play, so I hope and trust I have not bored others.

Matt WilliamsFebruary 12th, 2019 at 5:03 pm

I can assure you Mr. Wolff, we all enjoy your “rants”. Keep ’em coming!

Iain ClimieFebruary 12th, 2019 at 5:22 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for that, too kind as ever! As I’m sure you’ve realised, I work on engineering and have a strong mathematical background but I wonder how much of it was helped by my maternal grandmother teaching my brothers and myself simple card games (starting with “card dominoes”) from an early age and then moving on to whist and bridge. The answer, I suspect, is a fair amount as the “feel” you get for numbers helps in many ways through life.

It does have a twisted side, though; an old friend told me that he’d done work on finding crypto-keys many years ago e.g. what was the biggest prime number under 10,000 with 4 different digits? 9871, I said (and it is, apparently – it is 29 less than 10,000 and 29 is also prime). “You knew that, didn’t you?” “Nope, just felt about right”. He started looking at me is if I was in the next Omen film and is still slightly nervous.



Bobby WolffFebruary 12th, 2019 at 5:32 pm

Hi Matt,

Allow me to testify to how much I appreciated your comment. How nice to hear what you went out of your way to say.

And while your name is with us, what is preventing you from joining in with our ongoing discussions? Surely with you having such good judgment about me (tsh, tsh) your comments about all questions, answers and phases of bridge will, no doubt, be at least worthwhile, for many, if not all.

My mother used to teach me you get more butterflies with sugar, so please join us when you are ready.

Bobby WolffFebruary 12th, 2019 at 5:42 pm

Hi Iain,

Obviously when you add extra quick wit to numbers, your advantage becomes palpable.

Good in the court room, great for winning the battle of the sexes (if only it ever is done), and also entertaining. A triple threat if there ever was one and furthermore I didn’t even include bridge.

Iain ClimieFebruary 12th, 2019 at 5:49 pm

HI Bobby,

Notwithstanding James Thurber’s “War between Men and Women” and one or two other fictional references, have we blokes got any chance in the Battle of the Sexes? After all, if we ever won the fallout would far exceed any possible spoils of victory?



Bobby WolffFebruary 12th, 2019 at 6:16 pm

Hi Iain,

An emphatic “No” as my answer and please exchange fallout to fall away which might help better explain those Pyrrhic spoils.

Mircea1February 12th, 2019 at 6:49 pm

Hi Bobby,

I’m assuming that North-South in today’s deal do not play Negative Free Bids, or else South’s 2NT could be an overbid. Do you agree or is this too scientific? Either way, what is your opinion about NFB?

Bobby WolffFebruary 12th, 2019 at 8:04 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Possibly similar to how and why the media has such active involvement in effecting politics, the bridge community (basically bridge writers, high, low and medium level) seem to at least attempt to influence practical bridge bidding situations by misrepresenting their value.

Assuming North’s 2 diamond intervention over his RHO overcall is a one round force, (but not GF) what possible bid should South make other than 2NT. Nothing comparable to that bid should even be considered, yet many in all levels of bridge competition seem to be concerned with what they may think, is inconsistency.

The fact gleaned, of course, is that with an intermediate to good opening hand (of course with the opponent’s suit stopped) South should bid 3NT, not 2NT, since bids now made become limited since North’s bid is not GF. With a very good hand, South might consider a cue bid, even though by doing so, it does not necessarily include a heart stop, only instead, a more descriptive further bid by partner.

Perhaps, not everyone is aware that North’s 2 diamonds is a one round force, enabling it to represent perhaps 8 or 9 minimum hcps+ plus of course a hoped for diamond suit but if holding: s. A10, h. K3. d. 986432, c. K43 I would still bid 2 diamonds but pass 2NT if partner would rebid it.

Not to say that 3NT would not enter my mind with the above hand, but to do so, would perhaps become a little bit too pushy.

With a really good hand, but holding length in diamonds I would still bid 2 diamonds, but would then likely cue bid the opponent’s suit in the next round, looking to exchange more information, following partner’s NF 2NT rebid.

The only other worthwhile information I can transmit is that both NS (in this case) need to be aware of the somewhat restrictive amount of bidding room has been granted and thus respond in kind.

Nothing more, nothing less, with the possible bridge media (or whatever, perhaps word of mouth) complicating the process with basically unknowing fears of what different bids might mean.

Hopefully this topic has now been covered satisfactorily, but if not, please let me know.

Mircea1February 12th, 2019 at 9:06 pm

OK, but if opener has a flat 12, like today, bidding a one-round forcing 2D with A10, h. K3. d. 986432, c. K43 is clearly an overbid. 2NT by South will certainly go down. Am I splitting hair here?

Ken MooreFebruary 12th, 2019 at 9:18 pm


I would like second what Matt said. I especially like the way you extend your comments and explain things. For instance, “Switch the heart 10 and nine” or in the bidding you will sometimes say “If the Queen of Spades was a Diamond. . .”

Knowing why is at least as important as knowing what.

David WarheitFebruary 12th, 2019 at 9:19 pm

Iain: 9871 is 129 less than 10,000, not 29 less, but 129 also is prime. Aren’t I picky?

Bobby WolffFebruary 12th, 2019 at 10:31 pm

Hi Mircea1,

When I bid 2 diamonds immediately with the hand I gave you and partner responds 2NT, the idea is probably to get out as cheaply as possible (right suit at the lowest level) so I would likely either pass or rebid 3 diamonds (the equivalent of a pass, but instead only a correction). Though if I was a big time gambler and while holding 3 diamonds might gamble out 3NT thinking I had about 1 chance in 5 (20%) of landing it. Of course, the specifics of this hand might favor a heart lead, rather than a spade, while and if, I was declaring 3NT, but if only contracting for 8 tricks in NT perhaps I, as declarer would prefer a spade.

Making at least 9 tricks in diamonds is an odds on favorite, while 2NT (favorite or close) and even 3NT having some chance (about 20%) with 2-2 diamonds and no five card defensive major suit led and decent playing luck.

None of the above proves anything special except the concepts to think about and then accept or reject them, and if so, come up with a better plan. Of course instead, allowing the opponents to play 2 of a major suit might be a touch and go decision, but for my money I’d prefer to take my chances to go plus with my boots on and playing the hand.

Bobby WolffFebruary 12th, 2019 at 10:43 pm

Hi Ken,

No doubt you sincerely get it, when considering getting better at bridge. It is hardly ever about any one hand, but rather only about learning the logic of the game, which depends an immense amount on learning and depending on the scoring system.

The winning pairs, at every level of the game, are the ones, when in competition find ways to force their worthy opponents to play at a level higher than they desired and/or risk doubling their opponents (your side) into a makeable game if dame fortune smiles in your direction.

Bobby WolffFebruary 12th, 2019 at 10:52 pm

Hi David,

Maybe, but maybe not. However he might think you could add a well placed r.

Iain ClimieFebruary 13th, 2019 at 9:40 am

Hi David,

Good one but 129 is divisible by 3 so isn’t prime. 127, though…



Ken MooreFebruary 13th, 2019 at 5:36 pm

“All warfare is based on deception.”

“The Art Of War” by Sun Tzu, a manual that has been studied by military men for over 2,000 years.