Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 1st, 2019

I bend and I break not.

Jean de la Fontaine

W North
Both ♠ 6 3
 A K 5
 A Q 4
♣ A Q 8 7 4
West East
♠ K Q J 9 4
 9 7 5
♣ J 10 6 5
♠ 10 5
 Q 10 8 4 2
 J 8 6 2
♣ K 9
♠ A 8 7 2
 J 9 7 6
 K 10 3
♣ 3 2
South West North East
  2 ♠ * Dbl. Pass
3 * * Pass 4 All pass

*Five spades, plus a minor



One of the most difficult parts of the game is declaring the 4-3 fit, with trump control frequently a paramount issue. So it is rare when playing in a 4-3 fit that you want the outstanding trumps not to break.

However, when the late Alan Truscott (longtime bridge columnist of The New York Times) declared today’s deal, he needed to hope for precisely that.

In response to the double of two spades, Truscott’s three-heart call showed constructive values — with less, he would have bid two no-trump to show fewer than 7 high-card points. His wife, Dorothy, raised to four hearts, aware that it might be a 4-3 fit, but expecting it to be the most practical contract.

Truscott ducked the spade lead, won the next spade and lost the club finesse to East. He won the club return, then ruffed a club back to hand, as East discarded. Since West had at least nine cards in the black suits, Truscott needed West to have no more than one heart.

So, he cashed dummy’s heart king, then three rounds of diamonds, ending in dummy. In the four-card ending, declarer had just two trumps in both hand and dummy, while East had only hearts left. But when he played a club from dummy, East could take no more than his heart queen. If he ruffed low, South would over-ruff, trump a spade with the heart ace and play another club to score his last heart en passant. If East ruffed high, South would discard a spade and win the trump return in hand. Then he could score the trump jack and ace separately.

Your partner appears to have scattered values and at least five hearts. Is there any doubt as to what your final contract should be? I hope not! With your great trump support (in context) and source of tricks, game is highly unlikely to be worse than a finesse in one of the minors, which the auction tells you should work. So bid four hearts at once.


♠ 6 3
 A K 5
 A Q 4
♣ A Q 8 7 4
South West North East
Dbl. Pass 1 Pass
2 ♣ 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


Ken MooreFebruary 15th, 2019 at 3:29 pm


About these specialized bids: The problem with telling your partner everything is that the opponents have big ears. The initial bid told declarer all that he needed to know.

Besides, opening with 10 points (even if you stretch distribution) and no side winners? They got what they deserved.

PaulFebruary 15th, 2019 at 4:23 pm

Hi Bobby,
In BWTA do you think south should have tried 3 hearts at his second turn instead of 2c to borrow a phrase from the column as being the practical game try since a 2c bid may suggest to partner a long club suit without tolerance for hearts allowing a not so agressive partner not to rebid his five card heart suit.

Bobby WolffFebruary 15th, 2019 at 5:16 pm

Hi Ken,

While appreciating your comment about the opening bid (weak 2 spades) I do not agree that those sort of random thrusts will show a minus value in the long run.

Big reason is the space it often takes away from the opponents by starting the bidding at the 2 spade level. The bid shows approximately what West has, gets partner off to a normally wanted spade lead if they become defenders with, of course North the declarer,, both normal advantages, as well as not allowing as much room to exchange information from those normal worthy opponents.

No doubt NS arrived at a precarious contract to which the opening bidder, because of your valid objection (at least this time), helped cause, but at least to me, overcoming adversity with a form of brilliance, his play of the hand, only speaks well for top level bridge, not as an indictment for the opponent’s early thrust which no doubt helped to be responsible for the result.

Our beautiful game often lends itself to these kinds of mind battles, aggressive defensive bidding then overcome with stellar declarer play based on logic and knowledge learned from the evidence presented. In truth if West would have initially passed and then overcalled one spade at his next opportunity the final contract, whether it would become 4 hearts or 3NT, might very well have still been made, only perhaps in a different way,

Also I am advising you and all others to never stop giving their opinions. By discussing it on this forum, not only the ones mouthng it, might learn something, but also perhaps the ones only reading the comments may advance forward by hearing others either agree or not, but helpfully giving their specific reasons for it.

Good luck to us all!

Bobby WolffFebruary 15th, 2019 at 5:32 pm

Hi Paul,

No, I do not agree that South, while making an off-shape TO double of 1 diamond, only because of his strength, not his very good support for the unbid major suits, should immediately raise hearts with only three card support. He should then do as he did, bid again to show added strength (which he had) but also allowing his partner to pass if the indeed only had a weak balanced hand, which he often would have (with an opponent opening the bidding and his partner showing a big hand).

When the doubler then bid again it would then fit a hand his partner may have: s. xxx, h. QJxxxx, d. xx, c. xx or something similar, only announcing to partner that he is weak but does have what might be a very useful major suit which may be valuable to rebid.

When the opening bidder is in front of the many high cards (and minor suit tenaces) it certainly appears that both minor suit kings figure to be finessable allowing the eventual heart game bidder to score up a likely 11 tricks with hearts as trump.

No more, no less, and business as usual among players who know what they doing by evaluating strength, trump holdings and positional advantages and then, of course, profiting with their earned result.

All of a sudden, like so many heretofore difficult exercises in life, bridge becomes a very logical study of basic analysis and then action. All that and much competitive fun also as well as usually socially pleasant so what are people waiting for, rather than to dive right in?

Ken MooreFebruary 15th, 2019 at 5:56 pm

Great! Slap me around and tell me to “Come back soon.” 🙂

Bobby WolffFebruary 15th, 2019 at 6:52 pm

Hi Ken,

While knowing in my heart (and your smiley) your sense of humor is working overtime, all of us seem to learn faster when oft times confronted with dissatisfaction.

Relatively early on in the bridge experience, we will always tend toward opinions on many critical thoughts, including defensive bidding, opening leads, overall systems, choice of partners, etc…….

My experience seems to indicate that the more one is rebuffed the quicker and more importantly, his judgment improves.

No doubt, moving up the ladder to greater success in bridge, is no easy task, likely made more difficult by well wishers who volunteer their opinions, which in many cases, are much better off not being mentioned.

However, believe it or not, as we follow the learning curve about what our challenging game is all about, not necessarily making the best bid, but rather the winning bid against specific opponents is the key to consistent victories.

Some opposing partnerships, when playing against, are best left up to their own inadequacies, while other much better players need to have obstacles thrown in their path, in order to hope to derail their talents.

All the above can and does occur in perhaps only one bridge session, but by keeping one’s eyes open and not seriously listening to all the bad advice given, is perhaps the real starting point in which the game itself and its trials and travails becomes much better understood.

On such a full sea do all bridge enthusiasts pass, and where they go from there will likely determine their future of either pleasureable success or instead, merely drown.