Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, February 9th, 2019

To none will we sell, to none deny or delay, right or justice.

Magna Carta

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


Today’s deal is the last of this week’s themed hands, in each of which declarer has to play a single suit to best advantage with length in one hand and a singleton in the other.

As I look through the hands, I am struck by the fact that such similar combinations have such disparate solutions. No wonder bridge players go gray so early!

In today’s deal, South opens and closes the auction with a call of two hearts. When West leads the club 10, he appears to be relatively short of clubs — the threat of trump promotions is a real one. Declarer must start to draw trumps at once, and he can afford to lose two trump tricks but not three.

He wins the club lead in dummy and leads a heart to the king. If this loses to the ace, he will regain the lead and play the queen of hearts, then the nine. But when the heart king holds, declarer must decide which trump to lead next.

If East has the bare heart ace left then, declarer must lead a low heart from hand; but there is a much better chance that one defender or the other is left with a bare jack or 10 of hearts. (Note that to give himself a chance to set the contract, West would have to duck the heart ace if he started with A-J-fourth or A-10-fourth of hearts.) By leading out his remaining top honor, he can pin the jack or 10 and remain in control, losing just two trumps and three plain-suit top cards.

Sometimes a cigar is only a cigar, and a bid in the fourth suit is occasionally natural, not artificial. Here, a call of two clubs shows clubs and is limited by the failure to jump to three clubs (which you would do if the spade four were the king). You would certainly guess that clubs would play better than no-trump here, and since you can offer the suit to play, that seems a sensible option.


♠ J 8 5 4
 A 9 8 5
♣ A K 9 4
South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
1 ♠ Pass 1 NT 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 23rd, 2019 at 7:19 pm

Funny game, this game of bridge. There are some parts that I get intuitively and others that never seem to come to me. I have whined in the past about squeezes, especially “rectifying the count” whatever that means, but this week’s hands have come naturally to me but maybe not so – from what you said – to all. Two days ago, leading to the King/Jack and playing the Jack and King just seemed right. And today’s hand was the same. It just “feels” right.

Different minds think different ways.

Joe1February 23rd, 2019 at 9:27 pm

I like the exploration of a theme over several days. To be honest, I didn’t fair too well, but learned a little about focused thinking regarding opposing holdings in the key suit. Can’t always count the whole hand, or visualize every card, but what are the opponents 4-2 holdings I can withstand. Good lessons this week.

bobbywolffFebruary 24th, 2019 at 1:03 am

Hi Ken,

While somewhat understanding the subject, and then focusing on the various principles discussed, the major challenges with improving one’s game, will normally come naturally.

However, regarding this week’s subject may be better expressed with “no never mind” in relation to its overall importance.

Nothing in bridge even remotely compares with the blind counting of the other three hands, even with the gift of immediately seeing all 13 of dummy’s cards. Of course, as the hand develops one has to concentrate on the fall of the cards, with the necessity of keeping up with the high cards, where they came from and then allowing what you already know about trick taking (never forgetting it is always better for your side to play 2nd and 4th rather than 1st and 3rd to any trick).

It sounds difficult and I would be kidding you if I didn’t agree that it is, but until you can do such a thing and in a seemless way, it will be a much tougher uphill climb than if you instead, improved a small amount every day, week and/or month.

IOW, in order to not put a relatively low ceiling on your future game, you will need to develop a method of remembering the value of your cards as they constantly change depending on the play and at the same time remember the bidding or lack of it and then piece together the unseen hands until you, the player, know what everyone has been holding up to then.

Alas, as compared to the above, this weeks lesson is only a drop of water in the ocean. Learning bridge and its numeric wonders is a really exhilarating experience, but no one, no matter how talented, gets there quickly or worse without much frustration. However, like riding a bicycle, once one learns to count hands properly, it will never be forgotten and believe me, all human minds (or almost) are capable of doing it and much more.

Good luck!

bobbywolffFebruary 24th, 2019 at 1:13 am

Hi Joe1,

Your attitude seems just about right to eventually, if not sooner, improve your game by bounds and leaps.

Take it slowly, not biting off too much, but rather always trying to understand as much as possible about the variety of problems which bridge presents. And don’t forget to ask questions (no matter how simple you fear they are, there will be many who will benefit, if we are up to give you an accurate answer).

No bridge players are ever born, making the task much different than genius like icons in history who are born to music, art, physical sports and no doubt, other feats.

Experience is 100% necessary and the only way to get the right kind is to play against the best players you can find, with a partner who wants to do the same.

From there it will take time, with the result usually the sum total of your effort.

Also good luck to you and let us help anytime you feel like asking.

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