Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

I’ll bet my money on the bobtail nag
Somebody bet on the bay.

Stephen Foster

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

*Puppet to three clubs


Bridge players love to complain, and picking up a complete Yarborough — a hand with no card higher than a nine — offers the perfect opportunity. In the days of whist, Lord Yarborough offered insurance of 1,000 to 1 against the chance of picking up such a hand. Of course, as is usual in such cases, the bookmaker had rigged the calculation in his favor: The true odds are actually 1,827 to 1.

In today’s deal, South bought his Yarborough in dummy, but he managed to exploit its meager assets in an elegant fashion for the equivalent of a trick. See if you can do the same.

When West cashes the heart king and continues with the ace against four spades, you must plan the play. Suppose you ruff, then draw trumps. Now you will find that you are out of trumps, and the defenders will run hearts on you after you have dislodged the club ace.

You must therefore follow the sound principle of trying to set up your side suit when your trump holding is tenuous. Ruff the second heart, then go after clubs, leading the king in the hope that the defenders win their ace and either don’t have a ruff or fail to take it.

After East wins his ace, he plays back another heart. Now comes the second key move. You must not ruff, but instead pitch a diamond from your hand. At this point, dummy will be out of hearts, so dummy’s singleton spade protects you against further forces in hearts.

No matter what the defenders play, you can win and draw trumps, happy to find that they break 4-3. You can next unblock your high clubs and overtake the eight, eventually discarding your last diamond on the fifth club.

I can see the attraction of heading for six clubs, but with so many holes to fill, this hand seems more about game than slam. Four spades may be considerably easier to make than five clubs, so I would simply bid four spades now. For slam to make, you would need partner to have an ace and either long clubs or the diamond king.


♠ A K Q J 6
 A J 10
♣ K Q J 8
South West North East
Dbl. Pass 4 ♣ 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 ClimieMay 15th, 2019 at 9:26 am

Hi Bobby,

Nice play hand today, with North’s solitary trump a key card. On BWTA I wonder what we can infer given West didn’t raise hearts but partner didn’t bid 3N or prefer (say) a 3 card spade bid keeping tings low to 4C? I suspect partner has 4 moderate hearts, at most 3 spades (and he’ll have 5C in that case) and a weak hand. With (say) HQ10xx and about 8 or 9 points he might have tried a sporting 3N albeit with fingers crossed.

Also a lead problem from last night which I turned into a game of Russian Roulette (in IMP terms anyway). 4th at adverse you hold xx K87x AKx Q1087. Weak 2S P P (after squirming) X and partner leaves it in. More squirming from RHO who bids 2N when I had a rush of blood and hit it on the basis Christmas is probably early. Passed out and enquiry suggests 2N is to play, not minors, and the oppo haven’t discussed Redbl but it would presumably be for rescue. Ignoring the insanity of my mad axeman impression (partner is still there) what do you lead?



bobbywolffMay 15th, 2019 at 10:40 am

Hi Iain aka MA,

First of all, a little love for your aggressive penalty double of 2NT.

Yes, a trifle bold, but partner by passing 2 spades doubled will very likely have doubled 2NT anyway. Thus by you doing so instead, allows you willing to protect partner’s ego, in case of an unlikely make.

Right or wrong I would lead a spade since to guess what other suit to begin might be, if you are unlucky, finding a way to give a possible tragic 8th trick (contract making) away and also losing the defensive tempo to grab the necessary 6 tricks necessary for success.

Finally, since LHO’s primary suit is spades, but according to the bidding, partner will be well endowed with tricks there, and even more so, once he wins his first trick will be much better positioned to know which of the other three suits to lead through the declarer.

IOW a cat and mouse beginning, but directed to the task in hand, gleaning 6 tricks before the declarer gathers 8.

Not to mention saving oneself from a poisonous stare from partner when, if choosing another suit, lady luck vanishes from view and you choose the wrong one.

If so, your partner may, not so gleefully say to you. “By first doubling and then choosing a random unknown opening lead choice (instead of what the bidding called for), you have just compounded your felony and although you have probably not played this game long, I suspect you only learned this morning, and if so, do you mind informing me, what time this morning”?

And finally worse, your partner is big and brawny.

jim2May 15th, 2019 at 11:12 am

This was another one of those [expletive deleted] Mud Cup hands.

I sat East and N-S stumbled and bumbled all the way to 6C.

Partner started with a top heart and then another, missing our one chance.

A.V. Ramana RaoMay 15th, 2019 at 12:28 pm

Hi Jim 2
I am very curious to know the bidding sequence to six clubs. Well , reaching there and making it albeit with a defensive slip – on a dummy reversal ( with a yarborough dummy) : Certainly your opponents had very favourable stars on that day ( dummy reversal perhaps may not be correct term technically , as if north were to be declarer, it would benormal play but your diamond lead would have taken the contract down )

A.V.Ramana RaoMay 15th, 2019 at 12:44 pm

Sorry , was it 5 c or 6 c ?
6 c is always down but I was carried away by your last line ” missing our chance” without going into the details

AviMay 15th, 2019 at 12:52 pm

Hi Bobby

I have an off topic question.
I have learned that playing 4-4 fits is better than playing 5-4 fits, since you can often find a discard on the 5th card.
Facing a strong NT opening (15-17), what would you recommend doing with a 6-4 hand?
play the “known” minimal 8 card fit or look for the 4-4 fit?
In our partnership we have a method for showing such a hand (given that it is game invitational at least).

I would like to learn what to do in general with such hands, and also what to do with the following specific hand, if it differs from the general guideline:
AJxx, KQxxxx, xx, x.

AviMay 15th, 2019 at 12:53 pm


Iain ClimieMay 15th, 2019 at 1:15 pm

Hi Bobby,

A spade is OK despite my fear of declarer being void and my giving him access to dummy (which actually had AK109xx 10x J 9xxx wit partner having QJ876 Qx 108xx Jx so declarer had None AJ9xx Q9xxx AKx). Declarer said he’d have taken the SA, and would probably have played the H10 covered and he can plough on with hearts. We should come to at least 6 tricks, though, even with partner having no entry. I got it into my head that declarer didn’t have much in hearts or he’d have redoubled, so shied away from either the spade or club with are OK (even a top diamond and switch), and tried a small heart at T1, small, Q, Ace so things went a little wrong! I compounded the felony by messing up the end position to concede the overtrick but we only lost a few as teammates somehow brought home 2S X. Live and learn!

The (scratch) team still won the club session despite psychotically hitting (or getting hit in) a raft of contracts some of which made and some of which crashed off. The way we bid would have made most pairs specialists I know blanch! There again, this was our only serious bad board as a pair (brand new partner) although partner ran from 1N (12-14) doubled on a 4333 6 count winding up in 2H X -1 when I might well have brought 1N home given the likely lead. Teammates admitted they did less than well on the board by conceding 580 vulnerable on the hand.

Very entertaining, though!



Iain ClimieMay 15th, 2019 at 1:18 pm

PS NO worries about partner – he was very philosophical given the many previous good boards and I’m the gym maniac, even at 61.

bobbywolffMay 15th, 2019 at 3:22 pm

Hi Jim2 & AVRR,

Whether defending 5 or 6 clubs, each trick loss oft times is costly and perhaps West should have switched to a diamond at trick two to keep from losing one.

We would need to know the exact bidding, before judgment can determine whether West deserved a charge or not.

bobbywolffMay 15th, 2019 at 3:33 pm

Hi Avi,

It is not a slam dunk that 4-4 fits should be always or almost preferred when holding either alternate 5-4 or especially 6-4 fits in another suit.

Most always, when and if that trump suit breaks 4-1 the more combined trumps held the better (and safer lies the contract). It is only when one discard is critically needed and in the right hand, as well as the trumps breaking 3-2 when that 4-4 fit becomes advantageous.

Just another feature to keep in mind during the bidding, and before the dummy is exposed it usually is difficult to imagine.

The above does somewhat help choosing whether to first rebid the 6 card suit before naming the 4 carder or instead immediately rebid with the lower ranking 4 carder.

The often satisfactory reason for choosing to immediately rebid the 4 carder is when the hand is a good one and that player is hoping that partner can continue to keep the bidding open rather than just pass out the rebid 6 carder without ever having a chance to name a 2nd potential good fit.

IOW, “feel” also plays a part rather than just “routine”.

jim2May 15th, 2019 at 3:36 pm

A.V.Ramana Rao –

5S + 1D + 4C = 10 tricks

Add two heart ruffs in the closed hand.

Only if defenders knock out the AD before the trump ace is dislodged will defeat 6C.

Basically, ruff heart, knock out trump ace, win return, draw trump, run spades pitching diamonds, ruff diamond, ruff heart.

Iain ClimieMay 15th, 2019 at 3:44 pm

Hi Folks,

Aren’t we off CA and HA here? Back to 5C.



bobbywolffMay 15th, 2019 at 3:57 pm

Hi again Avi,

On your example hand, since the 4 carder is a higher ranking suit held with a minimum opening bid, the pendulum switches to always rebidding the 6 carder since otherwise partner will be expecting at least another ace (or its equivalent) in order to “reverse”.

Yes, it is certainly possible to miss a 4 card spade suit and instead play a 6-2 or even 6-1 or even 6-0 fit instead, but I do not remember that ever happening and I’ve been playing over 200 years.

The above also reveals glitches in all bidding systems, and those sometimes happen, but in polite circles no one is allowed to discuss them since to do so is to create just another reason for “justifiable homicide”.

Bob LiptonMay 15th, 2019 at 4:16 pm

Happened to me — or rather my partner — twice on Saturday. He opened a Spade, and with a void and, in one case, a king and a QJ and a spade void, I answered 1NT; he rebid 2 Spades, so I gave up. Made it on the nose. The second time, I had a spade void and two Aces. I bid 1NT, and he bid 3 Spades. I passed and he made 4.

Bob Lipton

bobbywolffMay 15th, 2019 at 4:20 pm

Hi Iain, Jim2, AVRR and Avi,

What’s wrong with 6 clubs down only one instead of two? I’ve always heard down one is good bridge, or is it “The early worm gets the bird”, one or the other, and, of course, what kind of “bird”.

bobbywolffMay 15th, 2019 at 4:31 pm

Hi Iain,

Your description of the session with the 2NT doubled hand was one heck of a roller coaster ride.

However all’s well that ends well and referring to your being a gym maniac at 61 while I, being only one half of that (sans gym) at a much higher number will likely cause me to agree in the future with you quite often, just in case we ever have a toast together.

jim2May 15th, 2019 at 4:32 pm

Crap – 5C it is.

Sheez, I obviously had such a bad exp on that Board that I forgot. It was still a zero, so I guess it must have been 5C with the field going down in 4S.

N-S do have 12 tricks, but the defenders get 2 first.

Iain ClimieMay 15th, 2019 at 4:37 pm

Hi Jim2,

I’ve had a worse day, don’t panic! There again, I haven’t counted diamonds as being 5-4-3-2 or 4-4-4-2 recently (why 14 diamonds and no other suit for goodness sake?) so bridge is getting better.


bobbywolffMay 15th, 2019 at 4:40 pm

Hi Bob,

Your post is definitely a learning experience.

Your partner seems to keep a greater supply of spades than a farm equipment store.

However the bad news would definitely be that his poor partners will hardly ever be declarer unless NT is bid, but to do so would require at least one spade in hand to enable a cross to dummy.

bobbywolffMay 15th, 2019 at 4:44 pm

Hi Jim2,

You and Iain could develop into a world beating bridge partnership and be the first ones to be able to bid and make 8 of a suit.

jim2May 15th, 2019 at 4:48 pm

Well, you TRIED to bid 8 of a suit!

bobbywolffMay 15th, 2019 at 11:08 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, of course, but I have yet to be able to declare it, since the opponents feared my partner’s declarer play and took the sacrifice.