Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, May 25th, 2019

That best portion of a good man’s life,
His little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and love.

William Wordsworth

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


Our final example in the theme of negotiating a suit missing the queen and jack will happen to you only once in a lifetime; be ready for it, please!

In the finals of the World Championships in Beijing in 1995, neither the men nor women managed to stop low — indeed, three pairs bid the hands to game, and no one made much of an attempt to make it. Strangely enough, when South declares the hand on a diamond lead, the contract is unbreakable. Of course, South can play for a mundane doubleton queen-jack of trumps, but that will never get you in the papers, will it?

In four hearts, there is no need to rush things; the timing is a little awkward, but it is simplest to finesse the diamond jack at trick one, then play a club. East must take his ace, and a diamond return is as good as any. South wins the ace, plays a spade to the king, then leads the diamond king for a spade discard; now the carding makes it safe to ruff a diamond. Next cash the club king, pitching a spade, ruff a club and exit with a spade from dummy. In the five-card ending, either defender can take this trick, but it is best for West to overtake East’s queen with the ace and cash his side’s second spade trick.

However, declarer is now left with A-9-4 in trumps facing K-10-6, and the defense’s trump trick is about to vanish. When West leads a club, you ruff low in dummy, and whether East ruffs in with the eight or queen, you are home free. A perfect Devil’s coup.

There is as yet no official Wolff’s Law. I have laid down the law in so many areas it would be hard to define just one. Among the conclusions I have come to in a long life at the table is that 4-4-4-1 hands play disappointingly on offense, but always play nicely on defense. Stretching to open three-suited hands is a fine way to turn a plus score into a minus; this hand is a solid pass, not a light opening bid.


♠ K 10 5 4
 K 10 6 3
 K J 7 4
♣ 9
South West North East

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


Michael BeyroutiJune 8th, 2019 at 11:13 am

West could exit with the heart jack to put declarer to the test.

bobbywolffJune 8th, 2019 at 3:40 pm

Hi Michael,

No doubt he should and probably would, but the G2 available with the medium to high level game is for the declarer to play for split honors between the two defenders, unless point count inconsistencies (with the bidding) deem markedly otherwise.

Also, if the three trump defensive hand happened to be on lead at that defining moment, he might decide to lead low for fear of honor 10 doubleton in his partner’s hand, an experience I wouldn’t advise anyone to chance, although it then becomes a question of valuating potential psychology against brutal reality.

However thanks for your good advice, especially since this time, only the doubleton honor was on lead.

Finally the up and comer player may then begin to realize that even 9’s held can make the difference between success or failure, causing a relative beginner (who thinks numerically), why nines are not at least, given some value, in the generally inaccurate bridge point count theme.

Since 10’s haven’t seriously competed with the top 4, why should 9’s speak up? You and I know the reason to do so might rule out fringe players taking up this difficult game to play, but wow, how sensational it really is.

Richard BickleyJune 8th, 2019 at 7:23 pm

Hi Bobby,

Question: I’ve yet to figure out the time zone that is used in denoting when a comment is made. For instance, your response to Michael is noted as 3:40 p.m., but when I first read it, it was 12:20 p.m. Mountain Daylight time.

In BWTA, you warn about the difficulties of getting good offensive results when opening with marginal 3-suited hands. I took a chance on Board 21 of the Common Game, May 21st. The circumstances were a bit unique. I was playing in our Calgary game with a newbie against the strongest pair who individually have played internationally won an NABC event. And two boards earlier, their superior bidding judgement was on display (Board 19) in bidding to 5S off 1 to stop us from a very makable 5D (6 makes if you choose a ruffing finesse in hearts versus a standard club finesse). But back to Board 21. I was in second seat, NV vs. V, after a Pass and was looking at: QJ72, K, KQJ9, 10965. Tactically, I worried about getting in later on with my hand, especially against superior opponents and with a very inexperienced partner. So I risked 1D, heard 1H on my left, and 2C by partner, whatever she meant. Pass by RHO, so I raised to 3C, partly to try to buy the partial, if possible, partly in case my partner had a big hand. She passed, played the contract decently, losing 2 spades, 1 heart, and 2 clubs for 10 of 11 matchpoints. Looking at all four hands, it is possible that I would have been able to reopen with a double after 1H on my left and a pass on my right, but responder might have bid either 1S (he had 4 to go along with a club ace) or 1NT. I would have passed either bid, and who knows how my partner would have understood my reopening double — some very basic bidding errors were to occur on other hands like rebidding 4 card suits at the 2-level.