Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Vulnerable: East-West

Dealer: North


A 10 9 4 3

A K 10 6

10 8

10 2


K 8 7 2


A Q 2

A Q 9 7 4


Q 5

3 2

9 7 6 4 3

J 6 5 3


J 6

Q J 9 8 7 4

K J 5

K 8


South West North East
1 Pass
2 Pass 4 All pass

Opening Lead: Club ace

“For her own breakfast she’ll project a scheme,

Nor take her tea without a stratagem.”

— Edward Young

In today’s deal from last year’s Gold Coast Tournament in Queensland, Steve Hamaoui declared four hearts. West kicked off with the club ace, then continued the suit.

Declarer inferred that West’s decision to lead a club marked the diamond ace offside, and the spade honors were surely split. It seemed likely that West had been reluctant to lead a spade from three or four to an honor. If East had the spade king, there was no way to keep him off lead, but just in case he had the spade queen, declarer crossed to a top heart at trick three and led a low spade from dummy to his jack! Can we all honestly put our hands on our hearts and say we would have risen with the queen?

Once West won the spade king, the hand was over. In fact, West had to cash the diamond ace to prevent Hamaoui from making overtricks on a deal where almost everyone else in four hearts went down at least a trick.

By contrast, at the table where the winners of the Senior event were defending, West led a low spade. Declarer went up with the ace, drew trumps ending in dummy, and ran the diamond 10, hoping for a miracle. It was not to be; West won and led a low spade to his partner’s queen for the club shift. That set up five defensive winners and gave East-West a great result.


South holds:

J 6
Q J 9 8 7 4
K J 5
K 8


South West North East
Pass 1
ANSWER: Many players would add up their 11 points and make a simple overcall in hearts. A better way to look at this hand is that facing a passed partner, you have a six-card suit and a hand with very few controls. This argues for pre-emption, not a simple overcall, so bid two hearts. The action makes it far harder for your opponents to bid accurately, while not putting your side at significant risk.


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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


John Howard GibsonMay 3rd, 2011 at 11:19 am

HBJ : Hi there….after The Ace of clubs and another, East should knowthat both declarer and dummy are out of clubs. Then after hearts have been drawn, the possibillity of an end play on West looms large.

If South has Kx of spades he has no problem : only 2 diamonds to lose. If he has Kxx, declarer will duck if East plays low, and now spades are set up for diamond discards ( if needed).

But if declarer has Jx then the only hope for the defence is to rise with the queen. I’m sure Sherlock Holmes would have deduced that.

bobbywolffMay 3rd, 2011 at 11:53 am


With certain small reservations I agree 100% with you. While I do not think East can be at all sure that declarer started this hand with only a doubleton king of clubs, your basic premise rings as right as rain.

Your superior analysis verifies two frequent caveats often present in competitive bridge.

1. Except for matchpoints, all efforts by the defense should be directed toward defeating contracts, particularly games and slams, rather than unduly worrying about allowing declarer an extra overtrick occasionally.

2. This hand is just another in a never ending bevy of examples which tends to show matchpoint duplicate games to be bastardized versions of either rubber bridge or IMP scored ones.

Bridge is a tough enough game, without the players having to assume the role of being clairvoyant, a quality which does not lend itself to the human condition.

3. Perhaps the frequent playing of matchpoint events has dumbed down otherwise excellent players, but whether it has or not, shouldn’t keep you from earning the new name of Howard Sherlock Johnson. Congratulations!

John Howard GibsonMay 3rd, 2011 at 12:16 pm

HBJ : There is a couple of other points to consider perhaps.

If East considers it can’t cost to rise with the queen, then he should. If declarer had Kxx, then surely he would run the 10 from dummy.

Moreover why is declarer playing this way ( if say he holds Jx or Jxx ) rather than running the jack from hand to set up a finessing postion if the spade honours are split. Playing low to the jack can give away 2 tricks in that suit, unless (a) it is a doubleton of course and (b) he’s hoping that being early doors that East unsuspectingly plays low.

jim2May 3rd, 2011 at 12:27 pm

I must confess that the only opening lead that would have occurred to me was the 5H.

Yes, there would be some small risk of trapping pard with Qxx, but leading any other suit would appear almost guaranteed to give declarer a trick.

Bruce KarlsonMay 3rd, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Jim- I am interested in BW’s respnse as I would have led the 5 also. With 15 points in my hand, partner may not even have a queen much less the spade queen. I also have very forgiving partners…

bobbywolffMay 3rd, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Hi everyone,

If asked to judge between choices of opening leads, I would agree to a trump lead, although normally I would shy away, to the point of disdain, for even considering leading a singleton trump in most situations.

However experience usually shows that every situation has different elements and trying to deal with these particular circumstances I will choose these ratings:

5 of hearts=100

Ace of clubs=60

8 of spades=30


The advantage of the Ace of Clubs is, of course hoping the king is in dummy which would erase the small percentage of destroying the Qxx or J(10)xx of hearts in partner’s hand since the dummy may have jump raised with only 3 cards. The lead of the 8 of spades is to try and convince declarer that I may be leading from shortness and since I have all the material assets of the defense, I do not mind misleading partner. Besides, with his likely Yarborough (or almost) he should be privy to my proposed ruse.

David WarheitMay 4th, 2011 at 4:37 am

Friday’s hand, with South trying to make 4 spades, is from Reese on Play by Terence Reese (1948), p.41. It is only right that if you use a hand previously published that you acknowledge the source.

bobbywolffMay 4th, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Hi David,

I apologize to you and whomever else may be offended by what you refer to as using a hand from Terence Reese’s 1948 book named Reese on Play without crediting the author.

However, I would like to go on to say that the daily writing of a bridge column requires adhering to a strict number of words, beyond which will be cut by either the syndicate or the client newspapers before publication, since all newspapers, even around the world, prefer advertising space available for sale, to attempted perfection in writing the column.

Since bridge authors are well aware of this and other writing caveats, at least to me, certain shortcuts are made and apparently readily accepted, with little cause for alarm, by the specialized world of bridge writers and bridge reporting.

Again, no doubt, I say I’m sorry, especially in regard to Terence Reese who still, after almost 70 years, is regarded as perhaps the greatest bridge writer ever, but I think the truth always needs to be explained and besides the bridge themes described in many bridge columns (as opposed to the mere reporting of tournament hands) more often than not, gets clouded so that it sometimes becomes difficult, if not almost impossible, to trace the original source.

I, for one, appreciate your morality and vow to try and live up to at least as close as possible to the standards you suggest.

jim2May 4th, 2011 at 12:45 pm

DW –

If you recalled that hand from having read it years ago, and then went back and confirmed it, I tip my hat to you, sir!

Judy Kay-WolffMay 4th, 2011 at 2:42 pm

To: David and Jim II

I am bemused by your ‘anality’. Passing down bridge hands from decades ago without recognition is publicly categorized and accepted as the field of public domain. No doubt Reese was probably the greatest bridge writer of all time though dredged through the mud for his lack of morality and ethics despite the findings of the English Bridge Tribunal. Funny you would attempt to deify and recognize even a great writer like Reese when his bridge morals belong in a garbage can.

Judy Kay-Wolff

jim2May 4th, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Lady Kay-Wolff –

I congratulated DW on his memory.

Can you point to where I did any of what so “bemused” you?

Judy Kay-WolffMay 4th, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Dear Jim 2:

I interpretted your message as a note of agreement and congratulations concerning a person who will always be looked down upon by non-Brits. Any recogition of such scoundrels and disgraces to the game ruffles my feathers and gets my dander up. My apologies.

Thanks for my new moniker.

Lady Kay-Wolff

jim2May 4th, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Lady Kay-Wolff –

No problems here, and YAQW.

David WarheitMay 5th, 2011 at 12:31 pm

To Bobby: Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

To Judy: First, I don’t appreciate being called names especially when I have done nothing wrong. Second, you should know that in the field of intellectual property there are not 2 rules, one for “scoundrels and disgraces” and one for everyone else. The rules apply equally to everyone. If we were to apply your standards, we should be criticizing Bobby just for using something originally published by Terence Reese. While it may be true that “shortcuts” are prevalent in the specialized world of bridge writing, that does not in any way justify such practice. Heck, even I could become a great bridge writer if all I did was recycle hands previously analyzed by the likes of Terence Reese but without so acknowledging.

bobbywolffMay 5th, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Hi David,

Thanks for your right-on comments about your take on what you consider the plagiarism of a hand Terence Reese originated in his 1948 book.

In these transparent and therefore visible years whereupon modern day communications has been geometrically multiplied because of the media, personal computers, and a quantum leap in general education worldwide, together making for a better world, but at the same time causing different perceptions to sometimes conflict.

I have, in effect, been directly involved in the Aces on Bridge column, since its inception in 1970 and with my byline since 1982, the year of Ira Corn’s (founder of the Aces) death.

During that time the Aces column has written on a vast number of bridge subjects involving tournament hands, contrived particular subject hands, theoretical teaching hands, all from the standpoint of bidding, declarer’s play and defense as well as from psychological, technical and other thought provoking subjects such as bridge ethics and sometimes, but rarely, even psychic bidding opportunities.

My personal involvement in the World Bridge Federation added to the current modern day high-level around the world bridge playing, above all has called attention, at least to me, the vast amount of multi-cultural differences presented now as never before. True, my living in the somewhat isolated USA, has, no doubt, made me naive, especially compared to many others who live closely surrounded by many other nationalities and different ways of thinking.

Cutting to the chase, I do not think of myself, nor ever did, as a “great” bridge writer nor a “wonderful” bridge player, but rather a bridge devotee and vigilante who now has turned to furthering the interest in our great game and singing its praises so that the USA can join with the rest of the world, particularly Europe and to some extent, China, in at least making a major effort to get bridge in primary and secondary schools so that bridge will be unlikely to perish on this side of the Atlantic.

David, I wish I could assure you that what has ruffled your feathers (Reese’s hand) will never happen again, but since that hand was actually written about 6 months ago and, at least to my knowledge, was not known by my team as to where it originated, while it doesn’t absolve me of blame, it does make it ever difficult to be sure of anything.

The cultural differences, described above, lend themselves all the way from horrible stealthy bridge cheating to bridge hand plagiarism among bridge writers, whether known or unknown. While neither of the above should be countenanced, perhaps some slack should be given in the degree.

As to Judy’s involvement, please forgive her emotions since she, because again of the modern age, is most of the time, unable to determine the degree of wrath expressed and like the topical Navy Seals, perhaps, but maybe not, acted in too aggressive a manner.

Such is the plight of “The Lone Wolff” and his bride in their roles of bridge lovers, bridge activists, lifetime partners, and general protectors.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 5th, 2011 at 6:06 pm


I was out at the time Bobby ill-spoke on behalf of his bride. Retract any regrets on my part. My feelings are still the same. To make apologies to the likes of people lile Terrence Reese (or the exalted Blue Team) makes me wanna puke. When you consider unknowingly using one of Reese’s bridge hands — inferring stealth — you certainly struck a nerve. The only commonality is his reputation which goes hand in hand with the subject matter.

jim2May 5th, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Mr. Wolff –

I respectfully disagree with your paragraph six.

11 world championships and 30+ nationals ….