Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces On Bridge: Friday, May 27th, 2011

Vulnerable: Neither

Dealer: West


A K Q 8

8 7

A J 10 8

K 9 5


7 3

A K 9 3 2


A 10 7 6 2


10 5 4

Q J 10 4

7 5 3 2

J 4


J 9 6 2

6 5

K Q 9 4

Q 8 3


South West North East
1 Dbl. 3 *
3 4 4 All pass


Opening Lead: Heart king

“He is an expeditious man who likes to hurry his patients along; and when you have to die, he sees to that quickest in all the world.”

— Moliere

Today’s deal saw one player at the table lulled into a false sense of security. Before I spell out the details, you might care to look at all 52 cards and listen to an analysis of the play, before determining whether you might have made the same mistake.

Defending four hearts, West led a top heart, and despite his partner’s play of the queen, indicating possession of the jack in case West wanted to underlead to his partner, West simply cashed a second top heart and shifted to a trump.

Declarer took the trump king and led a spade to his jack, then led a club to the king, and drew the last trump. Now came four rounds of diamonds, ending in hand, and South exited with a low club. East won the jack and now had nothing but hearts left. That gave declarer the ruff-sluff he needed, to discard his club loser from one hand and ruff in the other.

So who did well, and who did badly? First of all, declarer deserves credit for giving both defenders a chance to err. He led clubs early enough to tempt West into flying up with the ace and losing his side’s second club trick. But he also picked his spot to persuade East to lose focus. On the first round of clubs, East needed to unblock his jack. Had he done so, West would have been able to cash his two club winners, whatever declarer did.


South holds:

J 9 6 2
6 5
K Q 9 4
Q 8 3


South West North East
1 1
Dbl. Pass 2 Pass
ANSWER: Some questions of bidding are more about partnership agreement than right or wrong. Here I believe North has shown both minors, but has almost denied extras. He could have jumped to three diamonds with modest extras, or cuebid, then bid diamonds, with a game-forcing hand. This sequence is natural but shows a minimum hand, so pass while the going is good.


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


jim2June 10th, 2011 at 3:46 pm

It’s too bad the bidding quiz is not an actual hand.

West could not find a heart raise despite South’s shortness, East had not enough extra length to rebid, and North has bid both minor suits. So, if West has a doubleton to match South’s and East has only 5, then North must have 4 hearts to go with his minor suits, so is he 0-4-4-5?

However, the more hearts one places in non-West hands, the more the spade suit raises questions. If North really does have a spade void, East surely would have doubled with both majors, and so must have no more than 3. This means West has 6 or more spades and made no bid, not even a pre-empt.

Also, all four hands are denying extras! West can’t make a noise, not even a pre-emptive one. North has no extras, and East seems also to have nothing more to show beyond a minimum overcall. I keep adding the South hand and getting 8 HCP. Give North 13, East 11, West 3, and then add in South’s 8 and 5 HCP appear to have evaporated! Foreign aid exported to another deal? 🙂

Anyway, I had so much fun with this! Thank you, Mr. Wolff, and – as I type this – I hope the last 30 Boards in the Final in Detroit are going well. (Bobby’s team – “Schwartz” was ahead after 60 of 90, with the last 30 to be played today)

jim2June 10th, 2011 at 6:10 pm

With 15 hands left (76 through 90), Mr. Wolff’s team (“Schwartz”) has increased their lead!

1 Lynch 124

2 Schwartz 174

jim2June 10th, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Congratulations, Mr. Wolff!

Final score at Detroit:

Lynch 166

Schwartz 201

bobby wolffJune 11th, 2011 at 7:57 am

Hi Jim2,

First, much thanks for your rooting interest and, of course, your sincere congratulations for my team’s triumph in the 2011 Senior trials, also known as geezers.

Now to more important bridge talk about the BWTA bridge hand. The good news is that your right-on bridge logic about using the bidding (or lack of, similar to Sherlock Holmes’ dog who did not bark) as a forerunner to both help determine how many to bid as well as later to declarer on how to play the hand by guessing the distribution of the location of the pertinent high cards.

Sometimes high-level players simply pass, rather than support partner, when they feel that their opponents, because of the location of their high cards, will make more tricks than usual and do not want to randomly push their opponents to a game which they are likely to make.

Consequently, although your mind is directly on the pulse of our great game, there are psychological factors which need to be also considered.

And going further, it, at least to me, explains why experience is, in many ways, more important than sheer talent in the overall development of a wannabe great bridge player. It should also be noted that the experience gleaned, MUST be against top level pllayers (or almost) otherwise it is not worth the paper on which even an oral agreement has been made.

Without your comments, all of the players worldwide who may be reading this, might be deprived of understanding what is being said, which, in turn, will enable them to ponder and then arrive at their own conclusions.

DarinTJune 11th, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Re: jim2’s astute analysis, East-West could still have a heart fit of sorts since East can overcall with six and West wouldn’t raise with two. Also I wouldn’t be so sure that West doesn’t have some values. With say a 7-9 count and spades and clubs, West is well placed to pass and await developments rather than bid in what is looking like a misfit hand.

Michael SteinJune 11th, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Regarding the comment: “East surely would have doubled with both majors”. Might East reasonably overcall a heart holding 5 good hearts and 4 not-so-good spades, along with a hand not good enough to double and rebid hearts?


bobbywolffJune 12th, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Hi Darin T,

Without getting into specifics, at least some talented bridge players pride themselves at being tough opponents by simply being unpredictable.

A. Conan Doyle and Alfred Hitchcock both made a very good living by concocting scripts which involved surprising twists based on events not being what they seemed. And so it is with some recognized bridge players who have gathered an earned reputation of being very hard to analyze. For example, if one was dealt 13 of a suit they would probably either pass as dealer or possibly open only at the one level. Very much like poker experts who, in order to win, cannot ever be stereotyped by their opposition.

All of the very top lifetime world bridge players have at least, according to my experience, some of that quality within them.

The above is only disclosed by me as an enhancing quality, not one of sinister or certainly even borderline unethical impact.

bobbywolffJune 12th, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Hi Michael,

Yes indeed, a hand such as Axxx, KQJ9x, Qx, Jx and over a one club or one diamond opening by his RHO would be likely to overcall 1 heart (I know I would) rather than to double and encourage a response of the other minor suit. Do not forget that actions later by this hand might enable a good spade contract to still be reached should the bidding continue along conventional lines.

Thanks for your appropriate remarks.