Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Dealer: North

Vul: East-West


K J 6 5 4

J 7

8 7 4

A 4 2


Q 9 8 7 2

K Q 8 3

A Q J 6


10 9 6

10 5 3 2

Q 10 9 7 6 5


A 10 3

A 5 4 2

K 9

K J 8 3


South West North East
    Pass Pass
1 1 Pass Pass
Dbl. 2 Dbl. Pass
2 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass

Opening Lead: Diamond Queen

“The superior man is distressed by his want of ability.”

— Confucius

One of the frequently debated questions in bridge is whether technical skills are more important than table presence. For what it is worth, my view is that you can aspire to be a very good player by doing nothing more than master the percentages. But to excel at the top level, you need that indefinable ability to play against the percentages, and also to be able to encourage your opponents to play badly.


Today’s deal is from the qualifying round of a world championship. North and South were playing a weak no-trump and four-card majors; hence, the opening bid. When West overcalled, North could not make a penalty double of the one-spade overcall, so passed for the time being, and South, Kitty Teltscher, reopened with a takeout double.


West chose a good moment to rebid two diamonds, and now North doubled to show a penalty double of spades and some diamond length. Teltscher judged well to remove this, rightly fearing that declarer might be able to make a lot of tricks on a crossruff. Thus North-South reached a normal game, but had been armed with considerable additional information.


West led a helpful diamond queen, but even so, it was hard to see any hope of a ninth trick. However, declarer spotted a chance. She won the diamond king and played the spade three. West sleepily played the two, so dummy’s four won the second trick! After that, it was a simple matter to finesse in clubs and spades to arrive at nine tricks.


South Holds:

K J 6 5 4
J 7
8 7 4
A 4 2


South West North East
Pass 1 2 Pass
ANSWER: You should not be ashamed to introduce your spades now.-It is a constructive bid, not an attempt to correct the partscore with a weak hand. Your partner knows from your initial pass that you do not have the earth in spades, but from your perspective, game in either black suit is a still a distinct possibility, so let your partner in on the secret too.


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


jim2September 20th, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I suspect that if West had passed the snooze check, that declarer would next have lead the club deuce to test East’s wakefulness!

Bobby WolffSeptember 20th, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Hi Jim2,

Although the bidding diagram deprived East of his rightful 5 of clubs, he should, of course, play the nine to make sure South doesn’t finesse his eight through him. Also, of course, the bidding did not guarantee that West’s other 3 or 4 non pointed suit cards were all hearts.

From another point of view, this type of hand illustrates why defense, rather than declarer’s play, is the tougher to play, since the declarer is always looking at all 26 of his soldiers while the defense is left to ponder seeing only 13 of each, plus of course, his partner’s already played ducats and, of course, sometimes the tell-tale bidding.

Going still further, a 4 card major system, often makes it more difficult for the defense to be as accurate in its analysis of the bidding since the variance of determining the opponent’s distribution is greater, although it sometimes works both ways in making it more problematical for the declaring side to sort out the possibilities in determining the eventual contract.

Final caveats to be considered are:

1. Once a fit is established, it usually is better to jump to what one thinks is the right contract without further exchange of tell tale information to the wary opponents.

2. When slams are in the air, scientific examination is usually required and fast arrival is often inaccurate, in spite of going slowly and creating road maps for the defense to offer their most difficult challenge.

3. The above has led the top level world bridge community to open 1 NT more frequently, encompassing wider range distribution in order to get the high card content told to partner, since the sequence 1NT Pass 3NT denies good opponents much information in order to choose their most effective opening lead, which in so many cases, is critical to the success of the hand.

4. Bridge high-level judgment is still in the developmental stage in determining what to disclose and what not to, while playing world class bridge against each other, with only the above caveats a general assessment of the overall picture.

5. With opening bids getting lighter and lighter among our top world players, more of the same type of attempting to preempt good opponents out of bidding room, creating less accurate guesswork for them. seems the order of the day, but, at least at this point in time, very few are sure of what will eventually work out the best in the long run.

6. The only overall certainty, at least for me, is that high-level bridge continues to offer enormous challenges and off the charts intellectual stimulation to all who are prepared to engage it at the level we speak of, as long as the required well-known active bridge ethics are always the elephant in the room. End of story!

jim2September 20th, 2011 at 2:59 pm

On defense being tough, in this hand West would be tested some more when Declarer led a club to the jack (East inserting the 9C), and then played the KC.

After all, the locations of the red 10s are not known.

A spade pitch is fatal, that’s clear, but pitching one small from each red suit, is also fatal, and that looks less clear.