Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Dealer: North

Vul: Both


K 8 5 2

7 3 2

A Q 9 6

K 10


J 10 7 4

K Q 10 4

K 5

Q 9 5


Q 6

9 8 6

J 8 7 4

J 8 6 2


A 9 3

A J 5

10 3 2

A 7 4 3


South West North East
    1 Pass
3 NT All Pass    

Opening Lead: Heart Queen

“The question is.’ said Humpty Dumpty ‘which is to be master — that’s all.'”

— Lewis Carroll

On this deal from last fall’s Blue Ribbon Pairs, Marty Fleisher and Mike Kamil found a sensational defense against Gail Greenberg’s three no-trump.


Fleisher led the heart queen, asking for an unblock of the jack, ducked all around as Kamil (East) gave count with the six. Now the deceptive spade 10 went to dummy’s king, followed by a spade to the ace. The spade nine put Fleisher back on lead (Kamil pitching the heart nine), and he exited with his fourth spade, taken in dummy with the eight as Kamil discarded the heart eight.


Greenberg played a diamond from dummy now, putting in the 10 when Kamil followed with the four. Fleisher won the king and exited with the diamond five. Greenberg took dummy’s ace, played the club king, then the club 10 to her ace — and Fleisher unblocked his queen to avoid being thrown in to lead hearts. Now Greenberg could not simply exit with a club — East could overtake West’s nine with the jack to cash the club eight.


So Greenberg cashed the heart ace, and East had to pitch a club to keep two diamonds. Seeing what was coming, he pitched the club jack!


Declarer could have settled for eight tricks, but she could have made her game if East’s remaining club was the nine. So she exited with her low club, hoping that Kamil would have to win and lead into dummy’s diamond tenace. When it was West who produced the club nine, he could cash his hearts for down two.


South Holds:

A 9 3
A J 5
10 3 2
A 7 4 3


South West North East
Pass Pass 1 Pass
2 Pass 2 Pass
ANSWER: The lower range for a balancing call of one spade is considerably less than an opening bid, and your partner has shown that he has no extras. If you were going to make one more try for game, the best call is probably a bid of two no-trump, but my view is that you should protect your plus score by passing.


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


jim2December 10th, 2011 at 1:33 pm

What if West had not sought deception and, instead, had simply led the spade 4 instead of the 10?

bobbywolffDecember 10th, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Hi Jim 2,

If West would have done what you suggested, it would depend on what the declarer did with the spades. If she would have won in hand and then led a spade toward dummy and if West did not split his honors (hoping for a misguess) it is likely Gail would have made her contract by taking 3 spades, 3 diamonds, 2 clubs and 1 heart.

However, since this is a real hand and in effect, her play only took 2 diamond tricks (by her having to, or not taking pains not to) leading diamonds originally from the wrong hand.

One of the natures of declarer play seems to be the overall timing, particularly on a hand such as this one, where almost every suit required deft handling.

Sooner or later we all, after much experience, begin to realize how advantageous it is to have the opponents, rathur than us, lead a suit so we will be able to play 2nd and 4th instead of 1st and 3rd.

Going still further, the Aces (during the late 1960’s) would have filed this hand under declarer analysis and technique in order to try and get the feel for how important it is to try and be in the right hand to first lead a suit. Nothing easy about this subject and while probably no one player is close to perfect in his overall analyses the best results come from difficult decisions by constructing overall hand patterns which meet the evidence before us, which can only be the defense up to then, replete with defensive hesitations (and, of course, but not so in this hand, the bidding), and also having some idea of who your opponents are and how they might think (not at all, unlike poker).

Sadly, this type of thinking, probably because of the mind energy required, is not for everyone, so is not written about as often as it might be.

clarksburgDecember 10th, 2011 at 4:09 pm

This is beginner / intermediate question about today’s Bid with Aces. South made the cuebid raise with three trumps. Is it preferred to have four; but OK with three if that’s the best description? Also, in general, if on the borderline of a cuebid raise, what would be better: xxxx or Axx. (I realize all this could depend on whether partner opened, overcalled or balanced in etc.)

Bobby WolffDecember 11th, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

You ask what I consider, though basic, a very interesting and practical evaluation.

Rather than isolate the difference between 4 card and 3 card support and thus whether Axx is as good as xxxx, the whole hand should, in toto, be evaluated and then acted on.

Here, believe it or not, I would have made a TO double at my first turn, based on the usual under valuation of Aces, at least 3 card support for both unbid majors, although keeping in mind the minus involved in having your only 4 card suit being the opponent’s opening bid suit.

At least to me with the changing and ever improving valuation by the highest-level experts, getting into the bidding early is less risky than first thought, eliminates the possibility of once in a while being totally shut out of conveniently being heard, and is overall good strategy in what should be all of our intentions, to be a tough opponent.

Having said the above, and being old fashioned enough to pass the first time, it now represents a different type of judgment. Partner has merely balanced 1 spade and might be as weak as KQJxx of spades and possibly a side queen. If so, should we not welcome his not selling out and by so showing that enterprise, not penalize him for acting?

However, no one, (and I mean no self-respecting super expert) can possibly have the idea that the language of bridge (bidding) is so scientific as to not require deft judgment to succeed. The above merely begins to get into the active ethics in both tempo and emphasis which partner’s competitive action may have been made.

Of course, for teaching purposes, we will always assume that everyone, especially our partner, is totally circumspect in his behavior and so it follows that he has made the absolute minimum rebid he could have offered.

One of my undying motives in discussing these types of fairly common situations is to make all bridge lovers aware of what their ethical responsibilities should be in order to keep our great, off the charts positive game, up to the standards we all desperately need it (or should) to be.

Having said the above would it be wrong to now, at our next turn, venture 2NT or 3 spades rather than pass? No, it wouldn’t, especially if playing with a conservative player who, if faced with a choice, usually takes a view, who by some other good player’s judgment, would consider wimpy.

The message I would like to convey is that there is nothing wrong with liking chocolate instead of vanilla, or even strawberry, but always to be consistent with your actions, at least with whoever is your partner at that time. And even above that, please continue to honor our game, by NEVER conveying unauthorized information by either tone or tempo.

Thanks for listening, which was meant to be delivered to everyone (not just the messenger), and not even slightly implying anything negative to you.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonDecember 11th, 2011 at 9:37 pm

HBJ : I’m a tad persplexed. East can figure out that South holds AJ of hearts, Ace of spades and no doubt the Ace of clubs.

If South also holds the King of diamonds then the contract is rigid 3D,3S,2C and 1H, so East must play for West to hold the Kx of diamonds, and dive in with the jack when declarer plays a low diamond from dummy. It can’t cost but has everything to gain if he gets in to fire a heart through to defeat the contract.
Would I be an East who’s insane or inspired ?

clarksburgDecember 11th, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Thanks Mr. Wolff.
Please check your E-mail