Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 15th, 2011

A nice man is a man of nasty ideas.

Jonathan Swift

North North
Neither ♠ K 8 6 5 4 3
 K 6 5
♣ 8 7 6
West East
♠ A 10 9 2
 J 9 3 2
 J 7 3
♣ 9 2
♠ 7
 A 10 8 7
 K 10 9 2
♣ K J 5 3
♠ Q J
 Q 4
 A Q 8 5 4
♣ A Q 10 4
South West North East
Pass Pass
1 NT Pass 2 Pass
2♠ Pass 3♠ Pass
4♠ All pass    


Bridge is as full of cliches and aphorisms as any sporting activity. A phrase that gets quite a lot of usage is the "power of the closed hand." It means that declarer, by leading toward his own hand, the unknown quantity, can put the defenders under a lot of pressure.

Consider today’s deal, which arose at Board-a-Match, which is a strange hybrid form of scoring. Each team takes on another at pairs scoring, and whoever does better on the board gets a point, regardless of the margin of victory. This leads to attempting to justify nonbridge decisions — which was my excuse for opening one no-trump with the South cards.

After a transfer and a mildly aggressive invitational raise by my partner, I declared four spades. Of course this auction has protected all the side suits, but the 4-1 trump split and the heart-honor location made the game contract extremely tough on the third-and-fifth lead of the heart three. A full point was at stake, since in the other room two spades had produced nine tricks.

Having won the heart queen at trick one, I decided to put East under pressure by playing the diamond ace, ruffing a diamond in dummy, then leading back a small heart. Falling for the bait, East rose with the ace, then shifted to a club. I put in the 10, and when it won, only the bad trump break held me to 10 tricks.

This is a takeout double. Your partner rates to have a singleton heart and at least three cards in both spades and diamonds. While the 6-2 club fit might be a possible contract, playing two spades looks equally attractive, given your good spade spots. So I would bid two spades now.


♠ A 10 9 2
 J 9 3 2
 J 7 3
♣ 9 2
South West North East
1 2♣ 2
Pass Pass Dbl. Pass

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


David WarheitDecember 29th, 2011 at 8:13 pm

The only time playing the ace of hearts makes any sense is when south started with queen-jack doubleton. In that case, west led the 3 of hearts from 9432 which makes no sense. So, full marks to you for your play of the heart suit, but east should easily have figured out what was going on (or more accurately, what was not going on).

Bobby WolffJanuary 1st, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Hi David,

Yes, you again are right on with your assessment of this hand and what it proves is what is apparent.

Bridge, probably not unlike most very competitive games,
usually requires valuable experience, rather than just talent, to get better results.

The lesson here, if there is one, is to give one’s opponents an opportunity to make mistakes. When first starting out, and before gleaning the experience necessary, it is sometimes easy to overlook seeking help, especially when it is needed for success.

Another way of expressing it, is that sometimes a better mousetrap is not a superior mechanism, but rather an unpredictable decision afforded the mouse which he may fall victim to.

Bridge is full of such opportunities and the opponents hands being closed often serves as a method to increase the declarer’s chances of victory.

After first learning to play well, the relative novice (with appropriate talent to succeed) tends to only consider legitimate lines of play which do not provide for his opponents to help out. To then grow to what is emphasized in the subject hand is like a golfer with an extra specialized club in his bag or a bright quarterback and/or an offensive coordinator in football who learns the tendencies of his opponent’s defensive scheme and finds a way to take advantage of it’s weakness.

If you find me an opponent not subject to the above, I’ll find you an extremely
difficult one to defeat.