Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Rules and models destroy genius and art.

William Hazlitt

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




Today's deal comes from a correspondent who remarked that the adverse result was fortunately just too small to have cost her side a victory in a knockout match. But the lesson of the deal is interesting, even if the play was not found at the table.

In one room South opened with a weak two spades. West overcalled with two no-trump and North doubled. East removed to three clubs, but that was no real improvement, and eventually went down 500.

South for my correspondent’s team decided to pass, and the auction developed as shown. When four spades was passed around to West, he thought for a considerable time before making his final pass.

West led the heart ace and king, then switched to a club. Declarer lost two spade tricks to go with the top hearts, but he could (and probably should) have succeeded. After winning the club ace, he ruffs a club, ruffs a heart, ruffs another club, then plays off his top diamonds and ruffs a diamond. All he has left in hand are the spade A-Q-10. He exits with the spade queen and sits back and waits to make his ace and 10.

Incidentally, can you see where West went wrong? He should have continued with a third heart at trick three. By doing so, he removes a dummy entry, thus preventing the trump reduction.

This sequence (while not entirely unambiguous) is traditionally played as takeout, not penalty. So you should simply bid three clubs and await further developments, hoping that your partner does not hang you too high at his next turn.


♠ 2
 10 6 2
 10 9 4 3
♣ 10 7 5 4 3
South West North East
1♠ 2
Pass 2 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 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Howard Bigot-JohnsonApril 19th, 2012 at 11:32 am

HBJ : It is very easy for West to believe the contract is off making 2H , 2S and possibly a club. Moreover it is also too easy for West to believe there is no danger since (a) declarer will no doubt use diamonds straightaway as entries to dummy to take on both spade finesses and (b) he/she has plenty of safe exit cards.
Where West failed….as would I… lacking the ability to spot the danger of declarer crossing ruffing, playing off side suit, and trump reduction play winners before the killing spade throw-in.
It is this level of thinking and analysis which answers Paul Cronin’s question ” WHAT IS AN EXPERT.

Iain ClimieApril 19th, 2012 at 12:20 pm


I preferred the flippant definition of an expert which my old engineering boss often used (albeit not about bridge). An ex is a has-been and a spurt is a drip under pressure. Sadly, when I played much more seriously in my youth, it often fitted too well!

Very good hand today, though.

Iain Climie

bobbywolffApril 19th, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Hi HBJ and Iain,

Thanks to both of you sincere bridge lovers for the main topic of today, “What is an expert”?

With different tasks or themes that answer no doubt varies, but since the thrust is the playing of bridge, let us attempt to define it.

1. An expert is able to simplify the goals of the subject hand, e.g. bidding to the best contract but while having weaker hands (with of course some distributional strengths) making it as tough as possible for their worthy opponents, by quickly competing to as high a level as is practical to interfere with their necessary communication, such as in warfare blowing up their internal bridges.

2. After the final contract is bid (hopefully, but not always), the most optimum one, the declarer will consistently seek out the highest percentage way to insure making it, again keeping in mind that his opponents are dedicated to try and defeat it, or, at the very least, throw up smoke screens, in order to wreak the most havoc in trying to mislead him.

3. A world class expert will always have available his mind, which by his necessary considerable experience will, when declarer, totally understands how to develop long suit tricks, create important entries, tricks with trumps seeking maximum use of those precious commodities, and, of course, understand the advantage of end plays (particularly the advantage of playing 2nd and 4th instead of 1st and 3rd on any trick), and generally if possible (and sometimes necessary) also throw up legal coups with the hope of confusing the defense into not defending its best. At the same time, the defense will always be looking for ways to interrupt the declarer’s plan, by putting to use, in concert, the best defense, or if too little is available, try to dissuade the declarer to misguess where the defense’s important cards might be held, instead of unnecessary flagging the location to a shrewd declarer by either overt or subtle, but easily picked up, telltale signs.

4. Palpable self-confidence is also ever present in every top player’s arsenal, sometimes creating a positive (for whoever is creating it) attitude which tends to deflect lesser tough minded opponents into losing enthusiasm and therefore lightening the task for our heroes by their opponents losing their will to compete in their most coherent way.

5. To close with an illustration, in all the so-called lenghty world-class matches I have been involved in over a long career, perhaps measuring in the many hundreds, never, at least to my recollection, have I, during almost every one of them, at some time during the match both thought that my team was sure to win this match, and in the same encounter, also felt at some specific moment, that my team was doomed and had almost no chance to pull it out, making those obvious imposter feelings a dangerous exercise to rely on. The lesson learned is always to soldier on, regardless of the illusory effects of both positive and negative emotions, which are always ever present when two good teams collide. All one can do is play the very best he knows how on every hand and let the game itself determine the winner, rather than succumb to artificial pressure created by one’s own mind.

By at least attempting the above, the game itself has been an off-the-charts rewarding experience which would, at least to me, be very unlikely to be duplicated or much less, surpassed, by any other endeavor in sheer pleasure or excitement.