Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, April 19th, 2012

And I am right,
And you are right,
And all is right as right can be!

W.S. Gilbert

South North
East-West ♠ Q 8 7 2
 A 8 5
♣ J 9 8 6 2
West East
♠ 9 6 3
 9 8 7 6 4 3
♣ K 10 5 4
♠ A K J 5 4
 9 7 3
 Q 10 5
♣ 7 3
♠ 10
 K Q J 10 6 4 2
 A K J
♣ A Q
South West North East
2♣ Pass 2 2♠
4 Pass 5 Pass
6 All pass    


In today's deal you could argue that West might have bid four spades over four hearts, but West was not sure at this vulnerability what the size of the penalty might be. As it was, he passed, and North bid five hearts as a general try, focusing on spades more than anything else. South looked at his quick tricks and accepted the invitation. In this position one should pass with no control, and cue-bid five spades with the ace and anything but a dead minimum. You can use your discretion with a second-round control, typically bidding slam unless you are otherwise unsuitable.

Against six hearts, when the spade three was led to the jack and 10, East insulted declarer by trying to cash the spade ace, perhaps not seeing the downside of this move.

South was quick to put him right. He ruffed the second spade high, and now it was an easy matter to cross to dummy with a trump and lead the spade queen to pin the nine and establish the eight for a discard.

Of course if the spade nine had not fallen, declarer would have been reduced to taking the club finesse for his contract, and today would not have been his lucky day.

Had the spade nine and eight been switched, declarer could have husbanded the entries to dummy and have brought about this position for himself without any help from the defenders after the opening lead.

You are by no means minimum for the auction and your singleton diamond suggests that your partner will find four hearts easier than three no-trump. So up and bid the heart game and don't hang back. Your shape should help partner ruff out diamonds or set up clubs for discards.


♠ Q 8 7 2
 A 8 5
♣ J 9 8 6 2
South West North East
1 1 1♠
2 Pass 2 NT 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


jim2May 3rd, 2012 at 12:08 pm

On the bidding problem, East’s free bid and North’s 2N sound like alarm bells to me.

Per TOCM, North will hold KJx of spades and East A109xx and a side entry to signal suit preference for the return at Trick #3. (perhaps a minor suit king for West to underlead the ace).

Howard Bigot-JohnsonMay 3rd, 2012 at 12:49 pm

HBJ : Surely East should have figured te 3 of spades was not a singleton , and if it was…. declarer with 7H and supposedly 3 spades hadn’t a single prayer of avoiding further spade losers in the fullness of time. Moreover the 6H bid almost guaranteed declarer having both minor suit aces…..meaning no likely tricks available in diamonds. Clearly a club switch was the only sensible and obvious play , even without the benefit of seeing all 4 hands.
Nevertheless this hand is an excellent example of how to capitalise on a defensive error to bring home a seemingly doomed contract. Too many bridge players ( including myself ) have blind spots to lurking dangers.
This has been to me a very valuable lesson indeed.

bobbywolffMay 3rd, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, with the BWTA. you may well be forecasting your doom and even go so far as depicting the method of your execution.

However we must always be optimistic and, who knows, one day soon, the exorcism may occur and you will be a free man, the end of negative card migration. I’m betting on it.

The more one improves, the luckier one gets.

bobbywolffMay 3rd, 2012 at 1:42 pm


As always, your descriptions leave nothing to the imagination both, as in this case, of shortcut and errant defensive thinking, resulting in handing declarer an undeserved making slam contract on a silver platter (as long as he, the declarer, had the smarts to take advantage of the extra chance provided, before he would have been forced to fall back on the losing club finesse).

What many of the world’s millions of enthusiastic bridge players (many more now and in the future, because of bridge being taught in the schools around the world) sometimes do not realize is the mental energy and logical thinking necessary in order to achieve significant personal improvement in one’s own game, but I can testify to the ego satisfaction one gets to be like Sherlock Holmes most times was in detective work, sometimes with his partner’s (Watson) significant help, almost always finding the correct solution.

All of your readers appreciate your comments, complete with your charming modesty.

jim2May 3rd, 2012 at 2:00 pm

On my TOCM post, I think there is more than ample cause for concern here. Let’s look at the signals:

1) East did not make a negative double, so should hold 5 spades, and possibly 6,
2) North would rarely venture 2N with only a doubleton spade honor on this auction,
3) North’s 2N suggests HCP in both suits bid by the opponents more than it does clubs,
4) North is more likely to have soft HCP holdings than aces in E-W suits because aces are more transferrable value in suit contracts while soft values suggest slow tricks of more value in NT than suit contracts, and
5) South does not have any of the top 3 club honors.

Thus, unless North has the spade ace, one or more ruffs is almost a certainty, and West may well be void. The more strength North has in spades and diamonds, the more likely it is that East has a club entry. North cannot have great overall strength, because of the bidding. North cannot ruff diamonds without conceding the lead unless holds the AD. Any conceded diamond trick is another spade ruff chance unless trumps are drawn, but then no diamond ruffs.

So, yes, I think 4H is a poor odds contract.

Sure, the defense could go wrong but, IIRC, a double of 4H by West would be a lead director to tell East to lead East’s suit, not West’s. Thus, should East have bid 1S with 6 lacking the ace (in North’s hand), things will still go very badly at 4H.

bobbywolffMay 3rd, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Hi Jim2,

First, I, for one, and perhaps many other bridge loving and expert becoming players, will appreciate fully your hard work and logical reasoning which may well cover all (or almost) the bases with, in this case South, jumping to the heart game, but failing to take heed to what you describe.

In an effort to get to my point and not have other people’s eyes glaze over all the details regarding your well thought out syllogisms, let me instead merely summarize what I think is involved.

Recently, I wrote a short opinion for our companion Bridgewinner web site which emphasized that when one’s partner makes a takeout double (in this case a negative double, but those are also for takeout), be very careful before one decides to convert it to penalties (by passing), since partner is expecting you to take it out, although his hand may be, (and quite often is), very different then you might expect.

Yes, bridge is a partnership game. as well as often requiring science in the bidding in addition to partnership trust, and above all judgment about the opponents when one considers final positions. The most important factor, at least in my opinion for this discussion, is that legal communication in bridge is somewhat severely limited by the absence of an all inclusive language with many different words (bidding) available.

Therefore with that above truth (at least as far as I am concerned) overwhelming science is an overbid as far as exactness in the bidding is concerned and educated shots need to be taken.

Those shots should stay away from final decisions on deciding to defend, particularly when partner’s last suggetion (bid) is to arrive at your best contract not theirs. However the above does not concern itself with perhaps overbidding, like in the hand the above BWTA discussed.

When one overbids, he generally just hopes for the best and if he is wrong (it happens often) a small price is paid, but not a major one. However, if on the other hand, we go defensive particularly defending a doubled low level contract when partner is suggesting going offensive, it is distracting, damaging and often very harmful to the success of the eventual psyche of that partnership.

On such a case, at least IMHO, such a thing happened yesterday in an important match in the current USBF team trials for this year’s representation for the world championship and it might have turned that match around in favor of the other team.

I apologize for not going over all your well judged scientific reasons regarding not jumping to the 4 heart game our BWTA recommended.

While not doubting what you are saying, my message here is the cards, regardless of our will and therefore influence, have minds of their own and Dame Fortune is in command and most of all the specific combinations CANNOT be calibrated in any intelligent manner other than sheer random guesswork.

To shortcut what I am saying is that while you may be right in all (or almost all) in what you say, but the final result of the day may have a surprising (like an Alfred Hitchcock movie) ending.