Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 23rd, 2012

The sober comfort, all the peace which springs
From the large aggregate of little things.

Hannah More

South North
East-West ♠ K J 2
 6 2
 10 9 7 5 4
♣ K J 5
West East
♠ 5
 K Q J 10 8 7 5 3
♣ 9 8 7
♠ 6
 9 4
 A K Q 8 6 2
♣ Q 10 3 2
♠ A Q 10 9 8 7 4 3
♣ A 6 4
South West North East
1♠ 4 4♠ 5
6♠ All pass    


After you have been knocked out of the main event, will a Swiss Teams offer any consolation? Maybe yes, if the right deal comes along. Put yourself in East's seat, defending against six spades, which was played in last year's Yeh Brothers Cup.

When dummy comes down on partner’s lead of the diamond three, it would be easy to relax after winning the diamond ace and returning a low diamond.

Declarer ruffs high and starts to run six of his seven remaining trumps. Your partner, who began with hearts solid from the king down, discards one at every turn, while dummy discards diamonds, as do you.

In the six-card ending, you have kept two hearts, a diamond and three clubs to match dummy. On the penultimate trump, when dummy throws a club, what will you discard?

At the table Subhash Gupta’s opponent discarded a heart — and that was fatal. If you pitch a heart you leave partner controlling the hearts, so dummy’s second heart becomes a threat. Therefore when declarer cashes the heart ace and leads his last trump, West must keep one heart and thus come down to two clubs. Dummy pitches its last heart and you are squeezed between diamonds and clubs. If you had pitched a club earlier and kept your heart guard, your partner could have kept his clubs and pitched his hearts, leaving the suit to you. On the last trump, dummy must relinquish a guard in front of you, and you come under no further pressure.

There is a case that could be made for just about every lead. You could choose either red ace, hoping to find partner with a singleton in that suit, or go somewhat more passive with either black-suit lead. Of course, neither lead is exactly safe, so the question is whether a trump lead can accomplish anything except perhaps clear up a guess… I'd say no and would opt for a club instead.


♠ 6
 A J 8 4 3
 A 9 4 3
♣ Q 10 3
South West North East
1 Dbl. Pass 2♠
Pass 4♠ All 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


Iain ClimieMay 7th, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff,

I believe a useful thumb here is “If in doubt, guard the suit on your right”, although it may not be that obvious to West that it is his job to guard the clubs. Yet there is one unanswered question here – what did East play at Trick 1? If it was the heart 9, the conventional length signal, isn’t the defence in trouble regardless? West is squashed down to two clubs by the threat of the H6 and then, after the heart 6 is thrown from dummy, East can’t keep 3 Clubs and cover the diamond threat when he plays to the last trump at trick 10.

I prefer an easy to play and remember approach with most of my partners, especially as I only play club bridge nowadays and not tournaments. Despite this, I’m starting to feel that reverse count and attitude signals have much to commend them.


Iain Climie

Jeff SMay 7th, 2012 at 3:02 pm


I usually get this stuff wrong, but East raised to five hearts, so wouldn’t West assume he has at least (and, as it happens, at most) two hearts? So when East plays the 4H on the AH, I’d think West would conclude he is keepin the unaccounted for 9H as a stopper.

Iain ClimieMay 7th, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Hi Jeff,

Good point, and I was half asleep here as well – in addition to the bidding, it was a diamond lead at trick one, not a heart. I think the principle is still useful, however, and would have been crucial if East had played a heart back at trick 2 instead.

As usual, the old advice to engage the brain before either opening my mouth or hitting the “Submit” button is worth following.

bobbywolffMay 7th, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Hi Iain and Jeff S,

As far back as the late 1960’s when the Aces began their training in Dallas, Texas, the late Bobby Goldman, one of the original Aces and hard working, creative bridge researcher, later did some simulation on whatever happened to be, at that time, the most modern computer available with the subject being what is the most useful form of signalling, taking into account the advantages and disadvantages of the different types and finally after much detail, relayed the results. Every known form at that time was, according to him, almost exactly equal, so even if one took his social security number and using the numbers in order for first attitude and then count, it would matter not which one was chosen.

Although I never had my own opinion and still do not, I am willing to take his considerable effort to be valid and so have stuck to what I origionally learned that high is encouraging and an even number and low is discouraging and an odd number, often called standard because, as far as I know, it was the first one suggested perhaps 80+ years ago.

This story reminds me of a touristy afternoon I spent in Tombstone, Arizona and visited its historic Western cemetary, the final resting place for victims of violent shootouts during the period of How the West was won, during American history usually depicted as during the middle to late 1800’s.

On one gravesight was the followiing inscription:

“Here lies Les Moore, four shots from a forty-four, no less, no more”