Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 31st, 2012

I would far rather feel remorse than know how to define it.

Thomas à Kempis

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


Today's deal saw North produce a slightly aggressive raise to three hearts after his partner's simple rebid of hearts. The fact that the opponents had not supported spades did suggest that his partner would have length there — which made the action rather less attractive than it might appear. At teams or rubber bridge when vulnerable, the action is not unreasonable, but at pairs it is important in positions of this sort to protect the plus score.

When West opted for a passive club lead rather than an aggressive diamond lead, it tipped declarer off to the idea of rejecting the finesse. So South went up with the club ace and decided to set up the spades in the process of ruffing out the suit.

At trick two he passed the spade nine around to West, who won cheaply and shifted to the trump seven. South won the king in dummy, crossed to hand with the diamond ace, and led out the spade king, covered by the ace and ruffed.

At this point declarer could ruff a club back to hand, draw all the trumps, and give up a spade to the queen. That left him with the master spade eight for his 10th trick. In all, he lost two spades and one diamond.

The defenders could have defeated the game with an initial trump lead. And had West led the diamond jack, declarer might well have misguessed the play by taking an early club finesse — which would not have been a success!

The raise to two hearts should be at the lower end of a simple raise. (Sophisticated partnerships have other ways to show a decent hand.) North could have started with a redouble, or, with partnership agreement , have bid two clubs to show a constructive major-suit raise. Here, you do not have enough to make a game-try; a simple call of three hearts is enough now.


♠ K 10 8 4
 A Q 9 6 5 3
 A 8
♣ 5
South West North East
1 Dbl. 2 3♣

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 ClimieJune 14th, 2012 at 9:54 am

Dear Mr. Wolff,

On the bid problem, vulnerability is surely crucial. Non-vul vs Vul I’d be tempted to bash out 4H in case partner had (say) SJx HKxxx DJxx C10xxx when the contract could even be a lucky make. Mind you, this would explain why I often apologise to my partners for acting like a “front row lemming” even if the real creatures don’t actually throw themselves off cliffs.


Iain Climie

jim2June 14th, 2012 at 1:22 pm

It looks like the spades approach will always work if West has the AS and one honor.

If that is right, why is that not always the best play?

bobby wolffJune 14th, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Hi Iain,

My guess is that you are as much of a “lemming” as I am a “Nordic warrior”.

Yes, with your example hand, as little as the queen of spades onside will likely score up a heart game for your side. However, partner’s hand (holding 4 trumps for you) is closer (at least on this side of the pond) to a 3 heart preemptive raise than to a simple 2 heart raise, common in your land of opening 4 card majors, a treatment I am well versed in and, even after many years and strongly against universal national support, still prefer.

However, if I am wrong and you do have lemming tendencies, my bet is that you will be wearing a parachute, insuring a cushy landing and beautiful mermaids waiting for you at your romantic, albeit slightly wet, landing spot.

bobby wolffJune 14th, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Hi Jim2,

Because of the magical singleton 9 opposite, you are right-on with your explanation.

If I was asked what are the basic differences between certain higher levels of bridge players around the globe, I would list, “knowing how to play middle card combinations to best advantage” as one of the more important”. Natural numeracy sometimes is enabling in learning this important phase of the game quicker, although lesser natural numerate talent can also learn them, but it will take more effort and time to do so.

Thanks for calling attention to something worth talking about.

Iain ClimieJune 14th, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

Thanks for the kind thoughts although you may wish to look up the “What’s Opera Doc” cartoon. Nordic warriors come in all shapes and sizes.

The other reason for bashing out 4H is that EW may have a very safe +130 or even be close to +600 e.g. If West holds SAQxx Hx DK109xx CAxx on the hand I suggested when he would dbl 3H competitively. The flip side, of course, is that I might provoke them into bidding it, so would sandbagging at pairs (3H then 4H with the South hand, trying to be allowed to play the latter) be better?


Iain Climie

Iain ClimieJune 14th, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I just thought for 10 and winced seconds about the reference above – no comparison or wind-up was intended and my apologies for a potential “foot-in-mouth” if it could be misinterpreted.


bobby wolffJune 14th, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Hi Iain,

Strategy in bridge is a very sometime thing. What works against certain opponents doesn’t seem to work against others, and, after all, the specific hands which they hold will always determine what they do, and that is unpredictable on two counts and with two opponents.

With all of the above considered, it is usually best (perhaps 80%) to just bid one’s own cards and let the ducats fall where they may.

As far as your potential “foot-in-mouth”, while I am not sure to what you are referring, but if it is to my probably not being a Nordic warrior, my shape is 1-7-4-1 my size is an overly ample body and age, and I’ve invited many a person outside to tangle, but changed my mind and never gone outside with any of them, especially the ones who accepted.