Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Gaze upon the rolling deep
(Fish is plentiful and cheap).

Edward Lear

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


At the 2011 Lederer there are awards for best-bid, -played and -defended hand. This one belongs in the category of "You should have seen the one that got away."

Andy Robson had an opportunity in this deal where, like many declarers, he found himself in six hearts.

On a minor-suit lead there are enough entries to establish and enjoy the diamonds. However, Justin Hackett found the most testing start, a spade, and Andy won and ducked a diamond. East won and returned a second spade, perforce won in the dummy. Robson won and cashed two rounds of hearts and could no longer recover from the unfriendly breaks in the red suits.

The correct line at trick four is to cash the heart and diamond aces (you have no chance on a 5-1 break) and ruff a diamond high. Now the diamonds are known to be breaking 4-2, and when you cross to the heart nine, you also know the trumps are 3-1.

This forces you to fall back on your last chance, namely that spades were 3-3, by ruffing a diamond high, crossing to another heart in dummy, and throwing a spade on the long diamond. Then you can ruff out the spade, and finally use your club ace to enjoy the 13th spade. So, the third chance, an unlikely one, would have worked.

In the end you finish up ruffing two diamonds and a spade in your hand, establishing a long card in both of dummy’s suits.

Passing here would be truly pessimistic, so a simple raise to three clubs looks reasonable. But I think you can be more descriptive than that. Bid two spades instead, which cannot show a long spade suit since you already denied that. This shows a club raise with spade cards, suggesting a maximum hand for the auction: perfect!


♠ Q J 7
 5 4 2
 K 3
♣ Q J 9 7 5
South West North East
1 Pass
1 NT Pass 2♣ 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 ClimieSeptember 12th, 2012 at 10:23 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,

A quick thought on what might have been – suppose the H10 hadn’t dropped under the Ace but that East follows to the 3rd diamond and West shows out when you ruff with the HQ. On a heart lead towards dummy would you play for hearts 3-1 (if west plays the last small card) and finesse the 9 or for 2-2? It may be that, at the table, you might rely on presence but I suspect the finesse is slightly better odds.


Iain Climie

bobby wolffSeptember 12th, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Hi Iain,

Good hypothetical question and all I can tell you is what I believe.

First the odds between finessing (3-1) or playing for the drop (2-2) are, at least to me irrelevant since mathematically they are too close to 50% for it to really matter.

Table presence, as you call it, is much more important, but it includes much more than just intuition. Tempo by the defenders is important as well as negative inferences from what the opening leader led (and then subsequently defended, including tempo of discards) as oppossed to what he didn’t. As play progresses it is always helpful to not have to make a choice until as late in the hand as possible, so that these tempo and other inferences create better chances for the aware declarer to be right.

On this hand I could not make a prediction, since I wasn’t there and in fact, the 10 of trumps fell.

All that I can add is that the more experience a player has, especially with who his opponents are and his memory as to their tendencies are worth MUCH more than all the petty small differences in percentage plays which mathematicians sometimes are enslaved by.

BTW, just for the record, I am wrong much more often than I prefer, but what else is new.