Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Observation is a passive science, experimentation an active science.

Claude Bernard

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


One aspect of the game that defeats beginners and intermediate players is the concept that every card means something. Take this deal from the second semifinal session of the Kaplan Blue Ribbon Pairs from Seattle last year, and focus just on East's cards and the North's hand (dummy).

North-South were playing Precision, which resulted in an inelegant sequence to one no-trump rather than two diamonds. But it was up to East-West to punish them.

Using fourth-highest leads, West started with the club four: jack, queen, six. The club two went to the nine and 10, and the club three was returned to East’s king. When West let the club eight hold the trick, East had to decide how to continue. Dummy had pitched a heart and two diamonds on the clubs; declarer had thrown a heart.

Should East play a spade, in case declarer started with the doubleton spade ace and five solid diamonds? Or should he play a diamond, in case declarer had the spade king and not the diamond king?

The answer came from West’s decision to win the second club trick with the 10, not the ace. (He knows East has the club king from the play to the first two tricks, so he has a choice of plays from equals.) When he then returns the club three, not the ace or five, he has played his lowest card at each turn, signaling for a diamond through.

You might feel that you should breathe a sigh of relief and pass. But you have enough values to compete. You might easily have a 4-4 major fit or a relatively safe haven in a 6-1 club fit. Double for takeout and hope that partner has a convenient rebid. A bare club honor is almost as good as a small doubleton in terms of trump support.


♠ Q 10 7 6
 K J 10 5
 J 8 6 5
♣ J
South West North East
1 2♣ 2

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


John Howard GibsonDecember 13th, 2012 at 12:51 pm

HBJ : Yes, when West declines the opportunity to over East’s 8 of clubs to cash out another winner in the suit, he clearly wants a switch to diamonds by his repeated inferential signalling of playing his lowest clubs .
This aspect of the game is so essential but so often overlooked. I know from my own experience that I ( and my regular partner ) make sloppy plays by taking our eye of the ball.
One always has to be thinking ahead as well as the present, and therefore mental stamina becomes the all important attribute of the experts’ game.
I wish I had more of it.

bobbywolffDecember 13th, 2012 at 2:05 pm


Entering the stage development of improving one’s bridge is usually only a case of want-to.

Your enthusiasm, desire, work ethic and love of the game will enable you to progress positively.

As we get older, our enemies are the gremlins which sometime creep into our concentration, causing us into taking ruinous shortcuts, which not only cloud bridge issues, but stand tall in depriving us of the necessary elements, usually in defense, in error-free discarding and playing the right card, declarer play and the selection of the bid which will be most helpful to partner.

The ability to concentrate is usually necessary for the entire hand, so our habits need to emphasize the need to do so. On this hand both defenders need to play cards which help each other. The manipulation of the club spots by West should make it crystal clear to East that he prefers a diamond back (emphasizing low ranking suit) and now all that needs to be done is for East to cooperate in kind.

Such is the beauty of our game and separates the various classes of players. Without which we will fall to mediocre and those predictable results will take away, and even sometimes destroy, our desire to continue to compete.

Those who work hard to improve will positively influence our partners and others who will fall into line with copying what has made us more competitive.

Good luck and continue to serve as Johnny Appleseed, an American fictional hero, in getting the job done by, in your case, singing the virtues of intense concentration and therefore finding the way to satisfactory partnership communication.

Jeff HDecember 13th, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Since this is from actual play, there may not be a good answer available to my question.

Often Precision is played with a weak 1NT. With a balanced 13 (IMHO a very good 13), South might have opened this had with a weak 1NT. North has the perfect shape to bid Stayman and pass any rebid by opener. That gets them easily into the best contract of 2D.

Any idea why they did not open 1NT?

JoeDecember 13th, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Jeff – perhaps they play 1NT 10-12 and 1d-1nt 13-15, as many folks that I play with do.

bobbywolffDecember 13th, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Hi Jeff,

Joe’s reason is possibly the reason South elected to open 1 diamond instead of 1NT. Also your distinction of needing a good 13, which, although the togetherness of the pointed suits honors adds a bit to the value, the completely balanced nature of the hand and the absence of 10’s detracts.

The game of bridge continues to be an enigma, since often, the opening of a weak NT, causes that partnership to lose a 4-4 fit in a major, when an opening of 1 of a minor will make it easy to find, in this case, and in following your suggestion, North will have a clear cut Stayman
inquiry and upon North, learning that South has no 4 card major should certainly pass 2 diamonds, which, on percentage, rates to find a fit with at least 3-4 (but not guaranteed, and often 4-4 and sometimes even 5-4).

The luck element in so many hands in bridge, while thought of by some as causing bridge not to be the equal of chess as a mind sport, at least to me, causes it to be more fun and challenging since the ever changing and unpredictability of it, causes surprises and adjustments, which tend to create more competitiveness in judgment.

Incidentally, I do not recommend 10-12 point NTs even though they are often exciting and tend to get good results against timid inexperienced opponents. To me, they are very dangerous and create too many opportunities for worthy opponents to get very good boards, without enough protection available for the NT openers.

However some like vanilla and others like chocolate, but, for an apt description, let’s call 10-12 NT openers pistachio.