Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

The world is content with setting right the surface of things.

Cardinal John Newman

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


I've always liked the deceptive element to bridge, so this hand, which I was shown from the National Swiss Teams Final a few years ago, was especially pleasing.

Against the contract of three no-trump West led the spade six, and the chances of success did not look rosy, with the blockages in clubs and diamonds, not to mention a wide-open heart suit.

With limited practical chances, South thought a little deception might come to his aid. He tried the effect of the spade nine from dummy, and when the eight appeared on his right, he overtook with the king. Cashing the diamond ace and queen brought down the jack, and declarer could now lead a low club from hand.

To West it looked exactly as if his partner held the doubleton spade eight, and South had begun with the bare ace-king in that suit. It seemed unnecessarily dangerous to let declarer reach dummy to cash his good diamonds, so he rose with the club ace and, after long consideration, produced his “safe” spade exit.

Now South went up with dummy’s jack and cashed the diamonds. At this point declarer already had nine tricks, but West was so disconcerted when the spade jack held, that he discarded a club on the run of the diamonds, As a result that suit also came in without further loss, giving South no fewer than 12 tricks!

The play to trick one is certainly a useful tool to add to your armory.

Respond one spade, planning to compete to two diamonds if one of the opponents rebid clubs. You should introduce your major here since you are sure to have a fit of sorts, and it is your best chance of game. Paradoxically, if you do introduce diamonds at your next turn, your partner should infer you have equal or better diamonds, since you'd simply rebid a five-card major.


♠ J 9 5 3
 9 8 5
 K 10 7 5 4
♣ Q
South West North East
1♣ Dbl. 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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Shantanu RastogiJanuary 17th, 2013 at 11:03 am

Hello Mr Wolff

Nice deception deal. But here 2nt promises 18-19 or 19-20
HCP. As 17 of the high cards are counted after South’s play of clubs giving club J also to South. East would give count on first Club hence 6 carder club is also placed it cant be 4 as then south would hold 4/5 carder heart and then bidding would be different. So South is holding either of King or Queen or only just J doubleton or tripleton hence a heart shift would be also
not wrong (the only loss would be to doubleton King). Also why would south play 9 if AK Spade are stiff ? Hence some wests would smell rat.

best regards


bobbywolffJanuary 17th, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Hi Shantanu,

Yes, a rat may be there to be sniffed wherein the clever deception could be in jeopardy.

However, even though declarer rose with the nine at trick one, that also might be an attempt to muddy the waters, since when holding the AK doubleton spade, it may look just like a random tempt by declarer to get East to cover with the queen, if by some chance he was dealt it. East’s play of the eight must suggest that EW were playing standard count, so the declarer was randomly favored by that method on this hand, meaning that the 3rd seat defender’s play was consistent with holding both the 8 and the 4.

As you pointed out, while examining the whole hand (both the bidding and the play up to then) is quite essential in good defensive habits, sometimes it is just easier (and lazier) to take plays on their face value and that is exactly the trap West fell into.

At any rate, if the declarer is reading your analysis, he is thanking his lucky stars, you were not the opening leader. It is always, of course, important for the declarer to keep a poker face, not to mention a good bridge tempo (grabbing the high spade at trick one quickly) in order to set the ruse in motion.

Strangely, the better the declarer is known to be, the lesser chance his play would have worked. However, it sometimes works the other way when instead, sometimes wily defenders do not respond defensively which appears to be right in front of their face, for fear some bridge genius, as declarer, is trying to put something over on them.

Is bridge a great game, or what?

jim2January 17th, 2013 at 3:25 pm

For an interesting variation with a similar theme, how many Wests would play the AH should declarer advance the 10H at Trick #2?

Patrick CheuJanuary 17th, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Hi Bobby and Jim2, whilst there is still a chance of making the contract through ‘muddy’ play of the spade suit on trick one, me thinks, I would not want to be shipwrecked by pushing the boat out by playing hearts.Cos the hearts could be divided in such a way that they cannot go wrong.There is an element of poker here.Who knows what the opponents may do next,but declarer has given them something to go on at trick one,a la Fred L.Karpin’Winning Play In Contract Bridge’-strategy at trick one.Best regards-Patrick.

jim2January 17th, 2013 at 5:05 pm

I did say “interesting” and not one I would recommend. However, once West ducks the 10H as the cards lay here ….


Patrick CheuJanuary 17th, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Hi Jim2, Yes a heart blockage(failure),not to be recommended!:)

bobbywolffJanuary 17th, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Hi Jim2 & Patrick,

Your back and forth concerning an early 10 of hearts play by South, likely causing a heart blockage, causes me to change the competition and talk about baseball the way Earl Weaver, probably remembered as an excellent manager of the Baltimore Orioles, instead of his later role of a brainy baseball announcer.

He used to discuss baseball analogies which always confirmed to me that the playing of bridge had some of the very same “twists” to them. An example I remember is, let us assume a decent hitter (but a very fast and excellent base runner) hits a liner to right center, gotten to reasonably soon by the right fielder, but the batter’s incredible speed gets him into second base with an excellent slide. He then attempts to get to third base on the next batter’s fly out to medium right field, but a perfect throw nails him. The next two batters hit clean singles, but the result in the inning is that no runs score.

Contrasting that and going back to the first batter, he also hits a single, but he is not particularly fast and stays securely on first and, of course, does not advance to second on the next batter’s fly to right center. However, the next two batter’s also single and he scores, and the inning goes on to produce extra runs with other hits, walks, errors and/or somesuch.

The whole complexion of the inning changed markedly, starting with the extra base taken by the fast dude, but then retrogressed when he was thrown out at third by the great throw instead of his daring, but altogether reasonable attempt to reach third with only one out.

Bridge also shifts back and forth by ploys, such as aggressive bids, lack of discipline, bold play, brilliant deception, some of which work and some which do not, radically changing an IMP bridge match, but making it very difficult to assess blame or reward courage and imagination.

Edgar Kaplan used to claim, as both a commentator and a writer that a bold enterprise would only be called either a daring effort, if successful, or a somewhat foolhardy attempt, if not. And so it goes, with only a very experienced, objective and unbiased bridge reporter capable of assessing what he thinks is the truth.

I believe in what he said in No Trump and wish that our bridge events can eventually produce commentators and afterwards, writers who grow to be very accurate, consistent, deep bridge thinkers and above all, not politically or for any other reason, off of the point assessors and definitely not afraid to call a shovel a %&$#* shovel. The process of wanting to protect players should stop at the International level, otherwise what is the sense or even the reason to have commentators. For those who are also very big sports fans, undoubtedly you have noticed that the gloves of protection are now off and severe criticism as well as kudos are ever present. Thank all who are responsible for that very necessary improvement.

For what it is worth, I’ll add that, while playing in something while representing our beloved country, it would be inexcusable to ever go down in a game or slam contract (or for that matter a part score) which is basically cold. It happens, but it NEVER SHOULD!

Patrick CheuJanuary 17th, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Hi Bobby, life is a learning curve,especially at bridge, time is of the essence,so we have to focus on the essentials.Thanks for your comment. Best regards-Patrick.