Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen’s ‘Off with her head.’

Grace Slick

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


Today's deal from the 2012 NEC tournament in Yokohama shows how illogical bridge can sometimes be. Both tables reached three no-trump on the lead of the heart three. With five diamonds and two hearts in the bag, you need two more tricks. However, as soon as you lose the lead, you know a heart will come back, and you will not be able to lose the lead again without the defenders cashing out to beat you.

It looks normal to play on clubs, the long suit, and leading low toward the king-queen feels like the natural play. However, David Bakhshi won the heart, crossed to a high diamond, and instead correctly played a spade to the king. When that held, he led the club king to the ace, won the heart return, and claimed nine tricks. Even if East had won the club ace and played back a spade, declarer would have put in the 10 and the defense would surely have been able to cash at most three tricks there, since West was highly unlikely to have started with five good spades.

Of course it wouldn’t have helped East to fly up with the spade ace at trick three. And if the spade king had lost to the ace and a heart had been returned, declarer would still have come home if the spade jack was onside. Only the spade ace with West and the spade jack with East beats the hand. By contrast, playing on clubs is only a 50 percent chance.

I'm as much in favor of light opening bids as the next man (though maybe it depends a little on just who my neighbor is) but this is emphatically NOT a one-diamond opening bid. I hate opening bad suits in subminimum hands, and here my kings are in my short suits and I'm directing my partner to lead my worst suit. Not for me, thanks; I 'll pass and bide my time.


♠ K 9
 10 9 7 5 3
♣ K Q 9 5 3
South West North East

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


David WarheitFebruary 5th, 2013 at 9:09 am

You meant to say that if East had the spade ace and west the jack would the contract fail on Bakhshi’s line of play. Also, playing clubs is better than 50%, but not by much. Someone could have the jack-ten doubleton of clubs!

Iain ClimieFebruary 5th, 2013 at 9:27 am

Hi David,

Can I just ask which side of the pond (aka the Atlantic Ocean) you are on? If you’re in the UK (like me), Europe or further East then I can understand how you get in so fast and so often with the first comment. If you’re are in the US you’re either a night owl or a very early bird. Sorry to be so nosy, especially as I enjoy your inputs!


Iain Climie

GalFebruary 5th, 2013 at 10:53 am


Today a club to the king works as well. With both the jack and ten of clubs with west declarer simply takes the heart ace and cashes his diamonds to make the contract.


jim2February 5th, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Two weeks waiting, and David gets in ahead again.


You know, in Victor Mollo’s Menagerie, the Hideous Hog would have played four rounds of diamonds, precisely read his opponents discards, and then led a small spade from hand to a nine spot – chortling lasciviously as he guzzled this and that as he did so – only to be outraged to learn later that he had LOST the board.

You see, at the other table, Rueful Rabbit cashed a few diamonds because it would help keep down the penalty for going set, and then accidentally led small to the OTHER black nine.

bobby wolffFebruary 5th, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Hi David, Iain, Gal, and Jim2,

Yes David (and a not as early Jim), my poor proofreading erred when I described that the spade ace with West and the spade jack with East was the only way to go down, when it should have said only the spade ace with East and the spade jack with West is the game breaker and even then the declarer may have some squeeze chances if he guesses the cards well and he runs his diamonds, if West also has the ace of clubs.

Iain, I’ve learned to never underestimate David’s staying awake quality especially when I’ve made a significant error. Something akin to Jiminy Cricket on Pinnochio’s shoulder whose function was to serve as the title character’s conscience and has earned the right to much respect. Sleep, are you jesting?

To add to the gaffes, Gal has stated another truth about the squeeze West would be subjected to, if declarer opted to lead a club first instead of a spade. As Jimmy Durante, a long ago very funny comedian who had a successful mostly radio career would have no doubt said, if he would have been me, “I’m surrounded by assassins”.

When, on top of all that, one adds Jim’s Rueful Rabbit tale (courtesy of Victor Mollo’s menagerie), all of you creative commentors out there must admit, if you haven’t already, bridge is such a great game, it is very difficult for any one person, no matter of his intended thoroughness, to deal with all its possibilities.

JoeFebruary 5th, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Bobby, perhaps you should run the columns here first and then in the paper two weeks later, rather than the other way around 🙂 Then these things would be caught by your crack proofreading staff!

David WarheitFebruary 5th, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Ian: I live in California. The column appears at 1 AM. I read it then & go to bed. My advantage is that I’m a self-employed autogrqph dealer. You’re welcome to move here; lots of houses for sale!

Gal: Brilliant comment!

Bobby: I didn’t mean to criticize your dislexia (this is a joke).

bobby wolffFebruary 5th, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Hi Joe,

Your suggestion would get the job done, but alas,
there would probably be no column to post since our column newspapers would feel preempted and worse, not getting their money’s worth.

Since my crack proofreading staff is responsible for these gaffes, perhaps I should start by firing myself, but, after all, these are tough economic times and, unfortunately I have become accustomed to eating.

bobby wolffFebruary 5th, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Hi David,

Thanks for relating your personal schedule and your home state, complete with real estate appraisals, plus of course your kudos to a very deserving Gal.

Also you hit a bell ringer (not a joke) when you relate me to dyslexia. Now if you only improve your spelling, we will all go forward.

David WarheitFebruary 5th, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Touché on my spelling. Okay, it’s quantitative, not quantatative. Your turn.

Iain ClimieFebruary 5th, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Hi folks,

Just on the lighter side, dyslexia is an anagram of daily sex. My wife’s sister apparently suffers from one but I’m not going to ask which.


bobby wolffFebruary 6th, 2013 at 1:05 am

Hi Iain,

It could be worse since your wife’s sister claims she knows which one it is, but just cannot remember and even if she could, she would probably just go right on practicing until she got it right.

bobby wolffFebruary 6th, 2013 at 1:10 am

Hi David,

When I was down under and learned to write my bidding (their rules at the time) I showed 17 points with a quantatative raise to 4 over my partner’s strong NT opening, but only 15+-16 with a guantitative one.

Which method do you play?

Bill CubleyFebruary 6th, 2013 at 1:54 am

I have played with David Bakhshi and I am also very heppy never to have played against him. If I ever get back to London he has asked me to drop in at Andrew Robson’s Bridge Club.

I finally get to go to Gatlinburg. So I call Shannon to ask if we can have dinner/brunch and she can meet my wife Annie. She tells me she won’t be there at all. Goodnews/bad news strikes again.

David WarheitFebruary 6th, 2013 at 8:52 am

I’m afraid I don’t play any method any more; I have prostate cancer, so no daily sex for me. That is what you were asking about, wasn’t it?

Iain ClimieFebruary 6th, 2013 at 10:02 am

Hi David,

Ouch, and my apologies for accidental insensitivity. I sincerely hope you can be successfully treated and please accept my best wishes for your recovery.


bobby wolffFebruary 6th, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Hi David,

And a true heartfelt echo of Iain’s from me.

David WarheitFebruary 7th, 2013 at 5:45 am

Thank you, Iain & Bobby. I have the advantage of being old, so something else will, in all PROBABILITY get me, according to my doctor. (More word play.)