Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.

Mark Twain

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


Today's deal shows that expert players can make just as many amusing mistakes as their less talented colleagues. In one room the Australian East-West pair had found an excellent vulnerable save in five hearts over four spades, down 200 on a top spade lead.

In the other room it looks as if four spades should be relatively straightforward to make. West led a top club, and now instead of playing on trumps, South made the “expert” play of a heart at trick two to cut the defenders’ communications. West won this and shifted to the diamond queen. Oops… Now declarer could not prevent East from ruffing a diamond and West from ruffing a club for down one.

In the Netherlands-China match South played four spades on the lead of the diamond queen. Declarer won in dummy and led a spade to his hand, Huub Bertens as East ducking because he could see that the ruff would gain his side only one trick, and that this would not be enough.

Now declarer played a heart. The defenders took their diamond ruff and led a club, won in North. At this point when a second trump was played, Bertens took his spade ace and played a second heart, forcing dummy to ruff and locking the lead in the North hand. Dummy had four diamonds and two clubs left while East was out of both minors and still had a trump, so declarer was forced to concede a second ruff.

My personal style (which I would also recommend to others) is that facing an overcall, all jumps in new suits are fit-showing, meaning that they promise at least invitational values and guarantee at least three-card support for partner, while also showing a decent suit in which you jump. A jump in partner's suit remains natural and pre-emptive, of course, but this hand is tailor-made for a three-spade call.


♠ K Q 10 6 4
 10 8
 K 9 6 5
♣ K 10
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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieFebruary 27th, 2013 at 11:33 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff,

Sorry for the late contribution but, where the Chinese declarer got the DQ lead, his play surely showed a brainstorm. How many diamond ruffs was he hoping to stop when he played a heart after the trump K had held? Declarer has tricks to burn barring a crossruff and can afford to lose SA, one heart and one ruff

All very curious, but credit to the Dutch defenders for taking a chance from nothing. A warning about thr risks of autopilot too, though.


Iain Climie

Patrick CheuFebruary 27th, 2013 at 11:43 pm

Hi Bobby, On the QC lead, and heart play by declarer, West won and switch to QD,and East can give West D ruff when in with Ace spades, and West can give East C ruff for -1. Just typing error, and not the other way as stated.A most instructive hand in trying to apply the scissors to the defenders communication but the key card is the Ace of trumps which gives the defenders time after the initial club lead.Best regards-Patrick.

Patrick CheuFebruary 27th, 2013 at 11:49 pm

Hi Iain, sometimes one can read too many books and lose sight of the total number of tricks needed to fulfill a contract in trying to apply certain scissors’play.:) Best regards -Patrick.

Iain ClimieFebruary 28th, 2013 at 12:06 am

Hi Patrick,

Thanks for this. I find most hands come down to a mixture of making enough tricks and avoiding too many losers. This s a rather extreme case where the only real concern is avoiding losers as South’s potential winners are 6D, 4S, a heart ruff on table and the CAK.

How many times though do we see declarers in (say) 4S with only a couple of clear losers but too many options (cross ruff, st up side suit, draw some but not all trumps etc) and they wind up with 9 tricks. After one round of trumps on this hand, the second screams to be played while one or both minor suit re-entries to hand are still there.



bobbywolffFebruary 28th, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Hi Iain and Patrick,

Between the two of you, your comments echo the problems in playing bridge well sometimes becoming wide and varied.

Obviously the bottom line is for declarer to find the best line to make the contract, while the defense should go all out to defeat the contract, but too often, both sides accept detours which causes their demise.

My opinion is that the most important expert virtue any bridge player can have is being able to problem solve. Most every close hand requires mature judgment which, at the very least, will offer some hope to succeed. Strangely, that mature judgment demands experience in what to expect from their opponents and then try to answer their intentions by choosing the best line possible. Sometimes some sort of legal deception becomes necessary, but more often there is a best straight forward line to take, and, if so, that is usually the route to go.

On Wednesday’s hand, the hand records confirm that some of the players were all over the map but, unfortunately, at least at the tables which were reported, were not thinking as clearly as was needed.

And so it goes, but we should all become better by reading of what not to do and more importantly, why.

Patrick CheuFebruary 28th, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Hi Bobby, you have truly echo my sentiment as regards this game of bridge,WHY, in respect of play and bidding. Sometimes it helps to know your pard’s style and the opponents’ methods and their play behaviour whether overbidding or play of the cards, it has a certain constant which one can perhaps gauge for future encounters, even though this time they have taken us to the cleaners 🙁 Regards-Patrick.

bobby wolffMarch 5th, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Hi Patrick,

Please excuse the late response since I have only now just scrolled backwards to this hand.

You have just offered the keys to mammoth success in bridge to all who are talented and perceptive enough to realize the other side of being a world class player.

The psychological side of the game (call it the poker element involved), is much more important to success than is probably realized.

The key elements are:

1. Knowledge of who your opponents are and how they will react.

2. Learning legal deception and its nooks, crannies, and when to venture forth with it.

3. The ability to accomplish the above is not limited to the play, but, if anything, more important in high-level (but sometimes only part scores) competitive judgment battles in the bidding.

4. My guess is that while technical play, good system with appropriate winning conventions, and expert judgment in opening leads can never be overestimated, the psychology of getting the opponents to do the wrong thing, is forever the answer to being a big time winning player.