Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, February 21st, 2013

They say the honest newspaper-fellow who sits in the hall and takes down the names of the great ones who are admitted to the feasts, dies after a little time. He can't survive the glare of fashion long.

William Thackeray

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


Today's deal saw West with a comfortable diamond lead against four hearts, and South was realized that he was faced with a distinctly uphill struggle when North revealed a disappointing dummy, with the spade king worth little or nothing.

From declarer’s perspective, there was a certain loser in each of the side suits, as well as further potential ones in trump and clubs. After winning the lead in dummy with the diamond king, East doing his best to encourage, declarer led a trump to the queen. When that held, South led a spade. West took his the spade ace and continued with a high diamond, setting up a trick for his side. South took the diamond with his ace, ruffed a spade, and led a second trump, crossing his fingers as he did so. When East’s king appeared, South’s potential trump loser had disappeared. After winning the heart ace, declarer ruffed his last spade, and now had to resist the temptation to relax.

Rather than play clubs himself, a 75 percent line, but one that might be fatal if West had both clubs and East a diamond entry, South completed the elimination by playing a diamond. East was able to win and shift to a club, but West then had to concede the 10th trick, either by conceding a ruff-and-discard or by playing on clubs to declarer’s advantage.

Note that if declarer plays clubs prematurely, West can win and lead a diamond to his partner, for a second club through declarer’s gizzard.

This boils down to a simple question; should you make a negative double with average values for the call, but little support for partner's suit and decent defense of the opponents' suit? The simple answer is that if your side has a heart fit, you might make game, so that it feels right to bid. Switch the red suits and I would pass, feeling that if I'm facing a balanced hand, our best plus-score will come on defense.


♠ K
 J 8 7 5 2
 K 7 5
♣ J 10 9 7
South West North East
1♠ 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


Patrick CheuMarch 7th, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Hi Bobby, Would you agree with South’s three heart bid on 4333 and 15? Some partners I play with would bid three hearts to show South’s hand of four hearts and minimum,that is to the law of total trump fit, and can be passed as such.Despite North’s 8 points,though spade king is not working, one can add three points for singleton spade,because we have a five four heart fit, thus it is a working 8 count opposite South’s transfer break.The whole hand is a good example of elimination play, worthy of study,as most of us might have attempted the double club finesse rather than the stated line.Best regards-Patrick.

bobbywolffMarch 7th, 2013 at 11:38 pm

Hi Patrick,

No, I do not agree, but those who do, are trading on the reverse side pf TLTT, e.g. “if partner passes 3 hearts and we, of course, have at least 9 hearts, the opponents can make something and will definitely come in the bidding over a projected 2 hearts”.

The above is almost never admitted to, but nevertheless is the primary reason. However by jumping to 3 hearts with a minimum hand (but, of course, 4 trump) you will often be in either 3 down 1 or 4 down 1 or even higher when partner senses a possible slam so the downside to me trumps the upside and, although by almost all recognizable measures I am very aggressive, I tend to try and play low partials rather than at the 3 level. They are easier on the nerves, even at IMPs, but especially at match points.

Wouldn’t you know that the author of a column hand would place both club honors off side, since he can create a simple elimination play to make a 2nd club finesse not necessary?

Pretty clever, those bridge authors.

Patrick CheuMarch 8th, 2013 at 7:43 am

Hi Bobby, one looks forward to your next new book, a collection of your 100 most memorable hands with all those famous quotations. One can only enjoy this. Methinks, to be a clever bridge author, you must be too, a reasonable player in your own right, and there is no greater experience than yours to give us that bridge wisdom.Very best regards-Patrick.(Many thanks again for your helpful analysis).