Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Much ingenuity with a little money is vastly more profitable and amusing than much money without ingenuity.

Arnold Bennett

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


While the world junior championships were being played in Bali nearly 20 years ago, a tournament to celebrate Indonesia(s 50th anniversary was being run simultaneously. This problem came up for the British team — and was not solved at the table. Because they failed to qualify for the final stages by the smallest of margins, it was an expensive slip.

South handled his very powerful hand sensibly enough in the auction, although North might have reasoned that the club king was not likely to be pulling its full weight. The final contract of four spades looks next to impossible, even on the lead of the diamond ace.

However, after a lot of thought, West switched to the club ace, then played the heart nine, which went to East’s queen and declarer’s ace. What next? The line chosen at the table was to draw four rounds of trump and try the heart 10, but East ducked that, and declarer had no chance now.

Can you spot the winning line? It is not so bizarre; West’s auction and opening lead suggest he has seven clubs and the bare diamond ace. You need to win the first heart and play West to be 4-1-1-7. You can test the theory by playing three top trumps, then throw West in by leading your low trump, forcing him to play a club for you. Now you have an entry to dummy to take the diamond finesse, and eventually a second parking place for your losing hearts.

This is a hand where it is clear to respond two hearts rather than make a negative response and then bid hearts or transfer into the suit. The two-heart response will never rob partner of his natural rebid, and when you have a hand that is marginal for slam, you should strive to show a positive initially with a good suit.


♠ 7 2
 K Q 8 7 5 2
 Q 9 8
♣ 10 6
South West North East
Pass 2♣ 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


David WarheitJuly 31st, 2013 at 9:13 am

If west leads the CQ at trick 3, the only winning line for S is to play low from dummy, ruff with an honor, play 3 rounds of S and the HA & throw west in with a S. Seems to me that if S found that line of play, he either would get the award for best played hand or be accused of cheating by peeking at an opponent’s hand. What do you think?

David WarheitJuly 31st, 2013 at 9:19 am

Oh, yes. Switch the S2 with any one of W’s S, and W must now carefully save the 2 to avoid the endplay. Now W wins the award for best defended hand!

Bobby WolffJuly 31st, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Hi David,

There are two things to say for your analysis and that you are right and you are right, both for your ingenuity and for your right-on votes for the best play and necessary defense, if the deuce of trumps is held by West.

However, there are three abilities to die for, if one (at usually an early age but with my mindset, that number could be others, who may think of my choice as already too old).

Those sacred and cherished abilities are counting, counting, and counting some more, since the ability to visualize in terms of 13 (full hands) should be and is, the name of the high-level game. That alone, is probably not quite enough in only itself, but then along with a dose of learning, experience, opportunity, discipline, hard work, and finding a good partner, together with the fortitude to overcome adversity, will likely cover the essentials to achieve a very high-level goal.

ClarksburgJuly 31st, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Mr. Wolff,
This question has nothing to do with today’s, or any other, column, It’s about interpretation and application of the Laws. Hope you don’t mind.
Explanation of calls. After the Auction is over. Two contexts: in the remainder of the Auction Period (i.e. after the auction is over but before the opening lead is faced) and during the play.
For those two periods, when the Defenders want an Explanation of Declarer’s call should the question be addressed to and answered by the (presumed) Declarer or by Dummy.
ps Note: I have put this question, and back-and-forth for-clarification, to ACBL staff, expecting a straightforward definitive answer, but still not fully clear. (Not being critical here; just facts).

Bobby WolffJuly 31st, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

I’ll answer your note first, for both my convenience and as a prelude to why.

Among the ACBL TD directors there is a great deal of intelligence, but not enough enthusiasm among their mentors (if indeed there are some) to discuss why and the basis for the laws themselves. This causes fear within the ACBL staff to answer and then later being accused of not giving the response which would be most likely to ingratiate rather than learn. Being nice is important, but learning the reason behind whatever the law, is the key to improvement across the board.

Whoever, declarer or the dummy, should answer and hearing from both of them is also not only allowed, but should be encouraged.

Since both declarer or dummy is now in a position of helping the opponents without helping their own cause, the more the merrier as long as there are not any shenanigans going on with the explanations.

Bridge should be and for that matter is a game for gentleman (and inferentially ladies) which means two words, total honesty. Will we ever get there? Perhaps, but until we interpret laws the right way (which should always be for the betterment of the game) and use our God given intelligence, to explain clearly, we will not.

John StoreyJuly 31st, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Hi Bobby – your columns are still not showing up in the RSS feed for this blog. Just thought I would let you know!

Bobby WolffJuly 31st, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Hi John,

Thanks for the notification. I am getting my computer expert, my wife Judy, to work on it by notifying John Gould, who originally transmits the daily column. I am now getting them in their normal feed, but appreciate hearing from you and enabling us to correct the gaffe which obviously is adversely affecting some, including you.

Thanks again.

Bobby Wolff

Bill CubleyAugust 1st, 2013 at 1:16 am


I have always thought that it is not as vital to be declarer after a 2 Clubs opening bid. My thought that it is better to show a positive response and get to the correct game/slam than not.

Here holding JT doubleton of hearts is a great fit. The 2 Hearts bid does not stop 2 spades or any other rebid by the 2 Clubs opener and still allows a good bidding sequence.

I do not always promise specific honors but I do guarantee game or better. I also bid 2NT to show a positive response with 4t least 4-4 in the minors.