Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Two and two the mathematician continues to make four, in spite of the whine of the amateur for three, or the cry of the critic for five.

James McNeill Whistler

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


At the Dyspeptics Club the players are not given to introspection. Thus it was remarkable that after South had made his game, he reconsidered his play and admitted that he had missed the best line.

Against five diamonds doubled, West led the heart eight, won with dummy’s ace. South cashed the spade ace and led a second spade, East ruffing in with the diamond 10 and South overruffing. Declarer ruffed his heart loser with dummy’s solitary trump and now had the problem of returning to his hand to draw trump.

Worried that East would ruff in again, promoting a trump trick for West. South decided to play a club instead. East tried to cash two rounds of the suit, relying on his partner for a trump trick. So South made his doubled game.

South was not slow to comment that perhaps East might have played a low club after winning his king, putting his partner in with the queen for another spade play to generate the trump promotion. However, there was no need for declarer to give the opponents this opportunity. Do you see what he had missed?

South was right to worry about the trump promotion but found the wrong solution. He should simply have played a spade anyway, and when East ruffs in, then South discards a club. Even if East is able to put his partner in for a further spade play, there are only two trumps out and declarer has the ace and king, so no further trump promotion is possible.

First question: Is three clubs forcing? And if not, should it be? In my view the call is not forcing but that doesn't mean your partner has a subminimum opening bid, just that he doesn't have enough to drive to game facing a 10-count. You may not make three no-trump, but your fitting clubs and ability to stop hearts mean you must make the call.


♠ K J 5 4 3
 K 10 8
 Q 9
♣ Q 8 5
South West North East
1♣ 2
2♠ Pass 3♣ 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


Howard Bigot-JohnsonAugust 1st, 2013 at 9:34 am

HBJ : Lovely hand to illustrate the loser on loser principle. To over-ruff East a second time and thereby forfeit a trump trick along with 2 losing clubs is a tad reckless, when the option of pitching a club seems obvious.
Given that West doubles , rich with his own high card values, surely nothing is lost by leading a trump at trick one. Moreover, if declarer suspects he holds the trump queen he isn’t going to take on the finesse of the jack !

Iain ClimieAugust 1st, 2013 at 10:03 am

Hi Bobby,

I agree with HBJ about a trump lead being obvios but wondered about any cases where it could misfire. Leading the DQ might collide with partner’s stiff K if south had the other 10. If South had AK108xxxx and dummy a void, then leading the D9 is a disaster, though.

If declarer held HAx opposite Jxx or similar, and could set up a black suit winner for a heart discard, this would be another such case. All pretty far fetched, though! On the actual hand, dummy must have been a ghastly shock for the defence – two aces and a heart ruff without the trump lead re a huge help for South.



ClarksburgAugust 1st, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Great Quote today!
Broadly applicable to the non-bridge world also.

Iain ClimieAugust 1st, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Too true, Clarksburg! Select from Marketing, wages, (other) accounts, planning and estimating, reliability, IT, security, maintenance, safety, general admin etc in a large coporation or engineering firm. See also Dickens’ circomlocution dept (from Ch 10 Little Dorritt) for a non-numeric equivalent still true today

Bobby WolffAugust 1st, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Hi HBJ & Iain,

Thanks for your comments on today’s hand.

Although I understand both of your predilections for a trump lead, I think, once partner has opened 1 heart, I would be fearful of unilaterally selecting a trump, instead of a heart, which might be more based on illusion than fact.

True, both of you have this hand as solid evidence, to lead a trump but what if the high preemptor had a huge distributional hand, e.g. void, void, KJ10xxxxxx, AKJ10 or some combination holding which yielded only 1 club trick to the opponents with dummy being void of trumps. The bidding, as such, does not necessarily suggest a likelihood of producing a ruff in dummy so my suggestion is to follow the bidding, e.g. partner’s 1 heart opening to choose the opening lead.

Remember, that the blind opening lead is Dame Fortune’s way of making it difficult for the defense, since before the opening lead, when 39 cards are unknown, except for the evidence of the bidding, then 13 appear in front of the defenders and after trick 1 only 24 are then a mystery, which then is very enabling, especially to very good players, who can then piece together the evidence to help determine the rest of the defense, often without error.

Of course, your trump lead on this hand is a bell ringer, so that fact alone is worth considering, but, harkening back to the beginnings of the Aces team and its critiques, it is important to not let personal feelings e.g sometimes illusions, rather than the evidence (partner’s 1 heart opening bid), to date determine judgment in what can turn out to be a critical time.

I do appreciate both of your enthusiasms and advice, and my thoughts are only just that, but obviously I think mine are worth mentioning and thus considering.

Bobby WolffAugust 1st, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Hi Clarksburg and Iain,

I certainly agree with both of you, Clarksburg with his original thought and Iain with his application and detail to a simple and small quote, but giant when put in perspective.

If only others were as profound as the famous Whistler and could have a seat on our respective shoulders as did Jiminy Cricket with Pinocchio, as we journeyed through life, we would have been indeed wiser.

Senren LiuMay 27th, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Am I missing something here? If declarer discarded club instead of overruffing on second spade play, then east can switch to trump, the heart ruff has gone.