Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 20th, 2013

I imagine, joking apart, that to know love, one must make mistakes and then correct them.

Leo Tolstoy

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


Dummy did not have much to offer in this deal, but declarer wrapped up 10 tricks in his spade contract with seeming ease. In fact, West had missed a defensive point that might well have eluded almost everybody.

West led the diamond queen against four spades, and, after winning in dummy, declarer finessed the heart queen successfully, cashed the ace, and led a low heart. West was quick to rush in with his trump jack and followed by forcing South with a diamond.

Now the fourth round of hearts was ruffed in dummy with the nine, and the spade eight led and run when it was not covered. At this point another trump lead from dummy finished matters, and declarer made game with the loss of just two spades and a club.

Hard as it may be to see, West’s ruff of the third round of hearts was premature. Say he discards a diamond instead and allows dummy to ruff. Declarer comes back to hand with the club ace and plays a fourth heart. It is only now that West ruffs with his spade jack and plays a diamond. With no entry to dummy, South must lose two more tricks to East’s remaining trump holding, as well as a club.

It was certainly a difficult defense to find at the table, and you may need to work through the play in detail before you are convinced — just as I did!

In third seat it must be right to open this hand, but I'm not sure whether to open one club or one heart. With a one-bid hand, as here, I will open a four-card major, but this suit does not really qualify — give me the jack as well and I would open one heart. So one club it is. As a general policy, open in third seat whenever you have close to opening values or a suit you want partner to lead.


♠ A 10 4
 K 9 6 5
 K 5 2
♣ Q 5 2
South West North East
Pass 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


bruce karlsonAugust 3rd, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Regarding BWTA: By inference, you suggest that this hand should not be open in 1st/2nd seat. Is that true??

Was paired up with an old timer bridge teacher in a recent sectional. During that he mentioned something I had not thought about in years. Quick tricks.

I have started to count quick tricks prior to opening any 12+ count in 1st/2nd and think it has helped. I look for 2 and a half and do not open with fewer than 2.

Very interested in your thoughts on this almost never mentioned approach.


Bobby WolffAugust 3rd, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Hi Bruce,

“Not I” quacked the duck. I would open this hand in any seat, however, keeping in mind that it doesn’t always work.

And, as for personal preference, I would open 1 heart in 3rd or 4th position. However one keeps track, the potential defense provided by this hand is adequate, especially considering that I have no jacks, a value which is mostly over rated by counting it as 1, compared with the rating allowed for other royalty.

Perhaps my making the above statement is in direct contradiction to what the jack of spades would have done for the dummy in today’s column hand, but bridge will always be bridge, meaning unpredictable. Another way of considering and then valuing is that if an ace counts 4, then that number is the worth of one trick, making the values assigned to other honor cards, 1,2 and 3 meaning that only part of the time those cards are worth a trick and only when combining with other like cards of value, with the conclusion, random guesswork. Probably too simplistic an answer, but nevertheless logical for overall understanding.

Without beating this sensitive horse about whether or not to open, through the years, if there is one thing in the modern game which has been proven, at least to me, is the advantage which seems to accrue to whoever is first to open the bidding, whether it is an opening bid at the one level, or even more so, a normal preempt before one’s worthy opponents have had a chance to speak.

The days of wait, see and then act, have gone out, with the morning milkman, probably due partly to the greater accuracy of today’s bidding methods together with the using up of space taken away from the original passers by their early acquiescence.

The above is merely my view from experience, but bridge is only just a percentage game, trying to use tactics which seem to work, rather than fall back on long ago taught individual bromides, which to my taste, have not been convincing, nor stood the test of time.

Summing up, being a tough competitor is underrated, and the path to that quality is bidding more often than one’s opponents.

Choose for yourself, be consistent and in harmony with your partner and above all, good luck.

Patrick CheuAugust 3rd, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Hi Bobby,defence is certainly a difficult part of this game,most Wests would certainly ruff in,it is the ten of spades in East holding of A10x,which is difficult for West to ‘see’.Thanks to you we might think about it another time,in West’s position,but hopefully pard would understand when it backfires..:) regards~Patrick.

Bobby WolffAugust 3rd, 2013 at 11:50 pm

Hi Patrick,

Sometimes when bridge behaves, most right plays stand out, there is little subterfuge and what seems right, is right, God’s in his heaven, all is right with the world. During these benign times we sometimes put our brains on remote control and are not ready, like today’s column hand, to ruff in at the appropriate time, the 2nd time offered, therefore depriving declarer of the necessary timing to be in the right hand at the right time.

The excellent bridge player is made up of part very numerate (being able to constantly add up to 13 and in all suits enabling that player to know the three closed hands and at different points in the play). competitive enough to summon winning instincts any time they are called for, being in close partnership harmony with his regular partner, and above all, consistent intense concentration, especially when it is needed. Add that to constantly improving technique in the bidding (being aware of being or not being captain), on defense, and while declarer.

Nothing to it, but it generally takes the above then added to the experience gleaned while playing against the best around to complete the product.

Good luck! You will soon arrive there, if you haven’t already.