Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

Helen Keller

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


North was quietly confident when he put down his dummy, but the contract of four spades turned out to be far harder than he might have expected.

West led the diamond 10 and declarer appreciated that so long as spades broke no worse than 3-1, his maximum losers would be one trump, one heart and one club — or possibly two trumps and one heart if diamonds were ruffed, while he attempted to shed a club on the diamond ace.

The lead was won in dummy, and declarer decided to take a safety play. Instead of cashing the spade ace or finessing in that suit, he led a low trump to the queen to protect against West’s having all four trumps. East could not go in with his king or he would lose his second trump trick, so he was forced to duck. South’s queen held the trick, but when West showed out on the spade ace, two trump losers seemed inevitable.

So to make his game, declarer needed to eliminate his club loser. Fortunately, the careful play in trumps had made that easy enough. South cashed the spade ace and now needed a second diamond to stand up, which it did. East ruffed dummy’s third diamond and returned a club, but to no avail. Declarer rose with the ace; then the diamond ace allowed dummy’s club queen to depart. East could ruff in again, but the contract was safe.

It is important to have agreements about what is forcing and what is weak after a reverse. It makes sense to use the cheaper of two no-trump and fourth suit to show a weak hand, a rebid of responder's long suit as a one-round force, not necessarily strong, and a raise of either of partner's suits as forcing. So bid three diamonds now to set trump as early as possible.


♠ A J 8 7 4
 9 4 3
 K Q J
♣ 10 9
South West North East
1 Pass
1♠ 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


jim2September 11th, 2013 at 11:17 am

Hmmm, “dummy’s club queen”?

No problem, I presume that was supposed to be “dummy’s club ten.”

Jeff SSeptember 11th, 2013 at 3:39 pm

A lovely mid-week hand – not too easy, not too hard and very interesting on top of it.

A wonderful example of being able to protect against the 4-0 trump split no matter which way it fell. Of course, had the 4-0 split had been combined with a 5-1 diamond split also going the wrong way, it would have been a bridge too far. But things like that only happen to Jim. 😉

Bobby WolffSeptember 11th, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Hi Jim2,

I, of course cannot abide careless errors, either at the table while playing, or having to do with improper identification while writing.

However, they seem to occur and for the life of me cannot understand why, but until I do, will pledge to make every effort to stop them.

Bobby WolffSeptember 11th, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Hi Jeff S,

Thanks for your philosophy.

At matchpoints, when overtricks are of immense importance, safety plays often are eschewed in favor of going for the gusto of overtricks. Here we have 26 HCPs and a 9 card major suit fit, which means every pair in the room sitting in our direction, should be in 4 spades. What if either the singleton or doubleton king of spades is onside, what would 4 spades making only 10 tricks, instead of 12 bring. Probably about a 1/4 of a board instead of 3/4’s, ensuring 2 truths:

1. Satisfaction in playing the hand correctly according to the game itself.

2. Because of the bastardization of matchpoint bridge, feeling terrible because of having to bear the brunt of scoring well below average on this board.

A wise man would probably suggest, when playing matchpoints, do as players need to do, play the game all out and, although playing it in an impure way, nevertheless catering to the rules of combat of that game, making it necessary to do so.

Only Jim2 with his card migration should get a valid pass to make the safety play.

Jeff SSeptember 11th, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Hi Bobby,

And you have summed up perfectly why I don’t like matchpoint bridge. 🙂 From your comments in previous columns, I believe you are not a huge fan either. To me, it takes the focus off the main point of the game: assuring your contract. But to each his own.

angelo romanoSeptember 11th, 2013 at 6:51 pm

After a reverse do you think it’s unreasonable the following instead:
– two no-trump natural (protecting the stop) forcing
– 4th suit forcing (as usual)
– partner’s suits: not forcing ?

Bobby WolffSeptember 11th, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Yes Jeff, we see it alike!

Bobby WolffSeptember 11th, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Hi Angelo,

Your methods are closer to the standard methods of the last number of years. The ones mentioned in the column are more modern, but have yet to stand the test of time.

My guess as to which is best is, if 4th suit was weakest and available at the 2 level that bid should be used to show weakness, freeing the return to partner’s suit as a 1 round force.

However if one has to go to the three level in a new suit then your methods ring the bell and 4th suit should be forcing to game.

Right siding the NT is important, even though the modern constructor doesn’t admit it.

Forcing club, anyone?