Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 9th, 2013

Let's find out what everyone is doing,
And then stop everyone from doing it.

A.P. Herbert

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


The trump ace gives the defenders a sure entry and frequently allows them to control the drawing of trump — frequently the single most important part of any deal played in a suit contract.

However, the singleton trump ace frequently acts as a millstone around one’s neck. Not only do you rarely take down as much with it as you would like, but it occasionally gives you the lead at a moment in the deal when you would rather not have it.

This was the theme in today’s match between Great Britain and Austria played in Salt Lake City in 2002. when the World Bridge Federation organized a Grand Prix event to coincide with the Winter Olympics. Both North-Souths reached five hearts, the British turning up their noses at the 500 or 800 penalty available from four spades doubled, while the Austrians were (typically) trying for slam under their own steam.

The opening lead was a spade at both tables, East’s ace taking the first trick. Where Doris Fischer as North was declarer, East shifted to a club, and declarer stripped off both black suits before exiting with a trump. West won perforce and had to play a diamond, letting declarer guess to put in the 10 and avoid a diamond loser altogether. In the other room Sylvie Terraneo as East found the excellent trump shift at trick two – letting her partner take the ace and exit with a club, leaving declarer an inevitable diamond loser at the end.

Your partner is almost guaranteed to have real club length here since he did not raise diamonds and can't have too many spades either. Lead a low club rather than your weak diamond sequence since you certainly won't be able to prevent the opponents from organizing a club ruff if they want to take one.


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


Iain ClimieSeptember 23rd, 2013 at 9:26 am

Hi Bobby,

A few questions on today’s play hand. Should North with an aceless hand bid on rather than dbl, should South bid 4C to help North judge and was the club switch unlucky? South could have had CQx DAJx when the CA might walk although a 3rd trick is still needed by the defence.



Bobby WolffSeptember 23rd, 2013 at 11:51 am

Hi Iain,

You pose an interesting conundrum. One reason why North bid on (and probably the overriding one) is that North may have feared that EW could make their spade game.

One of the most important advantages of “bidding em up” is that it puts fear in the opponent’s heart that they may run into unexpected distribution and so their decision is based on no defense as well as what you emphasize, not particularly suitable offense either, but a bid which loses less than passing.

Winners use their intuition, by knowing who their opponents are and the psychological tells which sometimes go with.

ALL top level players are wrong sometimes, but an underrated part of the game is not necessarily technical play, but only games within games when reading the opponent’s mind becomes the paramount issue.

Thanks to you we can, at least, discuss the subject briefly.

No, I do not think South should necessarily bid 4 clubs to help guide the later defense since that would be biting off more than anyone should have to. Judgment should be made of “sterner stuff” and not have to be guided through it, since, at that bidding time, no one will have any idea that such a thing is necessary and besides the opponents are also listening and to many, 4 clubs may sound like a slam try.

Iain ClimieSeptember 23rd, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Many thanks for this. The point about 4C was based on a Reese suggestion in a slightly different case where south opens 1H, lho overcalls 1S, north bids 3H and East bids 3S. Holding a hand worth 4H and possibly 5, he suggested bidding 4C with aside suit of AQJx to help partner judge over 4S. I take the point about possible confusion and also JTR wouldn’t have been using Jacoby 2N, so there would not be the inference on high cards.


Bobby WolffSeptember 23rd, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Hi Iain,

I again agree with you about taking Reese’s suggestion to heart.

However, usually if one holds something like:
s. x
h. AQJxx
d. AKxxx
c. xx

and after opening 1 heart hears 1 spade by LHO, 4 hearts by partner, but the inevitable 4 spades by RHO. Then 5 diamonds should be bid so that partner will be much better placed to know what to do should LHO continue with 5 spades.

This treatment could be considered a way to appoint partner captain of making the next decision which will probably be the key decision in which partnership succeeds on this particular hand. All the 5 diamond bid says is that, “yes, I am distributional and diamonds is my side suit, so please make the right decision on what to do next”.

No doubt, that treatment will put your partnership in better position, the only thing which, of course, would be better than that would be “you, yourself (of course since you are the best player of the four) should be in partner’s position”, not the dunderhead who you have selected. Only kidding, but not entirely strange to the ego involved bridge world!

Again thanks for your usual brilliant foresight.