Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 2nd, 2013

If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing.

Benjamin Franklin

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


Among the brotherhood of bridge writers, Frank Stewart is someone I would be happy to call a friend. His new handbook of basic bidding, "What's Your Call?" helps the average player improve his valuation skills.

The book is far more about judgment than system. Today’s deal is a 26-card example in which Frank quotes the North hand at the point where the auction has reached five spades. He recommends a raise to six spades. South rates to need trump honors and you have more than your fair share.

The play might be stimulating if diamonds and spades do not break. South ruffs the club lead, takes the trump king and jack, both ducked, then crosses to the diamond ace to continue drawing trumps. East wins the third trump and exits with a second club, letting declarer take the ace, ruff a club, then draw the last trump. West can let go one heart and one club, but on the fourth trump he must keep his diamonds and two clubs. So he comes down to a singleton heart.

Declarer pitches a diamond and a club from dummy on the spades and plays the diamond ace and king. On finding the bad break, he must next lead the heart jack. East has to cover with the queen. When West’s 10 appears, declarer can later finesse against the heart nine for his contract.

The book can be obtained (autographed on request) from Frank Stewart, $23.95 postpaid at P.O. Box 962, Fayette AL 35555. All profits go to local Alabama charities.

On any auction where your side has the clear balance of high cards and the opponents are sacrificing, a trump lead has to make sense. This is especially true in a situation of this sort — where there is no realistic chance that the opponents will be running the unbid suit, clubs, against you.


♠ J 5 2
 J 10 8 3
 Q 8 6
♣ K J 2
South West North East
1 1♠
Dbl. 2♠ 4 4♠
Dbl. 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


David WarheitDecember 16th, 2013 at 9:19 am

You make 2 misstatements. They don’t matter, but they sure confused me for a while. 1) West comes down to his diamonds and one (not two) clubs. 2) After drawing trump, S has already played the DA, so he merely leads to dummy’s king. I’m taking bets that S had no idea in the bidding how important his H8 was!

David WarheitDecember 16th, 2013 at 9:24 am

Wait a minute. W does not necessarily need to keep ANY clubs. If he does pitch all of his clubs, however (hanging on to H10x), S runs AKQ of diamonds, squeezing E in clubs and hearts.

Bobby WolffDecember 16th, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Hi David,

Yes, without a doubt you are correct in all of your statements, especially the one about the importance of the heart 8.

However, declarer was unlucky to receive bad breaks in both the pointed suits, so dame fortune made it up to him by giving away her heart (to be exact the eight).

I hope I am not making light of my working to improve more accurate description, but to report this particular hand, together with promoting Frank’s worthwhile book and specifically the importance of good judgment by accepting the slam invitation, sometimes defies being mistake free when the number of words are limited.

Besides, look at the upside, my doing so enabled you to use your genius to correct the prose, not to mention, the squeeze which develops, if West pitches his clubs.

Look at it as a tag team wrestling match. I tapped you to come in the ring and finish the description, while I took a breather.

Michael BeyroutiDecember 16th, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Trump reduction…
Transfer of the guard…
Double squeeze in three suits…
Gosh! This hand is too tough for a Monday morning… I still can’t figure it out.
Whom shall I blame for my headache, Bobby Stewart or Frank Wolff?

Bobby WolffDecember 16th, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Hi Michael,

No doubt others feel the same head throb as you after being confronted this morning with this beast of a hand.

However, I think the three biggest and not blameless individuals are Harold Vanderbilt, Ely Culbertson and Charlie Goren. Without any or all of them we would never have been introduced to this horrible game because it would never have been invented, or if so, would have died on the vine, because it was not successfully promoted.

When you speak of Bobby and Frank you are only indicting the messengers.

However I, for one, will not only forgive your opinion, but, in reality, agree with it.

jim2December 16th, 2013 at 6:20 pm

What if East exits not with a club but with a heart? Say, the seven?

Declarer’s precise distribution is known at this point, and East knows that if diamonds are running, there is no defense. East also has good reason to suspect diamonds are NOT running. Declarer, however, has only seen both defenders follow with the two smallest spot cards on the first round and thus has no reason to expect diamonds are not running.

Therefore, declarer will surely not try a heart finesse.

Bobby WolffDecember 16th, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Hi Jim2,

The process you refer to is one often used, not always correctly, but the keys to moving up the ranks.

In most all competitive sports, the greatest players tend to think ahead, in football to read either the quarterback’s mindset (or sometime the coach if he calls plays), in tennis to where the next shot will be going, in basketball to who is going to be double teamed and thus who will be open, in baseball, perhaps the sport most subject to thinking ahead, what the next pitch will be and how far off the plate.

In bridge it is a constant battle (mostly at IMPs (or rubber bridge) on close hands and not necessarily about overtricks because it is just too difficult to worry about that) between good defenders and an equally good declarer.

Is that part of the game difficult? Of course it is, but at the very top it is a way of life, sometimes only recognized by the participants with a smile or, depending on the table mood, a smirk.

This subject goes to the heart of our game, very interesting to those capable of competing, but boring to those who are not qualified.

Needless to say that, on the hand you reference, there is either a slim or no chance for declarer to let the heart ride and that would likely be true even though declarer needed a 3-3 break instead of, on this hand, only a 3-2 one. Good declarers hate to chance winning or losing early, although sometimes it is the best percentage chance, to usually be determined by how good the declarer considers the defenders.

Thanks for bringing up the subject.