Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, December 28th, 2013

A man who is ungrateful is sometimes less to blame for it than his benefactor.

Duc de la Rochefoucauld

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


In today's deal West led the heart eight against four spades, and East took his ace, on which South false carded with the jack. East refrained from giving his partner an immediate ruff; that would be two tricks for the defense, but since his partner had one significant high card at most, they would get at most one diamond trick. He had to hope that the defense could get two diamond tricks at once, so the right defense was to play a diamond at the second trick.

So far so good, but East then considered that if he switched to a low diamond, South might not play the king. Might South duck — calculating that West had the diamond ace because wouldn’t East have given his partner an immediate ruff if he had an ace as a reentry? If South ducked, East would no longer have an entry for the heart ruff.

East decided that it must be better to shift to a high diamond first, thus remaining on lead if South were to duck. He then avoided the second trap, of leading the diamond queen. Had he done so, West might quite reasonably have led three rounds of the suit, trying to give his partner an overruff in that suit. Instead, East played the diamond 10, covered by the king and ace. West returned the diamond jack, and East overtook to give his partner the heart ruff.

“What took you so long to give me the ruff?” was all the thanks he got.

If the opponents had not bid, the jump to four diamonds would have shown a hand with four hearts and six diamonds and the values to force to game. When the opponents intervene at a low level, I'd expect your partner to extrapolate from that agreement to the same point. You do not have to decide yet, though. Cue-bid five clubs — or jump to five hearts to ask partner to bid slam with a spade control.


♠ 9 8 2
 K Q 10 9 4
 8 5
♣ A Q 8
South West North East
1 Pass
1 1♠ 4 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 ClimieJanuary 11th, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Hi Bobby,

West’s gripe reminds me of a sports comment also applicable to games (and probably also drinking alcohol) – sports (and games, and drinking) don’t build character – they reveal it! Exactly what is the point of West’s grumble apart from making East wonder why he bothers playing with West (or possibly even at all)? In addition, an East disgruntled from the lack of gratitude may now play worse for the rest of the session.

Morale is crucial to performance and not just at the bridge table. The best MD of any company where I’ve worked (and I’ve been in industry) not only had the common touch but always preferred the carrot to the stick, at least as his initial approach. In mathematical game theory, there is a simple game based on “The Prisoner’s Dilemma” where reward is based on the combination of 2 players’ choices.

Each player can play Nice or Nasty. If both play Nice, each is well rewarded; if both play Nasty, both players get a minimal reward. Playing Nasty (with a gullible opponent playing Nice) gets a somewhat better reward than Nice-Nice while the other peson gets nothing. Over a period of time, the best mututal benefit is Nice-Nice and the optimal strategy is to play Nice first, then copy the other person’s last play – this is known as “Tit for Tat”. Strangely, this might even pay off for a bridge partnerships by praising partner on his/her good plays then picking them up after any goofs.

There again, I may be getting soft in my old age. Alan Sontag wrote in “The Brideg Bum” of one player whose nickname was the Beast, and who revelled in it. At the time (70s to mid 80s), I was a kindred spirit



Iain ClimieJanuary 11th, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Sorry, missed out “for over 34 years” on my work experience.

Shantanu RastogiJanuary 11th, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Dear Mr Wolff

In the deal given shouldnt a jump to 3NT (instead of 3 Spades) show the same type of hand as held by South and 3 Spades be reserved for 6331 type. Until unless West finds an inspirational Heart 8 lead 3 NT is cold. But that I guess is academic.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

jim2January 11th, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Is this one of my hands?? If not, then poor South seems to have caught the TOCM ™ bug!

In the column, the falsecard presumably was intended to discourage a trick #2 heart ruff. It succeeded, but the result was South going down when the averted ruff would have let the contract succeed.

If South HAD followed suit woodenly, then East would have had the diamond ace and West the queen-third of spades. The trick #2 heart ruff would have been followed by a diamond return and a trump-promoting second heart lead.

bobby wolffJanuary 11th, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, bridge partnerships can be and often are, similar to workplace relationships and unfortunately sometimes even marriages.

Probable reasons can range from competitive for recognition, a growing dislike or distrust of each other or just possibly a different reaction to victory and defeat and therefore “not treating those two imposters just the same”.

Early on, a bridge partnership, especially a possible world class one, MUST realize that they will share both happy and sad times and the latter, sometimes because of error by one or the other, but what goes around comes around reflecting the changing culprits and innocents.

Human nature is not easy to change, because of the innate personality of individuals, but for a hoped for success of a talented bridge partnership, good personal habits are a necessity, not just a feature.

Good luck in all your future partnership endeavors. Perfect, they will not be, but with your sensitive nature it will be obvious to both, that you are willing, able and committed to do your positive share.

bobby wolffJanuary 11th, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Hi Shantanu,

While playing a forcing club opening, yes, a one of a major opening (limited) followed then by a 3NT response would (should) indicate a strong 6 card major with stoppers in the unbid suits. However, playing a normal system (not a forcing club), that bid needs to be reserved for hands good enough to have opened a forcing club so that a jump to 3 of a major is merely a strong distributional hand (not a minimum) which shows a good suit.

Your solution is a good one, but one which is a little results oriented, and although with a double dummy opening lead, very unlikely, it would go down 3 tricks. However, even without that suspicious opening lead, 3NT could easily go set with the ace of diamonds always onside, but the queen of spades not falling or miss guessed while 4 spades will be scored up.

Thanks for adding some excitement and conjecture.

bobby wolffJanuary 11th, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Hi Jim2,

All you say is true, but holding Qxx in the declarer’s long and strong trump suit, would you lead dummy’s long suit in search of a ruff, in spite of, with your scenario and on this hand, it works in “spades”?

Again TOCM tm seems to be lurking, like a Count Dracula movie, and especially late at night, lurking behind every door or perhaps it is the Wolff Man instead.

jim2January 11th, 2014 at 8:10 pm

TOCM ™ scares me far more that the Wolffman ever could!

jim2January 12th, 2014 at 12:52 am

Um, wait a minute! I meant Wolfman — one “f” !

That thought of Wolffman (two “f”s) lurking behind every door, perhaps kibitzing me and ready to point out all my errors … well, that’s just plain TERRIFYING!!