Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 17th, 2014

Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.

Ezra Pound

North North
Neither ♠ Q 10 9 8
 Q 5
 A K 7
♣ A K 10 8
West East
♠ 5 4 3
 A J 9 4 2
 8 5 3 2
♣ 5
♠ K J
 7 6 3
 Q J 9 4
♣ Q 7 6 3
♠ A 7 6 2
 K 10 8
 10 6
♣ J 9 4 2
South West North East
1♣ Pass
1♠ Pass 4♠ All pass


Today's deal is in response to a reader's letter about defensive signals other than attitude. As usual, there is not necessarily a single best way to pass on a message to your partner — in fact this article will suggest two entirely separate methods of signaling, and all you have to do is to establish with your partner which way you prefer.

You are defending four spades after partner has led the club five. Dummy’s ace wins and declarer plays ace and another spade. What do you lead after winning your spade king?

Let’s spell out what the two options are for signaling in trumps. The first, and somewhat more common one, is to play that a high-low signal in trumps suggests a desire to ruff. Therefore, if partner followed with the five then three of trumps, he must have a singleton club, and you should play a second club for him to ruff. Partner will score his heart ace, and later on, your club queen will be the setting trick.

The alternative and slightly more flexible approach is to use your play in trumps as suit preference, thus playing up the line asks for the low suit, while echoing in trump asks for the higher suit. If using this method, West will play the three, then four, of trump, and East will again give him the ruff.

Suit-preference gives you slightly more options because you can sometimes send a message for all three of the outstanding suits, while echoing for a ruff is a binary signal.

When the opponents intervene over one no-trump with a natural call or a bid that shows two suits, one of them being the bid suit, a sensible method for you to use is that all first doubles (from either side of the table) are for takeout. All subsequent doubles should be for penalty. Here, you can double two diamonds and plan to raise spades, or pass a two-heart response.


♠ A 7 6 2
 K 10 8
 10 6
♣ J 9 4 2
South West North East
1 NT 2

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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitJanuary 31st, 2014 at 10:07 pm

At the other table, after winning the CA on the opening lead, S cashed DAK and ruffed a D. He now played SA and another S. E won and gave his partner the C ruff, but W was now well and truly endplayed, forced either to lead a D and give S a ruff-sluff, sluffing dummy’s losing C, or forced to lead H. Note that if he should lead HA, S must pitch dummy’s Q.

jim2February 1st, 2014 at 12:21 am

David Warheit –


At our table I was at 3N, won the 4H lead small, played on spades for nine tricks, and was left wondering what all the excitement was about.

bobby wolffFebruary 1st, 2014 at 12:40 am

Hi David & Jiim2,

You clever devils, playing “Can you top this?” with bridge hands, avoiding the central theme but nevertheless applying different signals, lines of play, opening leads, alternate contracts and no doubt other bridge logic.

What it proves to me is how valuable it would be to an eager student while attending bridge 101 up through bridge 1001 during his early years, while honing the parts of bridge, code communication (bidding), numeracy (counting), concentration (attention to detail), deception, (not buying the bridge), problem solving (necessary to be a success in everything) and active ethics, (moral compass for all relationships).

Such a bright and stimulating exercise and all we need is an organization which goes after it and succeeds.

ClarksburgFebruary 1st, 2014 at 8:41 pm

“…deception, (not buying the bridge)…”
Presumably the bridge for sale was not a very good bridge; or perhaps there was no exit at the other end.
Does this “deception” theme have anything to do with how the game acquired it’s name?

bobby wolffFebruary 2nd, 2014 at 6:23 am

Hi Clarksburg,

Not in the slightest. Just a coincidence of words.

If another word needs to be added for a more complete definition that word would be “legal” to be used in front of deception, meaning that neither body language nor vocal intonation played any part in the deception, only the playing of a particular card, which was meant to throw the opponents off guard and get them to do the wrong thing.