Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, January 20th, 2014

We believed we were safe. That was the big fantasy.

John Marsden

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


When this deal came up in a knockout match at a recent regional tournament, both tables reached the spade game despite East's opening bid. North doubled the one-heart opening bid, and at one table heard a one-spade response and simply jumped to game, while in the other room North followed the sequence shown here.

By agreement the jump to three hearts showed precisely four trumps and forcing values, and was designed to insure that North-South did not reach a 4-3 fit if South had been obliged to respond in a three-card suit.

In the first room South won the heart lead and went after trumps by leading them from the top. The 4-1 trump break left declarer with just nine tricks. Playing on clubs before trumps would have probably led to defeat as well, so South considered that he had simply been unlucky, but the declarer in the other room demonstrated that there was more to the deal than that.

Here South realized that he could afford two trump losers but not three. As he knew East would surely have the spade ace, he found the best play of a low spade from dummy at trick two. When the ace popped up, declarer had achieved his goal of holding his trump losers to two. But had the defenders won the first trump trick cheaply, declarer would have regained the lead and led out a top trump. This would have been proof against almost any lie of the cards.

It is largely a matter of partnership agreement here, but I suggest a simple agreement: double is 0-4 HCP, and pass is semipositive, forcing to game. New suits are natural and suggest a decent suit and seven or more HCP. The make-up of this hand would allow you to go either way between a double and pass, but I would opt for the more aggressive action.


♠ 8 6 4 2
 7 4
 5 3
♣ K J 10 5 3
South West North East
Pass Pass 2♣ 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


jim2February 3rd, 2014 at 12:22 pm

“This would have been proof against almost any lie of the cards.”

I agree with this as long as E-W were playing Flannery.

bobby wolffFebruary 3rd, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, you are indeed correct. However there are two caveats worth considering.

1. Usually, perhaps except on this particular unfavorable vulnerability, often experienced players holding 4 trumps for partner (hearts) are inclined to raise partner with almost no HCP’s to just not let their opponents have an easy road to judging their likely fit and probable good enough hands for game tries.

2. Even more importantly, when hands turn out to be more or less impossible, or wildly improbable, to be able to make them, they are usually not worth talking about and therefore should not even be considered to even think about them. This could be thought of as economy of time thought, therefore enabling a player to concentrate on only what realistically it is to consider, rather than what is not.

To some slower type players #2 becomes necessary so that they do not take all the time out of the session worrying about what they cannot do anything about, although at the time they will excuse themselves by saying that he had to be sure that East having 4 spades wasn’t a sure death sign.

And how about if East was dealt s. AJ, KQJxx, d. Qx, c. xxxx and switched to, and then continued clubs at tricks 4 & 6, after cashing his heart trick.

Should a slowee be able to disrupt the game with extra long trances thinking about such things before deciding that his partner would probably have led his singleton club to start with? My vote would probably be no, although many would vote the other way saying they consider bridge a “thinking mans game” worth intruding on others time and patience.