Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?

James Thurber

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


This sounds like a rhetorical question: which percentage line would you choose to take to make your contract — a 50-50 shot or a two-thirds chance? On today's hand, the declarer settled for the toss-up — and regretted it.

Against four hearts West made the natural lead of the spade queen, which East overtook with the king and returned a trump. Declarer acknowledged that hopes of a spade ruff in dummy for his 10th trick had all but departed and looked for an alternative. Naturally, it was to the diamond suit that he turned.

South won the trump switch and finished drawing trumps. Then he cashed the club ace, just in case the king was bare — unlikely, but a no-cost play — and turned his attention to diamonds. He entered dummy with its only entry, the diamond ace, then finessed the diamond jack. That was the 50-50 chance and it lost. The defenders were quick to cash their two spade tricks, and that meant one down.

And the two-thirds chance? At trick three, declarer does best to duck a diamond. With eight cards in a suit, the missing cards will break 3-2 just over two thirds of the time, as they do here.

The defense can do no better than cash their spade winner, then graciously concede the rest to declarer. If not, after trumps are drawn, even the second spade trick will disappear on dummy’s diamonds, giving declarer an overtrick.

With a 10-count and three trumps, you normally have an option to invite or make a simple raise. The five-card side-suit and good controls argue for aggression; the bad trumps argue for caution. I'm on the fence here. If you play that the raise to two hearts is constructive (8-10), then it is reasonable to go for that. Going plus is never bad.


♠ A K 6
 7 5 4
 9 8
♣ K 10 7 6 3
South West North East
1 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 2014. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMay 6th, 2014 at 9:38 am

Hi Bobby,

To be fair to declarer, he has the small extra chance of a singleton diamond Q (5.6%) but is it worth running the DJ at trick 3, ducking if west covers? After all, West may go to sleep with Qxx or even Q9xx and could even be right to do so if South has DJ10x. I accept that TOCM (TM) may give West stiff DQ, but perhaps worth a shot at pairs or even teams?



jim2May 6th, 2014 at 11:32 am

Another convert! 🙂

Nonetheless, I confess that i would probably lead the JD, also.

This column appears to be another example of the “honor distractor” principle. That is, replace the JD with an “x” and the correct play is easier to spot.

Bobby WolffMay 6th, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

Yes, bridge gambits come with different shapes and sizes and, after Iain made a superior suggestion, Jim2 even mentioned that some ploys are even disguised with inferior offshoots (possessing the diamond jack) which might tempt a would be good declarer off track.

All true and indicative of talented bridge minds when concentrating and totally determined, can challenge computers successfully with improved ways to select the best chance for success.

On that full sea, all of us can sail with the hope of outdoing our worthy competitors and eventually crossing the finish line ahead of them and let them answer the wrong numbers, not us.

Bill CubleyMay 6th, 2014 at 7:49 pm


In BWTA I would normally make a limit raise. MY AK of spades are good based on inside-out evaluation. I have a ruff for partner. We might make all of the tricks if partner has clubs with me. And, most commonly, we might bid and make the heart game. I blame the late Lynn Rising and some of my past regular partners for this type of bidding. They made the game well over 95 % of the time!

jim2May 6th, 2014 at 9:09 pm

IIRC, many partnerships have a sequence that shows a LR with three trump.

It may be a forcing 1N followed by a jump raise.

Bobby WolffMay 6th, 2014 at 11:38 pm

Hi Bill,

Since you have never ever made a mistake as my partner, I will have to agree with you that a limit raise is called for on the BWTA. Let others only raise to two and wind up sleeping in the streets.

Since some wise player once told me that they give a bonus for bidding and making a game, I will go for it. Ninety Five percent translates to 19 out of 20, which maybe is even greater than the sun coming tomorrow, so I’ll buy into your advice.

Bobby WolffMay 6th, 2014 at 11:40 pm

Hi Jim2,

But those who do that on a passed hand run the risk of forcing partner to rebid on a below minimum opening which sometimes doesn’t work.

Oh well, it is still a better percentage than being afflicted with TOCM TM.

jim2May 6th, 2014 at 11:57 pm

South is not a passed hand in this BWTA and North is not a 3rd hand opener.

I agree that partnerships might treat a passed hand – 3rd hand opener differently.

Bill CubleyMay 7th, 2014 at 3:29 pm

My style f making limit raises without going through a forcing NT is that, as Grant Baze believed, it is a Guide to Total Trumps, not a Law.

With respect to all, I am not as good as many players. So I feel if I always tell good opponents whether or not I have 3 or 4+ trumps, I am helping them more than my partner. If they make a LOTT assessment assuming I have 4 trump and compete to a level to high than that is another problem for those deep thinkers to consider and perhaps get wrong.

Bobby WolffMay 7th, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Hi Bill,

The information given to good opponents as well as to partner often enables them to make both good bidding decisions and winning opening leads, so I agree with your comments.

There is, of course, a fine line in which to be in a position of achieving the best results possible and it varies. Legal deception in both the bidding and the play are often very helpful in scoring well. However, it sometimes is a rocky road in determining when and how to do it. Good luck.