Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

We must accept life for what it actually is — a challenge to our very essence and quality without which we should never know of what stuff we are made, or grow to our full stature.

Robert Louis Stevenson

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


There is nothing more satisfying than to find a hand where the defenders set their opponent a real challenge, and declarer was equal to the task.

This deal came up at the European championships a few years ago, and few defenders found the route to trouble declarer. A typical sequence of play saw the defenders cash their clubs and exit in trump, letting declarer ruff a heart to hand early and draw trump.

Far better for the defense is for West to cash the diamond ace at trick three and play a third club, attacking the trump suit. When this happened, declarer elected to ruff in hand. However, the 3-1 trump break coupled with the bad heart break meant that so long as West did not cover the spade jack, declarer could not avoid a fourth loser. If declarer drew trump, he would be unable to ruff out hearts; if he left trump out, West could overruff South on the third heart. (Note that if West covers the spade jack, declarer can ruff the next heart high and then finesse the spade eight to make his game.)

The winning line at trick three for declarer is to ruff the club on the table and discard his heart from hand. Now he can take a heart ruff and run the spade jack. West will gain nothing by covering, but if he ducks, declarer leads a spade to the queen. Next comes a second heart ruff, a spade to the ace, and dummy is high.

Even by a passed hand a call of two diamonds, the fourth suit, would be forcing for one round. But that call would be unwise, and a bid of two no-trump would be suicidal. This leaves you three unpalatable choices. Rebidding two spades might leave you in a 5-1 fit, and giving preference to two hearts rates to do the same. So what else can you do but pass and hope partner has five clubs?


♠ J 10 4 3 2
 K 9 5 3 2
♣ Q 8
South West North East
Pass Pass 1 Pass
1♠ Pass 2♣ 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


BryanMay 17th, 2014 at 4:46 pm

What happens if West delays on the A diamonds?
2 clubs then a small heart?
If a 2nd heart to hand with ruff then spade to queen, west will over ruff the heart back and cash the Ace

jim2May 17th, 2014 at 5:06 pm

I posed the BWTA to my pard and he pleaded for a different set of 13 cards.

ANY 13!


bobby wolffMay 17th, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Hi Bryan,

Declarer wins the heart in dummy, ruffs a heart, plays 3 rounds of spades ending in dummy and then establishes the hearts by ruffing with his last spade and winds up losing 2 clubs and 1 diamond.

The devilish cashing of the ace of diamonds and then another club is the best defense, but declarer solved that one also, by ruffing in dummy and discarding his heart so that he can take 2 heart ruffs in hand and not be overruffed.

bobby wolffMay 17th, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Hi Jim2,

You think you are the hard luck kid, but see what the bidding can deal you. Just another example of TOBD, tmp, aka theory of bidding dilemmas with trade mark pending.

jim2May 17th, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Not MY hard luck this time! Pard’s!

He wanted to bid diamonds, 2D if FSF was off, but 3D if it was on — I have no idea what his reasoning was for the latter! I am passing, just as you recommended, and am just happy North did not rebid 3C which I could not pretend was not forcing.

bobby wolffMay 18th, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Hi Jim2,

Just to set the record straight, at least knowing what I think I do, about general conventions and normal treatments.

Challenging your partner, I would say that most (95% or more) experienced players play 4th suit by responder as GF (except in certain special circumstances which would not apply here). Furthermore a jump to 3 diamonds in this situations should definitely be forcing, either understood by agreement as a splinter for clubs or, if preferred, a strong spade diamond 2 suiter.

One of the more necessary attributes of an aspiring bridge player is to learn the discipline necessary to move forward with one’s partner and that basically should be translated to not being able to make a certain bid mean what you want it to, just because to not do so becomes very frustrating.

Bridge is a game of problem solving (and a deluxe one) but there are strictures, one of which is to sometimes having to understand that bridge bidding is far from a perfect experience, which simply means that sometimes (often) one has to settle for a lesser of evils choice instead of an outrageously optimistic one.

None of the above should be interpreted as a criticism of your partner, who for all I know, might be a very good player. It is only an attempt by me to discuss borders which should not be crossed (at least IMO).

Mircea Giurgeu, Kitchener ONMay 18th, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Mr. Wolff,

Double dummy, it is easy for West to try the ace of diamonds hoping declarer ruffs in the wrong hand on the club ruff’n’sluff continuation, but what kind of reasoning would West have for doing something like this single dummy?

bobby wolffMay 18th, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Hi Mircea,

Your question is nothing less than a great one, since the answer delves into the discussion of differences in how top level players view crucial factors as opposed to how less experienced ones do.

West, upon seeing dummy, realizes immediately how the declarer is going to manage this hand and that will be to establish the hearts, while finessing trumps (spades) and unless his partner has the jack (surely a singleton) or perhaps the ten, and if so, not guessing correctly how to guess the distribution, then something needs to be jostled in order to have a chance to defeat this contract.

Thus, presto, magico he did what he did, and almost succeeded and would have, if the wily declarer didn’t find a counter to it.

When one defends and while playing against peers, one has to also be an excellent declarer, as he knows his opponent to be, and thus try and look for ways to counter what he knows declarer to be getting ready to do.

Is bridge that complicated? An emphatic YES, but within the guidelines of what a player with numeracy skills can well keep up with and my bet is that you are easily one who could. Your interest and thought process is enough to convince me of your latent talent (and work ethic) to get to there from here.

In order to not exaggerate my welcome, I will leave it at that, but I can assure you the deeper you delve into our wonderful game the more you will fall in love with it. Yes, it is indeed a challenge, but the joy from finding solutions to bridge problems greatly exceeds the frustration sometimes caused by some failures.

Good luck and don’t be a stranger with anything about bridge where I might be of value to you.

Mircea Giurgeu, Kitchener, ONMay 19th, 2014 at 12:43 am

Mr. Wolff,

Has anyone ever told you how great a person you are, not only bridge-wise but in general? In the very short period of time of just a few weeks since discovering this great blog I’ve seen you at least a few times encourage and embolden players at various levels with their attitude towards their bridge. When this comes from one of the greats of our game it leaves me in awe.

One of the (many) problems our game is plagued with is the strong ego and selfishness that unfortunately so many players display towards their peers. In my experience, the higher the level one attains the less likely that person is to share their knowledge and wisdom about the game with those lower on the ladder. Yes, there are exception but too few.

I thank you very much for your encouragement and willing to help. All I wish for is that this blog will keep going for a long time. I’m considering more and more seriously starting an extract of it. There is way too much wisdom and knowledge here to be left rotten.