Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 12th, 2014

Am I not a man and a brother?

Josiah Wedgwood

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


All the deals this week come from one of the world's most enjoyable tournaments. It is the Yeh Bros. invitational teams and pairs, run by Chen Yeh, a fine player who was on the first Asian team to win a gold medal at bridge in a world championship.

The format is unique: Mister Yeh sponsors top teams from around the world to play, but everyone is welcome to pay. The event has high entry fees and extremely generous prizes, and the only condition of contest is that Mister Yeh’s team is exempt to the knockout (last 16) stage of the teams and the final of the pairs. That way he gets to play against the strongest players in the world.

In today’s deal Bob Scott and John Wignall defended four hearts in this deal from last year’s pairs qualifier. Scott led a top diamond, as Wignall discouraged. Now Scott observed that, with only 16 HCP missing, it would be too much to ask partner to have a natural trick from high cards here. A club shift, while attractive on the surface, could achieve nothing. So what was the least he could find partner with to beat the game?

Scott found the answer when he led three rounds of diamonds, then hopped up with the heart ace at his first turn and played the fourth diamond for Wignall to ruff in with the precious heart 10, promoting the heart nine to the setting trick.

Both at pairs and at teams on "blind" auctions — where the opponents have reached no-trump without bidding any suits — your objective is to lead from a long suit of five cards or more. But when you are balanced, you should try not to give away tricks. Therefore, I much prefer leading the heart 10, not a fourth-highest spade (and leading from ace-fourth at no-trump is always a very ugly lead).


♠ A 9 7 4
 10 9 7
 J 9 3
♣ A K 6
South West North East
1 NT
All 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


Mircea GiurgeuMay 26th, 2014 at 10:09 am

Is this the best use of Rdbl by North, suppressing the 6-card, alebeit weak spade suit in favour of showing strength outside of partner’s suit? I guess North would show it later if allowed?

David WarheitMay 26th, 2014 at 10:48 am

4H depends upon H being 3-2 (or 4-1 with E having stiff A) + the opponents must not be able to cash DAK and ruff a 3d round. All of this happens–and 4H still goes down. 3NT only depends upon the favorable lie of H (okay, plus not finding one opponent with AK sixth of D and the HA). Do you see any way that NS can get to the much better contract?

jim2May 26th, 2014 at 12:50 pm

David –

If I declared 3N with the column hand, West would lead a small spade.

bobby wolffMay 26th, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Hi Mircea & David,

Good questions by both, one specific and the other general. I’ll now try and give both of you accurate answers (at least the way I view it).

Bridge bidding is all about finding code words to substitute for the cards one holds, with the hope of that language resulting in the best contract.

There are often two important guidelines in doing so: 1. distribution and 2. strength. One spade by North (forcing for one round and therefore unlimited in value), although West’s TO double certainly must be factored in, but would likely be a majority choice by most experienced bridge players (and at all levels) but never forget that the game itself is always the scorekeeper and thus the master.

The alternate possibility is to immediately show partner that this hand probably (at least in HCP’s) belongs to us and that choice would be to redouble (usually played as 10+ and promising another bid if passed around to him).

On this action by North, South is enabled to envision what seems to him to be the best resting place and wastes no time in confirming that to partner (again usually a good idea and, at least according to me, is not done often enough). Why? Simply because it puts maximum pressure on the opponents (taking away their bidding space and at the same time limiting partner’s involvement in the process) which, more often than imagined, creates more truth and less opportunity for glitches causing IMO better overall results (if, for no other reason, it prevents South from having to takeout partner’s possible and presumed slow penalty double at some point during the auction). Yes, that statement is not necessarily on point, however in actuality you will find (on close analysis) actively ethical players foresee these thorny future situations and try, if at all possible to avoid them.

Obviously this hand occurred and EW certainly deserved their result because of an excellent decision by West early in the play. That, of course, is the reason we wrote about it, but is, of course, not the answer to your questions. David, it is true what you say about 3NT possibly being a superior contract to 4 hearts, but only at double dummy and if East (or West) happens to lead a spade originally, down would go 3NT. Also Mircea, if North bids one spade and South then returns to 2 hearts after East’s presumed pass, the final contract would probably be established with North having a misfit.

Then, of course, we would never have seen this hand proving (at least to me) my statement of bridge being the master is correct, even if some supernatural forces seem to be at work.

Finally David, I cannot imagine South ever letting his partner languish in 3NT, although somehow if this board is played perhaps 60 times, 3NT will be the final contract in perhaps 6 or 7 of them, mostly making.

Fie on East being dealt the 10 of hearts and West holding the 9 and the length. Dame Fortune (that sometimes evil lady) strikes again.

Realistically South’s hand looks like the proverbially, “if it quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck and looks like a duck, it probably is a duck”, so appears a 4 hearts contract by South

Patrick CheuMay 26th, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Hi David and Bobby,re 3NT by NS,North’s redouble guarantees another bid,could South perhaps pass 2C and North bids 2S,South bids 3H and North bids 3NT?If North bids 1S,instead of xx,East 2C,South bids 3H,North bids 3S,hard to see South bidding 3NT and not 4S with Ace of spades singleton..

Patrick CheuMay 26th, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Sorry 4H must be right with 7carder,despite 6-1 spade fit,as the heart hand lacks entry apart from Ace of spades…Hearts missing the Ace.

bobby wolffMay 26th, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Hi Jim2,

Take a page from a good American football coach’s teaching method. When his kicker goes on the field to attempt a game winning field goal, he suggests that his only thoughts and vision is of the kick going straight through the uprights, square in the middle.

To be optimistic is what it takes and is the arch enemy of the TOCM tm malady.

If you need, I’ll get a doctor feel confident, to prescribe.

bobby wolffMay 26th, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Hi Patrick,

First you are right, and BTW second, you are also right.

That is why I didn’t offer a possible intelligent bidding sequence to David of playing a final 3NT contract since I thought that none existed

bobby wolffMay 26th, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Hi Mircea, David, Jim2 & Patrick,

Being a good partner in bridge (or any team type project) is thought to be, cooperation with each other, not being unilateral, and together making key decisions.

The above is true, but in bridge the definition should also include, when decision time arrives, it is wrong not to bid what is in front of one’s nose, in this case South bidding 4 hearts, knowing it is not guaranteed, but to not bid it, should be classified as totally unilateral.

The same should be said of when holding: s. Axxx, h. x, d. Axxx, c. Axxx and hearing RHO open 3 hearts, to not make a TO double (regardless of vulnerability) is shameful and, at least to me, much too dangerous not to (including if one of those aces was only a king).

jim2May 26th, 2014 at 5:30 pm

I learned the need to temper optimism when I played for money.

Paul GoldfingerMay 26th, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Wow — two acronyms I don’t know.

What are IMO and TOCM tm?

I guess I’m MAI (mildly acronym impaired)

jim2May 26th, 2014 at 5:50 pm

IMO = in my opinion

TOCM ™ = Theory of Card Migration

(To see the latter, just google “theory of card migration” (in quotes) for where it has been explained here earlier)

bobby wolffMay 26th, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Hi Paul,

If so, sai (so am I)

IMO=in my opinion, perhaps a shade more cocky than IMHO which adds the word humble

TOCM tm=theory of card migration with the tm suggesting Jim2 has that phrase trademarked. He is positive that when he plays our game, the opponents cards migrate to the worst possible location for him and he usually proves his point.

You’ve just got to get with it since it don’t mean a thing unless you have got that swing.

I must be too young for this internet gang.

Paul GoldfingerMay 26th, 2014 at 7:03 pm


I’ve looked up TOCM tm from historic comments. Very entertaining.

jim2May 26th, 2014 at 8:25 pm

And it’s all TRUE!!


Iain ClimieMay 26th, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Hi Jim2, Bobby,

Assuming you defend with 3 rounds of diamonds, aiming to win the HA and try for the trump promotion, could South have A QJ10xxxx Q10x QJ? The nightmare continues!



bobby wolffMay 26th, 2014 at 9:14 pm

Hi Iain,

It is doubtful South would have ventured 4 hearts with that piece of cheese, but what about if South had: A QJ10xxxxx, Q10x Q, now then NS would have been playing for something and would have succeeded.

If our guy would have been in this foursome he would have been sitting EW requiring Dame Fortune to allow either him or his partner to rise with the ace, which, on the bidding, seems like the thing to do.

However, there are probably some players somewhere who, as declarer would have just conceded 2 heart tricks (gentlemanly thing to do) and not have gone through the trouble of playing out the hand.

Only “The Shadow” knows.

Iain ClimieMay 26th, 2014 at 10:36 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for the correction as I seem to be having problems with red suits at the moment – I’ve twice managed to assume 14 diamonds in a pack recently, so 12 hearts is a change albeit not a good ons!