Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, June 2nd, 2014

I feel all the pride of power sink and all presumption in the wisdom of human contrivances melt and die away within me.

Edmund Burke

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


One of my bridge collections is of old par hands. Today's deal comes from an ancient batch of problems, and has something of a contrived air to it, but the underlying point is a sound one.

Whenever you see a problem like this one (where a grand slam seems likely), you know that the proper play for 12 tricks will be to protect yourself against the most unfriendly distributions — so be warned!

On freak deals such as this, spirited competitive bidding is inevitable. East-West should not forget the standard maxim “If in doubt, bid one more.” Therefore, if North-South stop at six spades, East-West might consider sacrificing in seven hearts. However, at equal vulnerability, it is hard for either player to take the spectacularly cheap save in seven hearts, which goes just one down.

After West’s top heart lead is won in hand, a top trump from the South hand at trick two appears routine. When West shows out, insurance against a 5-0 diamond break should be taken out. This can be done by conceding a diamond trick at once, ruffing West’s heart or club return, then trumping a low diamond with the spade ace. Now declarer can return to hand with a spade finesse against East to draw trump and run the established diamond suit.

This play involves the investment of an overtrick. But even at matchpoints one might consider this a worthwhile maneuver, since making six spades should score well enough, given the cheap save for East-West.

Dummy rates to put down a singleton spade, and not to offer much in the way of ruffing values, so there is no need to get active. My instincts are to go after clubs, since leading a diamond (whether it be the ace or a low one) looks unduly committal.


♠ 8 6
 K 6 5 2
 A 10 5
♣ Q 7 4 3
South West North East
1 Dbl. 1♠
1 NT Pass Pass 2♠
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


Iain ClimieJune 16th, 2014 at 8:48 pm

Hi Bobby,

I don’t know about the play being contrived, but the bidding? When the hand was set, surely a strong 2D would have been de rigeur. 1D could have been followed by 3 passes reminding me of the old rubber bridge story. A player with 10 sold spades and 3 singletons passed first in hand, trying to get doubled later. Pass, Pass, Pass was bad enough but he asked his partner what he held. Sorry, came the reply, I thought it wasn’t worth opening Vulnerable with just the 3 aces. Somehow the sandbagger suppressed his howls of anguish.



Bobby WolffJune 16th, 2014 at 9:19 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, your so-called old rubber bridge story has been relived in reality by all experienced been there, done that, players.

However, if I was to recreate a self portrait of what I think more important than most, it would be the necessity to not be predictable by worthy opponents.

And what we are talking about now fits under that umbrella. Like in this case, although totally exaggerated in that one side, normally cold for a grand slam, has to play it sensationally just to score up 12 tricks in spades while the other side is actually cold for the same in hearts.

This theme, although often toned down, does occur more frequently than most of us suspect, and when one adds the likelihood of an errant lead or a wrong, though forgivable view, view this poker aspect of bridge more times than not, determines or at the very least, influences overall success in winning tournaments or winning the appreciated green stuff.

In other words, I believe in sometimes taking early chances in order to keep the opponents from reading my mind later in the bidding and even sometimes, in the play.

Take heart, that I cannot, in any way, prove that my view is correct or even wise, but nevertheless it is the way I have always gone about it, that is, after the first few years of my trying to learn the game.

Thanks for plodding through this admission.