Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Do not try to find out — we're forbidden to know — what the gods have in store for me or for you.


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


Trump promotion is a well-established tool in the defensive armory and comes in many guises. In today's hand, the defender promotes a trump trick for himself rather than for his partner.

After East had shown great restraint by passing in first chair (many, including myself, might have fallen from grace and opened two spades, treating the seventh spade as compensation for the weak spot-cards), West found himself on lead against three clubs. He resisted the temptation to lead his singleton, instead kicking off with his three top diamonds. With the lucky layout of the club suit, if left to his own devices declarer would have had no problem in holding his losers to just three diamonds and a spade, eventually setting up his spades to avoid a heart guess. But look what happened when West continued with a fourth round of diamonds. East ruffed in with the club jack, forcing declarer’s ace. Now when West covered the club nine, the club seven became the setting trick.

One small trap that East has to avoid is ruffing in with the club eight instead of the jack. Once in a while, when you are going to be able to ruff in twice, you need to ruff low at your first turn. Far more frequently you only get one chance; if so, don’t send a boy to do a man’s job. If East ruffs low, declarer overruffs, then cashes the club ace to drop the jack, and the trump promotion is history.

When faced with a close decision on when to reopen over a pre-empt, it makes sense to be conservative in direct seat and aggressive in balancing. While passing out two diamonds might be our side's only plus score, or smallest minus score, I would double here. But, for instance, I would pass out an opening of two hearts because of my heart values. And with the actual hand, I'd pass in direct seat.


♠ K Q 5 4
 K 10 2
 J 10 5
♣ A 9 6
South West North East
2 Pass 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


David WarheitJune 19th, 2014 at 9:14 am

Seems to me S should bid 3NT over partner’s 3C bid–and, voila! it makes!! What would you have done?

Iain ClimieJune 19th, 2014 at 9:16 am

Hi Bobby,

A double whammy for NS as not only did they go off in 3C but 3N makes. Doubling 2S may have been tempting for South, but could misfire horribly.

A thought on the quote today. Would Horace have been thinking of the Oedipus legend here? This is the ultimate case of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing.



Iain ClimieJune 19th, 2014 at 9:24 am

Hi David,

Too quick for me again!


MirceaJune 19th, 2014 at 9:41 am

Is it not always right to ruff with the highest when you know declarer (on your left) is out of the suit, as well? I know “always” and “never” are banned words bridge, but still, doing so may effect the wonderful trump promotion as it did on today’s deal.

Erik-Jan KrijgsmanJune 19th, 2014 at 10:21 am

Is it clear to cover the 9? It is wrong if south has A98 and was planning to play clubs from the top (should he?). It is right if south has A96 and was planning to run the 9 (should he? probably not, but then why is he playing the 9 instead of a low one).

My instinct is not to cover (if I can do so smoothly) and I expect south to get it wrong on this layout.

Iain ClimieJune 19th, 2014 at 10:31 am

As a further point, west covered the club, correctly as the cards lie. Swap the C8 and C6 and he needs to duck to give declarer a losing option.


Bobby WolffJune 19th, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Hi David,

Bridge and its many nuances can be devilishly insidious. In answer to your question, no I do not think I would chance 3NT since my hand is not only a minimum in high cards, but also one without a source of tricks.

However, the one which Dame Fortune dealt provided the source of tricks with 5 very good clubs (or at least good enough) and, at a club contract, allowed an opponent to develop a defensive club trick with an uppercut, instead of against 3NT allowing West to have a higher 4th diamond or North to have one less, allowing the defense to prevail vs. 3NT.
but perhaps not the contract of 3 clubs.

One characteristic of experiencing our game (at least IMO) is the continued exploration of back and forth, often between declaring NT and one’s best suit, which most times (I think) shows the value of trumps, but today it shows the disruption trump uppercuts may cause as opposed to just raw tricks to take.

All of the above (and a whole lot more) constitute the wonderful game we love, and, as much of Europe and all of China is now experiencing by allowing the teaching of bridge in its primary and secondary schools, how bridge logic, (tied to numeracy) allows a certain logic pertaining to arithmetical problem solving, along with competitive psychology, special required ethics (because of the aspect of partnership), and perhaps most important, complete unwavering concentration when doing battle, all important to learn in the lesson of life as well as playing bridge.

Until our powers that be (mostly ACBL with, of course, its BOD’s and home office) devote enough time to follow suit and secure bridge in our schools, (using the “rave notices’ from the many big-time countries who have and an investigation into its obvious qualities of education), our country will be missing out in a mind developer non-pareil, forever to regret our loss of benefit.

Without the above, bridge appears to be dying out in North America, as opposed to on the elevator going up in others, with its average age continuing to soar, together with a lack of understanding (because no one has thought to emphasize its value) to our youngsters as to the potential, excitement and constant challenge which our game will always generate.

Emphasize respect and therefore peace, intellectual challenges, and fun educational opportunities, instead of political boondoggles, the making or stealing of money, and trying to treat vastly different cultures and religions the same way, and the word progress, at least IMO, will suddenly result.

Bobby WolffJune 19th, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Hi Iain,

In actuality, no one is too quick for your lightning quick mind.

As far as Horace, his quote and your reference to the Oedipus legend, incest, back in his day, may well have not been known to be as inexplicable as it would be thought of today.

Yes, a little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing, and bridge is a starting point to prove that theory.

Bobby WolffJune 19th, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Hi Mircea,

Yes, it would always be common practice to, when attempting to uppercut declarer (hoping to produce a trump trick for the defense) to ruff with one’s highest trump, but card combinations being what they are, (mysterious at times) sometimes will produce an exception.

Not true in chess or within the same context probably in poker, but perhaps more debatable with that game.

Mircea, you are a great ambassador for bridge, often pointing out (or better said, exploring) the many varied possibilities which only bridge represents.

Bobby WolffJune 19th, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Hi Eric-Jan,

Thanks for your comment.

On this layout it is correct to cover, but when declarer may or may not have the 8 as well, it may, depending on the declarer’s original holding be a guess for him rather than an automatic play.

Now to briefly discuss what happens when playing at a very high level, and against a shrewd declarer. Never forget, always consider an opponent an equal, not a lesser adversary and by so respecting, a defender should be able to put himself in declarer’s mind and at least, try to visualize what he may be thinking, depending, of course, on what he knows (and you are only guessing) exactly what are the options available to him.

Difficult, to say the least, impossible, definitely NOT, but one last admonition is that is at least what I think, is what separates the best from just plain brilliant (and nothing more) and often the winner from the loser.

A slam dunk, no, worth thinking ahead with the idea of creating a better model for yourself, 100%! It is why to me, that experience at the higher levels is so mandatory for any lesser player to acquire and then to grow, without which all the natural talent (and bridge IQ) in the world is not enough.

At least to me, and for other sports fans, it is what the San Antonio Spurs (as a team) had all over the Miami Heat in the recent finals for the NBA championship, together with their legendary coach, who, at least to me, has never been equaled in any sport (to which I am aware).

Peter PengJune 19th, 2014 at 3:47 pm

hi Mr. Wolff

not on trump promotion line, but I saw this yesterday on line. I will send my solution separatelyl


Yesterday, June 15, 2014, in the Gro Cup shown on Vugraph over BBO, yours truly kibitzing, this hand was played.



West East

J87532 AQ
J6 3
AKQ9 T75
6 KQJT982



East opened 1C, South overcalled 1H, and West called 1S. North passed, East called 2C, South 3H and West 3S, East ended the bidding with 4S. The play went, North leading.

Q of H, over took by South, who continued with the Ace of H, East ruffing with the Q. Declarer played then the Ace of spades, felling the K on his right, an obvious singleton, North playing the 4.

Declarer has the A of C to lose, and he considered that the T and 9 of trumps, were protected behind the J. So, after a long delay, he played the K of C, North winning the A. North continuing a diamond. Declarer played low from dummy, and South played the J. West played A of a D. West followed with the K of D, playing low from dummy and South following. Declarer then thought some more and conceded down 1, opponents gladly accepting the claim.

Peter PengJune 19th, 2014 at 3:48 pm

the east and west hands do not separate in the cut and paste, but one can still see the separations

Peter PengJune 19th, 2014 at 3:52 pm

I could be wrong…

Instead of pulling trumps, declarer plays a club, losing to the A. Say North continues diamonds as he chose to do when he won the A of C in real play. Declarer plays low from dummy and South will likely play the J. Declarer then plays a trump to the A felling the K, an obvious singleton. He then plays one club, high or low, ruffing winners. He goes back to dummy with the T of D, and continues with the clubs, ruffing winners again. Then he plays two more rounds of diamonds, North following. Declarer then playes the 8 of trumps. If North wins, he is end-played in trumps. If he ducks, declarer plays the J of trumps and loses only one trump trick.

Avoiding the coup

If South plays low to the D led by North, the trump coup will be hard to find, as South can win the 9 of D, but instead has to win the A, K or Q. Also, if North returns a club it will be hard for declarer to ruff his high clubs, and will likely discard diamonds instead.

Bobby WolffJune 19th, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Hi Peter,

Yes, when the king of spades falls singleton the hand becomes a double dummy problem so stripping the hand with the intention of endplaying North by playing either the 8 or the 7 from hand at trick 11, forcing North to win and be endplayed is inevitable.

However, while on defense and playing South, I would overtake the queen of hearts and switch to a diamond, allowing declarer (West) to take the spade finesse which would spell down 1 (2 spades, 1 club and 1 heart). However declarer (at a very high-level) might smell a rat and play South for a singleton king of trumps, because of the dog (South) who did not bark (lead a second high heart) and thus win the psychological battle on this hand.

Also South should overcall 1 club with 4 hearts (instead of only 1). However West could still bid 4 spades, but then North may raise to 5 hearts and if passed around to West he would probably double, down 2.

All in a session’s time, nothing spectacular, but rather reasonable bridge rather than average minus.

Thanks for writing and hope I didn’t offend anyone you know.

Bill CubleyJune 19th, 2014 at 10:32 pm

There is also the fact that if declarer leads the six of clubs after the nine was covered, West must still be awake enough to cover again so the 5ive is high.

Bobby WolffJune 19th, 2014 at 11:44 pm

Hi Bill,

Don’t you remember one of the first lessons everyone receives in bridge, “never forget to cover a six with your seven so that your partner’s five becomes high”?