Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, June 23rd, 2014

He played the King as though under momentary apprehension that someone else was about to play the ace.

Eugene Field

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


Aces are made to take kings, they say. Up to a point, but there are always exceptions, as this deal from last year's European Open Championships in Ostend demonstrates. In fact, all the deals this week come from that event, marking the fact that the European championships are starting now.

In the auction South’s one-club opening was Polish, showing either a minimum balanced hand or 18-20 high-card points, and the two-no-trump rebid showed a balanced hand with extra values — but not necessarily any real club length.

Against three no-trump, West (Sue Picus) started with the spade queen, taken by declarer’s ace. She played four rounds of diamonds, and when Alex Kolesnik got in with the diamond jack, he put the heart king on the table. Had declarer ducked, she would have remained in control. But when declarer won the heart ace, the only way for her to get to the good diamond in dummy was to play a heart. Now Kolesnik was poised with the club ace and good hearts to cash, so declarer ended up a trick short.

Had declarer ducked the first heart, she could have won the heart continuation in dummy, cashed her diamond, and led a club toward her king to score her ninth trick sooner or later.

Conceding nine tricks in three no-trump would have represented an average result for East-West, but defeating the game was a near top.

When dummy is known to be very weak, your target is not only to set up tricks for your side, but also to avoid giving declarer tricks to which he is not entitled, or to give him finesses he might find hard to take. Since your partner did not act, I'd be inclined to avoid a spade lead. And because a club lead feels too committal, I guess a small diamond is all that is left.


♠ Q 7 4
 K 9 3 2
 J 4 3
♣ A 8 6
South West North East
Pass Pass 1
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 ClimieJuly 7th, 2014 at 10:59 am

Hi Bobby,

Interesting lead hand, reminiscent of the chess joke “Tactics involve knowing what to do when there is something to do; strategy is the equivalent when there is nothing to do.”. A horrible choice, and even partner’s failure to double doesn’t help – he may have short hearts but a scruffy 9 count.

Any idea who the quote was aimed at? It is amusing if cruel, even more than Dorothy Parker’s about Katharine Hepburn running the range of emotions from A to B.



Bobby WolffJuly 7th, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Hi Iain,

Without trying either to be a “smart ass” or “wishy, washy” I love your chess joke and agree with the definitions.

I can only add that strategy in bridge is quite often (and should be) involved with legal bridge deception (not hesitating with a singleton or taking forever to discard from a totally worthless hand).

If the author (Eugene Field) of the quote played bridge (very unlikely) he would probably be referring to a coffeehouse move of playing the king (while declaring at NT), like it was about to be devoured by the enemy, while in reality he held the ace and another also, eg holding AKx opposite QJxxxx, and a side jack in dummy and then led the king and queen of the side jack suit attempting to persuade, aka cheat, into ducking that suit (when unbeknownst to the defenders they had a ready to be cashed side suit) in order to prevent a later entry.

The above is all contrived (sort of) and is not suitable to be shown to bridge children under the classification of PG 53FC otherwise interpreted as flagrant cheating while playing a game with 52 cards and 1 joker.

Yes, Dorothy Parker could be meaner than 40 snakes, but who could ever rival the back and forth intellectual insults between Churchill and GB Shaw?

BTW, did The African Queen ever answer back concerning her not so wide emotional range or perhaps Hoagy Carmichael sprinkled a little Stardust for her or perhaps the owner of Cafe Americain (sp?) took a brief interlude from Ingrid Bergman (difficult at best) and did it for her.

Iain ClimieJuly 7th, 2014 at 12:36 pm

I’m not aware of KH trying to reply, but trying to escalate a war of words with Miss Parker might have been unwise. Still, there can be a lighter side of abuse.

Years ago, I worked with a prematurely balding, lumbering, cider-swigging, rambling engineer who had social skills which made my bad days look like Rudolph Valentino. Indefinite if not actually infinite shelf life, I thought. He eventually found a girlfriend through his local church. Enquiry established she was a little younger and a student. When it turned out she was studying languages, I innocently asked if they included Braille. I can’t throw stones, but the victim managed to laugh too.


bruce karlsonJuly 17th, 2014 at 8:51 pm

New subject: Both vul, holding AJxxx, KQxx, xx, xx, I dealt and pass, LHO bids 1D, P, 2C by RHO. Twice with similar hands I doubled trying to keep spades alive and twice got very bad boards as LHO bid 3C, all pass and we have an 8 card H fit that makes 3. Is that just bad luck or should I simply bid the hts. Any difference if it is 4/5 in the majors??