Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 26th, 2014

If thou must choose
Between the chances, choose the odd:
Read the New Yorker, trust in God,
And take short views.

W.H. Auden

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

*A pre-empt in either hearts or spades


Even the experts sometimes lose their way. In today's deal declarer had two chances to make a doubled partscore, but missed both.

In one room West had made eight tricks in clubs, but in the other room South was playing for bigger stakes. Against two hearts doubled, Ricco van Prooijen led his singleton heart to the three, two and king. Now declarer misguessed by playing a spade to dummy’s jack at trick two. East, Marion Michielsen, took the spade queen and played the diamond five. Declarer went up with the ace and cashed three more spades, fatally discarding one of dummy’s clubs instead of the lone diamond. Michielsen ruffed the 13th spade and continued with the diamond queen, then switched to clubs. Van Prooijen could win the second club and play a killing third round of diamonds. Declarer ruffed this diamond low, but Michielsen overruffed and still had a trump trick. The defenders took one trick in each side-suit, plus three trump tricks.

If declarer discards dummy’s diamond on the fourth spade, Michielsen could ruff the fourth spade and play her diamond, but dummy then ruffs and plays a club. East can duck to allow West to win, but declarer discards dummy’s remaining club on the diamond continuation. A further diamond can then be ruffed with the heart jack. If East overruffs, that is the last trick for the defense. If she discards her last nontrump, declarer leads a low heart from dummy, endplaying East in trumps.

There are not many positions where I turn into a coward, but this is one of them. With limited values, I am facing a passed partner, and I have the sort of suit I don't really want to command my partner to lead. So the prospect of making an overcall that takes up no space is not an inviting one. I will pass, and let my partner lead what he likes, if necessary.


♠ Q 5 4
 Q 9 7 4 2
 Q 5
♣ K Q 6
South West North East
Pass 1

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


jim2July 10th, 2014 at 11:26 am

This hand has bothered me a bit these last two weeks.

First of all, didn’t East miss an easy set by cashing the club marriage before the diamond return? That seems an intuitive shift and gives the defense three black tricks with a diamond and at least two trump to come.

Second, I think I would have interpreted passed-hand West as having minor suit length and strength (probably at least nine or ten cards and points) and (after the lead) one heart. After all, North’s major was still not settled when West doubled. Thus, any early spade finesse would seem better directed at East, not West.

Third, and it is here that I am most unsure, might declarer not have been better trying to force the defense to break spades? What if declarer, say, advances a small club at Trick 2 with the intent to strip the minors until East is forced to over-ruff?

Declarer could reasonably expect the six card ending to have East on lead holding three spades and Q94 of hearts with the defense having won two clubs, one diamond, and the over-ruff.

Bobby WolffJuly 10th, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Hi Jim2,

It is still very early in the morning in LV, but with the scenario given, if East, upon winning the spade queen then cashes 2 clubs and leads a diamond when declarer wins the ace and then plays all his spades throwing dummy’s losing diamond and East ruffs it the dummy is down to AJ10xx in hearts and in control to only lose 1 more heart trick and therein get home with his 8 trick doubled contract.

In regard to the bidding, I think it somewhat intuitive for West’s passed hand double of South’s 2 heart response (meant to all as pass or correct) to be a TO of hearts, of course, assuming from his hand that hearts are going to be the WTB’ers suit.

Nothing to take to the bank, but I think logical to play. To get in a thought of mine, my experience of playing against Multi for many years (extremely popular in Europe and also around the world) is I think its real value is only about 25% with 50% being average, however its shock value raises the 25% to maybe over 60% because of the intimidation any artificial bid and particularly a preempt has for an equalizer. Add that to various nefarious ways Multi is played and described (I’ll discuss this with anyone who asks) and presto that 25% even goes significantly higher than 60+%.

In other words Multi, if the opponents learn about it and what to expect and (this is important) certain rules of disclosure are demanded by the organizers, very few good pairs will keep playing it.

I await specific questions, but doubt that any Multi users will be the ones who ask them, but if so, we may get into ethics issues which need to be understood and can be interpreted differently by reasonable people, but cry out to be discussed openly otherwise sinister thoughts may win the day.

Back to the ranch, Jim2, I may be overlooking something which you may point out to me, regarding the result obtained with the AOB hand of the day.

Thanks for your patient waiting during the 2 week incubation process.

Bill CubleyJuly 10th, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Did the real declarer speak of Auden as well.
When I was one and twenty I heard a wise man say give not your heart away. Now I am two and twenty and oh ’tis true, ’tis true.

Iain ClimieJuly 10th, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Hi Bill,

I thought it was A E Housman from “A Shropshire Lad” and that it was four and twenty then five and twenty. So I looked it up – your numbers were right, my author, but the advice is worth repeating in full:

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard a wise man say,
‘Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;

Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free.’
But I was one-and-twenty,
No use to talk to me.

When I was one-and-twenty
I heard him say again,
‘The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
’Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue.’
And I am two-and-twenty,
And oh, ’tis true, ’tis true

W H Auden (I think) wrote “Stop all the clocks …” which was used at the funeral oration in the film “4 weddings and a funeral”. Thanks for the literary reminder and distraction!



Bobby WolffJuly 10th, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Hi Bill & Iain,

“Stop all the clocks” indeed emphasizes nostalgia and with it leaves room for tears.

Thanks to you two for bringing up the subject and also to W H Auden and A E Housman who, between them, gave us a treasure trove to cherish.

Our reconstructed bridge site just moved forward.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 10th, 2014 at 6:21 pm

Hi Iain:

You pre-empted me as I was working on my own blogsite and glad I rechecked before posting here and being redundant. In any event, Housman’s poem was my all time favorite though I haven’t thought about it in years .. and how true, how true!!

Iain ClimieJuly 10th, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Hi Judy,

I remembered why I thought it was 24 and 25; a friend of mine at work 30 plus years ago got engaged to a nice girl, so I tweaked the poem to fit his then age. Something went VERY wrong, they split up and she married a close friend of his on the rebound. I’ve always felt vaguely guilty about the whole business and wondered if she found the poem or if he quoted it to her as an ill-judged joke. He did share my youthful lack of tact in some areas.

Regards (and possibly with apologies),


PS To Bobby as well. A hand from last night. Sxxx Hx DAK98x C109xx Love All pairs. LHO opens 1D (11-15, 2 or more Ds), X from partner, 1H on my right, 1N from me (maybe not sensible but I prefer to get stuck in) 2D on my left (great), 2H from partner (?? as chess players say) X on your right. What is the best way out of the hole I’d helped dig, or do I let partner do the climbing?

Bobby WolffJuly 10th, 2014 at 9:53 pm

Hi Iain,

1. It is definitely important playing against a precision club pair (probably but not 100%), to discuss how both partners will handle the nebulous diamond which goes with that system.

2. My choice would be to more or less and in the absence of difficulty to treat the diamond opening as real.

3. Here however since 2 hearts (over the opponent’s 1 heart) would be an obvious cue bid since double is available for penalties, a forward going bid of 2 diamonds should be natural.

4. And although your side was unlucky with the fall-out perhaps 2 diamonds by you, although less imaginative and running less to daylight (a possible 3NT) was a safer and more descriptive call. However after the no nonsense penalty double by the same person who bid them first bodes horrible I would either redouble for SOS or first run to 3 clubs with the idea (if viciously doubled) run then to 3 diamonds and hope to get really lucky which I estimate has about a 25% chance to work.

Your imaginative call of 1NT has a good chance of also working, but when it doesn’t a price usually has to be paid. Are you listening Jim2, who is always at the mercy of his considerable disease and usually powerless to get out unscathed.

Iain ClimieJuly 10th, 2014 at 10:54 pm

Hi Bobby,

The 1D was technically Nottingham club, an early precursor of Precision, but I redoubled bringing the auction to an unexpected stop. OK, partner wants to play in their suit despite the trump stack on his left and has 6 hearts, but he may well be going one off and my redouble has turned a possibly fair score of -100 into the kiss of death or worse.

Wrong again! Despite having a fairly strong hand, partner was 3523 shape and played the hand beautifully (with a little defensive help) and nullified the 6 trumps on his left with an endplay. 640 from playing in opponent’s long suit was one of the more eccentric methods of getting a top. Double and 2N were more mainstream alternatives.


jim2July 10th, 2014 at 10:55 pm

I am a simple nuclear engineer and so lack the imagination to bid 1N in that situation. Thus, I feel at a loss as to what to do here.

Key questions:

1) Assuming partner is not my spouse, can I run faster than her/him?
2) Are there other bridge clubs I could play at?

If both answers are yes, then I would give serious consideration to faking a coughing fit, excuse myself from the table to the lavatory, climb out a window, and never come back.

If partner is my spouse and my marriage is one I want to preserve, or if partner could run me down, or this is the only bridge venue in 50 miles, then I would bid three clubs.

jim2July 10th, 2014 at 10:57 pm

I did not see Iain’s followup post. Having seen it, I am going to go lave my eyes.

Iain ClimieJuly 10th, 2014 at 11:24 pm

Hi Jim2,

My attempts to play serious bridge with a serious girlfriend many years ago contributed to the demise of that relationship! My wife doesn’t play, and helps keep my delusions of exceeding adequacy in many areas in strict perspective.

My regular partner has a good sense of humour, displays various quirks on occasion and is extremely tolerant. The last character trait is recommended for bridge partnerships, marriages and life in general.


jim2July 10th, 2014 at 11:31 pm

This is jim2’s neighbor. jim2 can’t come to the keyboard right now. He says to tell you that he is still washing his eyes in hopes of being able to unsee something.

Anyone know what he is talking about? Does that even work??

Iain ClimieJuly 10th, 2014 at 11:38 pm

Hi Jim2

It is still only one bad board, even in a worst case scenario. Kipling time (If…) and I hope the eyes clear soon.


(innocent player) jim2July 11th, 2014 at 12:42 am

Mr. Wolff –

A terrible thing last night:

My partner opened and rebid a suit that definitely did not deserve it, the next one doubled then appeared to psyche a cue bid, I innocently bid one heart holding six, his partner then psyched a one notrump call and later redoubled his partner’s psychic cue bid and – at the end of it all – I got a zero.

Which of the Hindu gods should I burn incense to to be rid of this curse?

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 11th, 2014 at 5:02 am

You guys are a laugh a minute. Y’all oughta go into show business. This proves one thing: Though bridge is a serious game, if you don’t have a sense of humor (and an open mind), you might as well throw in the towel (and the cards).

Some day I hope all of our paths will cross. It may be far-fetched, but delightful to anticipate.

MirceaJuly 11th, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Jim2 says that this hand has been bothering him for 2 weeks. Where do you get to see the hand that will showcased 2 weeks later?

(innocent player) jim2July 11th, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Newspaper – note the two dates at top of the column here

(innocent player) jim2July 11th, 2014 at 12:40 pm

(He’s still in there washing)

Bobby WolffJuly 12th, 2014 at 12:23 pm

I am now happy to report:

The good news is that my eyes are now very clean, however the other side, I am now very blind, especially in determining good from bad bridge.

Bill CubleyJuly 12th, 2014 at 9:24 pm

Thanks all for the author correction. 🙂