Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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


Sometimes virtue is not rewarded and crime goes unpunished. In this deal from last year's Summer Nationals in Atlanta, one could argue that the result was more humorous than tragic — but it does depend a little on which side of the table you were sitting.

Bobby Levin, West, gave the Daily Bulletin the following deal to see if its readers knew their textbook plays. You lead the spade seven against one no-trump, which goes to the king, ace, and two. East now plays back the spade 10, which goes to South’s jack. Declarer leads the heart two, to your three, dummy’s seven, and the 10. Partner now plays the spade eight to dislodge declarer’s queen. What do you discard?

Levin could reconstruct the whole hand. South’s failure to raise hearts suggested he had a doubleton heart and so East had the Q-J-10. Therefore, to create an entry to his partner’s hand, the right play was to jettison the heart ace. Now declarer could no longer establish hearts without letting East cash out that suit.

Right play but the wrong hand for this maneuver as you will see when you look at the full diagram. After Bobby’s discard, declarer had no trouble in leading a heart to the king, dropping East’s queen, and now ran hearts for plus 120 and all the matchpoints.

Still, at least Levin could be consoled that it got him into the newspaper — and thanks, Bobby, for being such a good sport as to report it!

You are way too good for a bid of three no-trump, and a case could be made for a simple bid of six clubs. But your partner might have stretched to get his clubs in without real extras, so start with a cuebid of three diamonds, planning to find a forcing club raise at your next turn one way or another.


♠ K 5
 K 8 7 5 4
 A 6 4
♣ K 7 4
South West North East
1♣ Pass
1 2 3♣ 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 WarheitAugust 5th, 2014 at 9:45 am

In the other room the bidding went 1H-1S-2H-all P. E led a small D. Declarer won the Q, led a H to his K, cashed the DA & ruffed a D and led a H won by E with the Q. E led the CJ and it went Q-A-4. W cashed the HA & exited with his last D, ruffed by declarer. Declarer now led the SK, and due to the favorable lie of the S & C suits only had to lose one more trick–the SA. Making 3H and “all the matchpoints”.

bobby wolffAugust 5th, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Hi David,

Yes, such are the varied ways hands are bid and played, especially part scores, at normal duplicates around the world. No doubt, -120 would have garnered at least one matchpoint.

So many years ago when I had a bridge club in San Antonio, Texas, we started a Junior Duplicate which catered not to young players, but rather to new ones. We pre-duplicated the boards and one day, having nothing better to do I followed the progress of a normal 4 spades which should make 4 and, believe it or not, at all 8 tables in which it was played, the final contract was 4 spades and all made 10 tricks.

However, at all tables the bidding and play were different, but the result happened to be the same, making it a uniform -420 except, of course, at “Ed the Doubler’s” table (an affectionate nickname that he cherished), who always doubled randomly and quite often his score appeared as -590.

Topping this story off, there was a pair of ladies, who won their direction time after time and, of course, played every week. We were always after them to play in our other games where the competition was better, but they refused until one not-so-fine night they accepted and moved up in quality. They then finished below average (something they had never done in the other game), and we never saw them again — in any strata.

So much for memory lane.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 5th, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Marvelous story of a high level play, but could be likened to the Hitchcock character, “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”

SlarAugust 5th, 2014 at 3:56 pm

This is off-topic but I would like your input (maybe for a Sunday column?). I was dealer, both vulnerable, and the auction went 1NT (15-17), 2H (natural), X, p. Our card said systems on over X 2C but something told me that I was very sure that my partner thought we were playing Stolen bid and that I was expected to bid 2S. Clearly this was unauthorized information so I was bound to pass and defend. I also declined to lead my partner’s “suit” when I got the lead. Nevertheless, declarer misplayed (allowing partner to overruff a diamond) and went down 2 instead of 1. My question is whether I met my obligations fully or whether there was more to do. Since this was Matchpoints it didn’t matter in the scoring (the rest of the field declared) but I want to get it right lest this ever happen again.

Bobby WolffAugust 5th, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Hi Slar,

First of all, thank you for writing. It often seems, especially in bridge, that a possible off-topic subject becomes a virtual bell ringer to which many readers will be interested.

IMO and manifested in so many of the bridge committees I chaired, my judgment favored equity first, even ahead of many specific laws which I deemed were passed to support fairness, but possibly could have been written more clear in favor of its goal.

On such a full sea is your question afloat and my unequivocal answer is, if anything you may have gone too far in favor of fairness, although having that happen, takes some doing.

When something is undisclosed, and here only your system, after a 1NT opening and over a double or 2 club bid was noted, a little creature, perhaps similar to Jiminy Crickett and Pinocchio led you to believe that your partner’s double showed a transfer to 2 spades so I would suggest that you ask your partner to leave the table and then explain to your opponents what you think it is and answer other legal questions, while out of your partner’s earshot. I realize that the bridge laws do not suggest this, but I have found it often covers the bridge front in fairness, degree and impact.

You went miles further, penalizing yourself along the way, but with a miracle, wound up getting a great board. BTW, not leading his likely suit may have also been an act of active ethics, probably not necessary, unless you felt that spades were not called for to lead for other bridge reasons.

To get it right, DO NOT let anyone convince you that there is any right or wrong on any one hand. What you MUST do is follow your conscience, and attempt to right the wrong as best you can, but never round action off in favor of your side, but rather preferably neutral and unfortunately, sometimes even against your interests.

One thing is for sure is that with your mindset, bridge itself, will never get short shrifted, making you a Slar Bridgeseed to which you will always represent our game to the very best advantage.

Now, aren’t you glad you asked?

Peter PengAugust 5th, 2014 at 6:18 pm

hi Mr Wolff

How do you like or dislike opening 2S with


planning to rebid 3H if partner passes and opps compete in clubs

Unimpeded, opps went to 6C and made

whereas partner had


and partner did not bid 2C Michaels – undiscussed, but I assumed “universal” after his RHO opened 1C.

how unusual is not bidding Michaels?

thanks in advance

jim2August 6th, 2014 at 12:08 am

David Warheit –

It was all the matchpoints at our table too after I raised to two hearts.

– JC ducked to KC
– 4D to East’s KD
– 8C to West’s 10C
– AC
– 5C to North’s xH (or S pitch) and East’s 10H
– AS
– 10S probably won on Board
– Norths KH dropping East’s QH

Leaving West with A9 behind Board’s Jx of trump

Down two for -100 was all the MPs but, unfortunately, not for us.

bobby wolffAugust 6th, 2014 at 1:21 am

Hi Peter,

When many players (usually a tad conservative) complain about certain positive actions with bidding they often quote the reason, “too dangerous”. In reality the danger lies in not acting.

While I would pass your 5-4-4-0 hand in 1st or second position, it is a major crime not to get into the bidding with the 5-5-0-3 partner hand unless 2nd seat opened something at least at the 4 level. Anything less, a major suit takeout has to be bid, causing the defense to at least compete through the 6 level which on a good day will be a make, and especially required if the opponents bid 6 clubs which they will make.

However, even with partnerships who are just getting their feet wet playing our great game, will soon learn that underbidding costs even more most times, than does overbidding.

You must play the role of mentor, getting your information from the experience of others which says that bridge is definitely a bidders game, not designed for timid souls.

Good luck and bid em up!

bobby wolffAugust 6th, 2014 at 1:29 am

Hi Jim2,

Your suggested contract and defense are both very reasonable and, although I would not expect down 100 NS would be a zero, it would be obvious that the defense was on target.

AS you no doubt hear repeatedly, “Don’t worry, your luck will change soon.” Perhaps, yes, perhaps, no, but as long as the stakes are not too high, you will never run out of hard luck stories.

jim2August 6th, 2014 at 1:40 am

My luck DOES change!

It goes from bad to worse …

SlarAugust 6th, 2014 at 3:08 am

Thank you for your response. Since I had safe leads in the minors, leads were not really an issue. I have gotten some good instruction. A golf background helps. It also helped when one of my first partners told me that my break in tempo made it impossible for him to bid ethically. Whether that was true or not, it taught me a valuable lesson. I’m still working on my table presence but at least I understand what I am trying to do.