Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

You might as well fall on your face as lean over too far backwards.

James Thurber

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


In his contract of three no-trump, declarer formed a master plan, with a fallback plan ready to go. Unfortunately he missed one small detail, and his house of cards collapsed.

Against the no-trump game West led the spade queen. Declarer won in hand and saw that the quickest way to his contract was to take four club tricks. This was Plan A, so at trick two he led a low club to the king. If the king held, his intention was to return to hand in diamonds in order to lead a second club up. Should the ace still not have appeared, he was ready to resort to Plan B – the heart suit. Even with the heart king offside, three heart tricks plus two in each of the other suits would add up to nine tricks.

But South’s plan had overlooked one minuscule detail. The club he initially chose to lead toward dummy was the three. East won with the ace and returned a spade. Declarer won and played a second club to the queen, and when East showed out the suit was irretrievably blocked. So Plan B had to be put into action. When the heart king was offside the game was sunk.

Declarer could have allowed for this distribution of the club suit by leading the nine at the first opportunity, and later unblocking the eight as well. The three could then have been utilized for a finesse of the seven.

When considering giving false preference back to two spades on auctions like this, consider two things. Would you be happy if partner made a try for game, and are your values in partner's long or short suit? If the answer to either question is yes, false-preference does make sense. If not, pass. Here, passing two hearts looks right to me.


♠ 4 3
 J 10 3
 7 5 2
♣ K Q J 7 2
South West North East
1♠ Pass
1 NT Pass 2 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 ClimieAugust 12th, 2014 at 9:11 am

Hi Bobby,

This reminds me of a horror story I once saw where partner played in 6H (I should have bid 6S instead) after his RHO had opened 3C. He held 7652 A8xxx AKJx None opposite my SAKQ43 KJ9 xx K10x. He got a trump lead to the 9, Q and Ace, then drew trumps which were 3-2. Now he cashed the SAK but didn’t unblock the spades, and the pre-empter either dumped a club on the 2nd spade – or did he follow? Partner had relaxed too soon and the potential goof shows why dummy is not allowed to ask defenders “Having None?” when they show out. He is still OK via a loser on loser play – lead a club and dump the blocking spade, but panic had set in. He cashed the spades forcibly ending in hand, then played DAKx hoping for the queen to come down in 3. One off!

I apologised for failing to bid 6S after 3C – X – Pass and commiserated with his bad luck. He cheered up and played reasonably for the rest of the session.



bobby wolffAugust 12th, 2014 at 10:31 am

Hi Iain,

Wasn’t one of Dean Martin’s (started out as the American straight man and singer of the famous comedy team of Martin and Lewis) popular songs called, “Memories are made of this”?

And to think that if your partner had not tangled up the spades and coasted to an easily made slam , this hand would have been lost in history as just another virtual lay down slam, though played in only the 2nd best trump suit, made much easier by an errant trump lead.

Instead of having a “real nice clam bake” (from the hit musical Carousel), you, instead would have had a “real nice slam make”.

Your remembrance of the mostly European, but likely now also the WBF, of dummy not being allowed to ask the opponents, as they can, this side of the Atlantic, “No …..?”, similar to a live defender not asking his partner, under the threat of an established revoke, if he does, no ……, partner” since his intonation may imply to his partner that he didn’t have many of them either.

The contra argument to that rule is that, “since bridge is theoretically a gentleman’s game, should we worry about the players using nefarious questions to get across unauthorized information”? My long career in bridge would probably answer “yes”, but always with a sheepish smile (my fictitious wolf’s clothing) .

Finally, your humanitarian apology to partner which, no doubt, masked much disdain, lionized your partner’s feelings (at least for the rest of that session) but what about your pent up feelings which caused a not so private rant later and, no doubt hurt or, at the very least postponed, your love life.

And instead of having a real nice “clam bake” from the great musical “Carousel”, you would have had a real nice “slam make” from an Iain Climie production.

bobby wolffAugust 12th, 2014 at 10:37 am

Hi Iain,

Please forgive me and subtract at least one clam bake.

Iain ClimieAugust 12th, 2014 at 10:53 am

Hi Bobby,

It was an occasional partnership only, so there seemed little point in kicking up a fuss. I did once suggest to one irascible regular partner (who, to be fair, used to beat himself up over his errors as well as yelling at partners) that tantrums were a waste of energy, increased the likelihood of further mistakes and so were pointless even if you were focussed solely on winning and had no real interest in enjoying the game; people are going to make mistakes, frequently involving huge brainstorms, so it is a matter of when not if. He wasn’t overly pleased about the observation!


jim2August 12th, 2014 at 11:41 am

In BWTA, I also would pass partner’s two heart bid, but I believe there is an additional reason worth noting.

Partner rates to have a singleton or doubleton club. Unless it is specifically Ax, then “my” club suit will produce one or zero tricks if the defense plays properly. The most likely chance of an outside entry to my hand is a spade ruff in a heart contract.

I would estimate the next most likely chance of an entry would be if pard had a heart holding like KQxx and also wanted to lead a spade towards the closed hand after cashing a good club (or two).

In summary, my hand appears to be worth more in a heart contract than a spade one.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 12th, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Hi Iain, Bobby’s ‘Clambake II’ was written in the middle of the night (when he often responds on this site), so he deserves forgiveness!



Patrick CheuAugust 12th, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Hi Bobby,would you bid 4H holding J5 QJ98764 73 72 on this bidding:Pairs all nv,dealer South 2C(21-22bal or 8ptricks any)-West 3S~ North? I thought this chunky heart suit is worth 4H,but not pard who expects me to re-open with a double with South’s hand-6 AK AK104 AK10964.I bid 5C,perhaps 4C is a better bid? 5C making on a defensive error got us zero as most were in hearts and one pair in 5Cx making..West AQ109432 103 Q98 8-East K87 52 J652 QJ53,on a heart lead.Regards~Patrick.

Bobby WolffAugust 12th, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Hi Patrick,

Your hand is exactly what the general subject becomes, when so called “feel of the table” enters the room.

What else could a 4 heart bidder have, opposite a strong 2, where the opponents have preempted in spades and the strong 2 bidder must have in order to justify his opening bid? At least to me, the strong 2 bidder should just offer 6 hearts and expect to make it.

Are there any strict rules as to what a 4 heart bid would mean in this situation? Absolutely not, but the bid MUST be bid and right now. Obviously a timid (not confident) bidder would be afraid to “rock the boat” since he (or she) could hide behind passing and waiting, but by bidding “only” 4 hearts, it would be NF and willing to play and yes, could be slightly stronger, but not much.

Sometimes, while attempting to climb up the ladder with bridge knowledge a hand will come along (like this one) which will have all the elements of what should be done and this is one of those.

True, 6 hearts is in no way a laydown, but merely a contract we want to be in. I hope the previous is enough said, because all future bridge in schools should eventually feature this type of judgment, allowing “good feel” students of the game to understand its necessity. However this hand should not be featured until several years into the subject.

As always, thanks for responding.

Iain ClimieAugust 12th, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Hi Bobby, Judy,

No problem as I like clams! I do wonder if my posts soon after 10.00 am (UK) should trigger Bobby feelign obliged to reply – perhaps I should turn them into a cure for insomnia. My wife tells me I should just talk about cricket to achieve this, although there is a wonderfully mad book (Slipless in Settle) which describes spectators trying to doze in the afternoon sun yellign abuse at a cricket player who was making too much noise. It does give an insight into the very odd approach to the game in the North of England.



Patrick CheuAugust 12th, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Hi Bobby,Just two simple words-Thank you.Very Best Regards~Patrick. 🙂