Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Ah! What avails the classic bent
And what the cultured word
Against the undoctored incident
That actually occurred?

Rudyard Kipling

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

*Limit raise with four trumps


Against South's four spades, reached after North had shown a good hand with four trumps while South had temporized with a three-heart call, which simply marked time rather than guaranteeing four hearts, West led his singleton diamond. East, who had shown his diamonds in the auction, played the king, ace, then six of diamonds, declarer contributing the four and jack, then pitching the club nine. What do you plan to lead to trick four?

This is a trick question, of course. You do not plan to be on lead to trick four, since there is nothing to be gained and everything to be lost by ruffing in on this trick. You would be ruffing with your trump trick, and declarer would later be able to discard a second club loser on dummy’s diamond queen. Effectively, you are ruffing in on air with your trump trick and letting declarer use his winner later on. By discarding a club on this trick, you allow declarer to take a discard — but you could never have stopped him from doing that whatever you did.

The point is that if you save your trump trick for when it matters, your side will later come to both a club and a trump trick. And note that if declarer does have four hearts and two clubs, nothing you do matters.

Incidentally, East might well have guessed to shift to a club at trick two to protect against just this eventuality; but that is no reason for you to misdefend.

The choice is between the simple rebids of one spade and one no-trump. I don't feel strongly about this — though I suspect if my heart queen were the club queen, I'd feel much happier about bidding one no-trump. The advantage of bidding spades is that if this is a partscore deal, you have got your shape across at a low level. The advantage of bidding one no-trump is that you limit your hand.


♠ J 9 8 3
 A Q
 Q 5 3 2
♣ A 7 3
South West North East
1 Pass 1 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


Bill CubleyAugust 14th, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Thank you for a BWTA problem where we all get a right answer. It makes up for the trick question. This is a variation on not taking the ace of trumps to me.

Next weekend I play in Palm Beach in the Senior Pairs and the Swiss Teams. I hope partner will allow a convention card discussion this time. Last time he did not ye we won spotting the opponents the convention card! They played Precision. We agreed to Mathe/big club before play and added during play 1NT forcing, 2nt/TO X as a limit raise, and Reverse Drury.

The game was scored non-competitive.

Bobby WolffAugust 14th, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Hi Bill,

It is not fair for you and partner to have a convention card discussion. Since you may dwarf the competition, it is only right for you to go to battle unarmed and entitled only to guesswork whether you two agree on any or everything.

Known as handicap to the field and thought to be very sporting.

If we all live long enough everyone playing will win masterpoints and in every event, since rumor has it last place will get the equivalent of what tied for first used to get. Only fair because it is thought that every player in the game is expected to make one or more right plays during the long sessions, and they MUST not go unrewarded, otherwise they may not come back.

ClarksburgAugust 14th, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Sort of like the dumming-down of teaching math in schools. In our jurisdiction, students are required to not only do the problem, but also write a nice piece about how they approached it. So even if all answers are wrong, some marks are awarded for good writing. Meanwhile, a student who gets all math answers 100% correct could be marked down if the writing about it isn’t so good.
I’ve been promoting (tongue not fully in cheek) that they should also throw a few math questions into the English tests. That way, good math students would be able to pull up their English marks.

Iain ClimieAugust 14th, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

I tend to agree, and don’t understand why ignorance of maths and science seems OK, but lack of cultural knowledge is often sneered at. To be fair, being able to explain maths, engineering and scientific info in clear English is often essential, but the academic world often seems biased in many cultures.


PS I’ll now spoil things by spotting a typographical slip in your post, which could ironically support your point.

TedAugust 14th, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Hi Bobby,

Sorry to interrupt the cultural/philosophical discussion, but a question on BWTA.

Over your rebid, if partner now bids 2C (NMF not XYZ), would you treat your heart holding as 3 card support? Would it make a difference whether your response had been 1S or 1NT?



Bobby WolffAugust 14th, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Hi Ted,

You ask an important question, not so much with its answer helping that much, but because it symbolizes what constantly occurs in bridge bidding, judging traditional answers against practical.

I would rebid 2NT, after rebidding 1 spade, in order to deny 3 cards in hearts (in spite of their strength) to show both a club guard, a balanced hand, and most likely a minimum (although 2 clubs should be GF). BTW, if I held 17-18+ and about the same distribution I would then raise partner’s 3NT raise (assuming he simply bid it) to 4NT, describing my hand and, even more importantly allowing him to make the next mistake (only trying to be funny). If he then raised me to 5NT (which is accepting slam, but asking me for my opinion on which strain to play it in, I would then offer 6 hearts since it seems most descriptive to show what he knows to be a doubleton.

Continuing, if I had rebid 1NT over 1 heart and partner used NMF, I would simply bid 2 spades, affirming 4 cards in that suit and denying 3 cards in hearts (if holding both I would choose to bid 2 hearts first). All of the above only shows the discipline necessary to compete successfully with your partner and is not rocket science.

Bobby WolffAugust 14th, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Hi Clarksburg & Iain,

I love the philosophical talk about comparisons between teaching random subjects, always including and considering bridge. There is so much technical learning in becoming the best partner anyone can be, of course, as well as in also being a good winner (preferable) and loser (perish the thought) and add to, a compassionate companion.

However, unfortunately I, for one, and against interest, fully admit to a lack of patience if I deem partner to not be giving the game its required attention both right here at the table (and in River City) as well as not thinking much about it between our bridge liaisons. Excuses and lack of concentration are absolutely not to be allowed in the room, and if partner cooperates with that, I will accept his apology as well as I expect him to accept mine, for like gaffes.

Bridge, and its countless nuances is really the perfect subject to engage youth since it incorporates so many of the qualities necessary to succeed at so many worthwhile enterprises. I know of no other subject which is as versatile as bridge learning.

I sometimes think that Elizabeth Barrett Browning with her count the ways gem was talking both about love and our wonderful game when she offered her advice.