Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Laws control the lesser man. Right conduct controls the greater one.

Chinese proverb

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


Today we have a defensive problem, and to put yourself properly in the shoes of the defender, cover up the West and South cards and consider as East how you would defend three no-trump after South's strong no-trump is raised to game and West leads a fourth-highest heart three. Dummy plays low, and it is over to you, Plan the whole defense.

Should you play the 10 or the king to the first trick? Consider what declarer would have done with the ace in his hand and the doubleton queen in dummy. He would surely have played dummy’s queen — so he does not have the ace.

Say you make the right play at trick one, the heart king. Declarer produces the heart nine. What next? Here, the right technical card to return is the heart five, leading low from a remaining holding of three cards. However, on this occasion the “right” lead is wrong.

At trick two you have to play back the heart 10, hoping that partner works out to take the second trick and cash out the suit. With that powerful a dummy he should be able to see that his only hope to beat the hand is the actual layout. Motto: rules are all well and good — but remember to break them once in a while!

Though you are in a game-forcing auction, a call of two spades, the fourth suit, retains its original meaning of seeking a spade stopper for no-trump. That is one sensible option here, but it would also be perfectly acceptable to bid three diamonds now. In my preferred style, my partner's rebid promised five diamonds and four hearts and at least a reasonable hand, if not necessarily a full reverse.


♠  A 6 5
 Q 6
 K 10 5
♣ A J 10 5 3
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
2♣ 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 28th, 2014 at 9:10 am

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, how confident would you be of going past game? The two aces and huge red suit cards, plus the very good club holding, suggest to me that slam is a very real possibility, 6D anyway.

You mentioned politics yesterday and I loved Robin Williams comment – Poly means many and tic(k)s are blood -sucking insects. A sad loss.



Patrick CheuAugust 28th, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Hi Bobby,re BWTA,if North is 11-14,presumably he can just rebid 2N here?Unless he is 4450..Therefore 2H is a good 14+..I stand to be corrected.Your play hand again shows how important trick one is in defence and declarer play,avoid the ‘reflex’ play of the ten of hearts and the ensuing blockage if returning the ‘automatic’ fourth highest.We strive to explain to others then the Exceptions to follow!Do you think Bridge mirrors Life in some respect? Regards~Patrick.

bobby wolffAugust 28th, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt a diamond slam is (or should be), at the very least, a live possibility. If so, it would be borderline bridge criminal, not to prefer diamonds now and set the stage for an investigation.

Slam elements consist of an adequate trump suit (usually at least eight cards and we contribute two of the five trump honors and a length of three to match partners inferred five). Slams need controls and we offer two aces, plus, what could be an important fitting card (Q) in partner’s second suit and, holding only a doubleton also enjoy the probability of ruffs in the short trump hand (if needed). Extras include an adequate source of tricks, clubs, which with the right fitting card(s) from partner will offer great hope.

Overall, if more is necessary, visualize with partner xx, AKxx, AQJxx, Kx or, Kx, AKxx, AQJxx, xx, not to mention xx, AJxx, AQJxx, KQ or even Kx, Axxx, AQxxx, KQ making a grand slam likely by needing only either a 3-2 break, or of course, a possible singleton jack.

To seal the deal, all of the above hands fit the requirements of what a reverse rebid by partner might look like. I realize that some partnerships do not require any more than a minimum for a reverse by opener after partner has responded at the two level, but should a would be great partnership opt for those types of methods?

These are the questions that any wannabe excellent future players must ask themselves before committing to a bidding system. Will they, by their choices, still live in the dark ages with their slam bidding or will they adjust certain elements (like reverse bidding, both as to strength and to the natural sounding distributions) to fit a marked move upward in their big hand results?

Iain, both you and I learned bridge from some great bridge authors of many years ago with SJ Simon’s great book of Design for Bidding, being one of them. Any young up and comer, must, at the very least, consider what those types of logical methods will offer, before they make vital decisions on what to do.

Sure, they can also just opt to play social bridge and use bridge just to have fun, rather than to take it too seriously. No problem with that, but before they do, like other important challenges, need to plan what role they want the playing of bridge to have in their future.

Thanks for your comment about hand evaluation so that between the two of us, we can discuss what is really up for grabs when the playing of bridge is, so to speak, on the table.

Iain ClimieAugust 28th, 2014 at 12:57 pm

A further thought on the play hand today. West has the SQ so should realise east has no more high cards. Just as long as West doesn’t place South with HJ98, east with an ace he can’t have and ducks to maintain communications.


bobby wolffAugust 28th, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Hi Patrick,

I just obviously experienced which all of us (on this site), at one time or another, have felt with cross discussion flying around the world and not settling until we have undertaken the answer to an already posted comment.

Can North be only 11-14? And if so, should we play that way? BTW, if holding 4-4-5-0, my inclination is to first only rebid 2 diamonds and await partner’s next effort, if for no other reason than to begin to put on the brakes with a possible misfit appearing. And if I had a much better hand I, then (with that distribution) prefer to bid spades next, with the idea of then capping off with hearts last in order to enable partner to show a preference in the major suits at the same level. The reason is similar to the art of dancing, just trying to keep bridge bidding a graceful exercise and, at the same time, not to raise the level past our making point.

To now answer your comments on the defense with the column hand, yes, bridge is, at least to me, a game of logic first (examining why the dog either barked or didn’t, referring to the declarer who didn’t rise with the heart queen at trick one). Second, it is a game of technique, the visualizing of the potential blockage in hearts and going into pains to keep it from happening.

Finally, the expert playing of our off-the-charts wonderful game very much mirrors life, with principally the more one gives to a project, whether business or personal, the more one gets out of it. It seems that once one lives a lucky long life (and I am one who has) he is constantly reminded of his many failures and too few successes. Soon, he, if honesty is in the cards, will realize that his failures were at the very least caused by either a lack of necessary effort, veering off the road himself by either inadequate preparation or just sloth, and by the same token, success will always be achieved by total dedication, usually directing one’s talent, and by some fortunate circumstances.

Whoever defined good luck as combining when opportunity meets preparation knew what he (or she) was talking about.

bobby wolffAugust 28th, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Hi Iain,

Thanks for the provocative follow-up.

Today’s defense is a poster child for 4th best leads. Since West led the 3 he knows that partner knows he cannot then have more than 5 originally, so with K10x only he would have played the ten since if declarer has the jack it will be at least third and thus impossible to shut out. Of course, since declarer did not at least attempt the queen from dummy at trick one inferentially, unless playing against a dolt as declarer, the 3rd seat defender will know that declarer does possess the jack.

The only thing left for me to say is that salesmanship even applies at bridge and, BTW, hurts the learning process because anyone attempting to sell another on the best way to lead should be morally bound to state the advantages and disadvantages of all methods, but when an author becomes a salesman (much too often), he sometimes puts his morality on the back burner.

bobby wolffAugust 28th, 2014 at 1:55 pm

Hi again Iain,

Sorry for my lack of response about Robin Williams.

Since I started to lose my hearing I was then denied most of my being able to thoroughly enjoy what Robin Williams had to offer.

He was indeed multi talented and very close to the best ever at what he did. I never heard his comment on the definition of politics, but after your post, have no doubt that he was ahead of his time.

Thanks for passing it on.