Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 8th, 2014

As often as a study is cultivated by narrow minds, they will draw from it narrow conclusions.

John Stuart Mill

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


A few years ago Andrew Robson published a thoughtful bridge tip to the effect that if a player who has pre-empted leads his own suit against a trump contract, you should consider playing him to have a singleton trump.

Joey Silver produced an interesting line of play following through on that line of thought. In four spades he saw East overtake the lead of the heart jack with the queen. Now it seems natural to cash the spade queen, then play a second spade toward dummy, and hope to guess well. The odds seem very close between the drop and the finesse. At the other table declarer played to dummy’s ace and went one down.

Silver did better when he ducked the first trick, leaving East on play. He knew this particular East would not have seven hearts, and hoped that East would reveal a little more about his side-suit shape.

Had East shifted to a club, for example, it would have been a fair bet that he had a singleton, and thus not a singleton trump. East might also have been tempted to shift to a diamond if he had a doubleton, allowing Silver to build up a count on the hand. When East actually continued with a second heart, Silver correctly inferred that East had at least three diamonds and at least two clubs. The spade finesse had become the indicated play, so Silver duly played the spade king and a spade to dummy’s 10, scoring up his game.

It may be easier to rule out what you shouldn't lead here. I can't imagine leading a red suit. (A trump is highly dangerous, while a diamond could backfire equally easily.) With a choice of black suits, I'd settle for a club simply because partner didn't overcall — which he might have done, had a spade lead been best.


♠ J 9 4
 J 8 6
 K 5 4
♣ 10 6 4 2
South West North East
1 Pass 1
Pass 2 Pass 4
All 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 ClimieSeptember 22nd, 2014 at 11:56 am

Hi Bobby,

I recall that Andrew’s tip noted that 7321 is rather more likely than 7222 so the pre-empter (if on lead) would either lead a side suit singleton or switch to one after cashing an honour from AK first. Hence there is a negative inference, backed up by odds.

In the column hand, declarer is still OK if trumps are 3-2 provided west has Jxx. I think we can spot the elephant in the room if a mutual friend were at the helm. Like Schrödinger ‘s cat, the SJ would be neither in Jxxx with west or Jx with east until declarer played the card which failed. Does TOCM have a basis in theoretical physics ?



ClarksburgSeptember 22nd, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Most of the fundamental particles have names ending in “on”, and they are for the most part quite elusive.
Ergo, a new particle the “jacksgon”.

Iain ClimieSeptember 22nd, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Like it, but my current form suggests my mind has been blasted by a brainsgon. Still, I haven’t managed to count diamonds as 5432 distribution round the table for a while.


Wen TaoSeptember 22nd, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Hi Iain,

Like your post. I thought that the TOCM may be the manifestation of Schrödinger‘s cat in bridge. In addition, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle could be applied in bridge as well. If opponents keep silent, it may not be possible to simultaneously determine their high cards and distributions.


Iain ClimieSeptember 22nd, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Hi Wen,

Many thanks and I wondered about a cynical version of the uncertainty principle with some partners – will it be the bidding, play or a mixture of both which goes horribly wrong first. Yet there may be something positive from such apparent gloom; if I accept that something will go wrong in a session (and it might easily be my fault, after all, or opponents may get lucky) I can prepare for the inevitable upset and anguish. Kipling’s famous quote can help avoid the twin perils of overconfidence and frustration.


bobby wolffSeptember 22nd, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Hi Iain. Clarksburg and Wen,

Instead of just Monday it has become philosoday.

While easy to be cavalier when someone else is winning or losing a bridge match by taking a unique view usually in trumps but often in NT, when playing a side suit, to do so carries a special responsibility to players at the top.

My leanings are to prefer partners and teammates, also like Kipling, who, if thought necessary, will risk all, or at least much, with a proverbial throw of the dice.

Optimism, combined with always careful experienced bridge detective thinking, are the two factors which often separate those two impostors, victory and defeat.

Finally, my dear Wen, the opponent who didn’t bid is often similar to the dog who didn’t bark, also sometimes significant evidence, unless the opponents play a private convention of never bidding once their opponents have opened the bidding and do not inform their adversaries of it, making that lack of disclosure, illegal.

There is a similarity to Schrodinger’s cat and the principle of TOCM tm. Perhaps with the time machine which may accompany life, pre-determined events materially effect choices by the player, in some way either insuring victory or defeat depending on what fate had planned.

It is likely that Jim2 and TOCM tm will always be identified together and, if so, move over Easley Blackwood, there is a new bridge guru in town.