Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, November 10th, 2014

The wise through excess of wisdom is made a fool.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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


If South had planned ahead properly, he might have brought home his contact of three no-trumps here. When West led the spade seven, dummy played low and East allowed South to win the trick with the jack. Now the contact was destined to fail. Declarer tried to sneak an entry to dummy in order to take the club finesse by leading the heart jack. But West was on the ball and hopped up smartly with the ace to play his spade back, allowing East to run the suit for down one.

By contrast, try the effect of playing dummy’s spade 10 at trick one. If East ducks, declarer is in dummy and can take an immediate club finesse. And if East cashes his top spades South has little choice but to play West for the heart ace, hoping East has no further entry to his hand. That way, South can engineer an entry to dummy with the heart king for the club finesse. When in dummy, he can afford to play East for king-third in clubs by leading the club 10, thereby blocking the suit, since four club tricks will suffice.

Should East allow the spade 10 to hold at trick one, South must play East specifically for the singleton or doubleton club king by leading low from dummy and finessing the queen then cashing the ace, thereby leaving an entry to dummy with the club 10. If clubs behave, declarer unblocks his diamond honors and runs dummy’s club and diamond winners for nine tricks.

I wish I could give you a convincing reason for whether to go aggressive with a spade or diamond lead, or passive with a club or even a trump lead. My instincts are strongly against a trump lead, and the danger of leading a bid suit is that your partner will play you for a singleton not a doubleton. A diamond looks more likely to be effective to me than a spade; but it is a close call.


♠ Q 8 5 3
 10 4
 K 9 4 3 2
♣ 3 2
South West North East
Pass 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


AviNovember 24th, 2014 at 9:31 am

Bobby hi

I would like to call on your expertise as both a player and a TD.
Holding KQJT6, A, T6, JT863, South opens 1S in third sit.
West overcalls 2H, and now North, a novice, noticeably hesitates, fiddling with the bidding box, and eventually passes.
After East passes, South now bids 3c (TD being summoned), and corrected to 3s all pass.
1. Would you act as South?
2. If so, what is your bid?
3. What would your ruling be as TD?

for the record, North held Q83, JT976, XX, Kxx

ArunNovember 24th, 2014 at 9:56 am

Whoever could make that play at the table would have to be an all time great. I would want to watch every day he or she played.

ArunNovember 24th, 2014 at 9:57 am

Sorry – typo in the prev posting please read that as every deal he or she played

Shantanu RastogiNovember 24th, 2014 at 10:02 am

Hello Mr Wolff

What would be double of 3 Spades here ? I think it should be penalty as North has already described his cards by bidding 3 Clubs. By bidding 3 Spades against passed partner East should hold Spades the way they are may be sixth one also and could hold heart ace also. So south takes doubled contract 4 down in the cards he misplayed to go down. Is the bid by East prudent ? I think it is inspite of holding King Clubs as sometimes South would bid 3 NT without holding a real stopper in Spades.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

jim2November 24th, 2014 at 11:47 am

Might the TD not notice the QS duplication?

bobby wolffNovember 24th, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Hi Avi,

First and foremost, welcome back, it is good to hear from you.

In regard to the hand you present, there are both bridge and ethical issues so I will attempt to address both.

Once North hesitated and then passed, after his partner had opened 1 spade and had his RHO overcalled 2 hearts, South with his minimum opening bid (though being 5-5) had the ethical obligation to merely pass it out and defend 2 hearts.

Of course, at the time, South had no real knowledge of what his partner held, only that he significantly hesitated before he passed. Because of that, he was duty bound to, if anything, lean over backwards to NOT take advantage, and since a hesitation meant that obviously North was thinking about bidding and since the opening bidder was 5-5 but very minimum it is taking advantage to bid again. NIX, DO NOT, ABSTAIN all are descriptive words which South MUST follow.

It turns out, because of their opponents being in their wrong trump suit (hearts instead of diamonds) NS would likely set 2 hearts turning the advantage back to the hesitating side, but that is only the luck in bridge, nothing else.

Without the ethics involved in our great game, bridge turns into a nothing game, not even worth playing, so because of that, the ethical rules must be adhered to. with nothing more to add.

True as Jim2 so deftly mentioned, there are 2 queens of spades described, but so what, we get the drift and the point necessary to be discussed is done.

To even mention that after North hesitated then only preferred 3 clubs to 3 spades, for South to even consider bidding more becomes nothing less than
BLATANT CHEATING! E’nuff said, although North, with proper guidance from more experienced players can now, in the future, learn what not to do and continue playing bridge, but on a much more ethical basis.

Be gentle but firm in your explanation to him, if and when it ever takes place.

Good luck and don’t be a stranger.

bobby wolffNovember 24th, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Hi Arun,

Yes, the declarer did make a very good play when he played the 10 from dummy, but after all, he should take time at trick one before he plays from dummy and thus, this technique, after he sorts out the potential problem(s) before he makes his first play, sometimes makes a difference when impatience and inaccuracy are replaced by planning and competency, by not the genius you refer, but rather the mental technique this declarer had learned.

True, unlike physical events where athleticism reigns supreme, mental prowess needs active use of one’s worthy mind and that only comes about with discipline and then technique. Sometimes, after due consideration there is no real answer, but if there is one, this hand, a great play available, but not made, is a terrible thing to waste.

My fervent wish is that you, Arun, becomes the next player to make a noteworthy bridge play.

Thanks for your uplifting enthusiasm.

bobby wolffNovember 24th, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Hi Shantanu,

No doubt South missed a glorious opportunity to double 3 spades for penalty (yes, after a limit bid by partner) all doubles are then penalty (unless playing a specific convention denoting otherwise).

While feeling disdain for South’s poor choice of not doubling, he (no fool him) would not have had the opportunity which impressed Arun and no doubt, many others, with his genius as declarer.

Win some, lose some, but we all love to thrive while in the limelight and this declarer reached out and grabbed his, but only by bidding and making 3NT, instead of doubling East and taking the money.

bobby wolffNovember 24th, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Hi Jim2,

Only 2 queens of spades on this deal, wait till there are at least 3, before you mention it.

However, a scientist may think that what you noticed may result in a vaccine for TOCM TM, since it is likely for that disease to be alive (and not so well) it has to be at the ready for your choices as declarer, so having two exact same cards in one hand may be the starting point for finding a cure.

Viva for optimism!

jim2November 24th, 2014 at 3:06 pm

In my own defense, even with TOCM ™ cards rarely migrate from pack to pack.

Nonetheless, I might mention lunchtime bridge. A group at one company I worked at had a fast-paced lunch bridge game.

Anyway, I walked past and stopped when i heard the bidding:

1S (five card majors) – Double (penalty, there were no TO doubles) – Redouble (scorn, bring it on)

You see, I was behind the last to bid and he held a solid 12-count and four spades to the queen-jack!

Turns out, one of Dummy’s responsibilities — so it was soon revealed – was to deal out the next hand, and there were generally several decks present. The players had inadvertently picked up hands such that three decks were in the bidding …

Bill CubleyNovember 24th, 2014 at 3:20 pm


In LWTA you find it very close and are not certain what is best.

Perhaps you might follow the late, great Ozzie Jacoby when he answered questions in The Bridge World. He would have had to be at the table to make the best play.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and Judy!

bobby wolffNovember 24th, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your story reminds me of a story, originally described (I think) in a London Times book on bridge many years ago (perhaps 70+).

It seemed that in an important tournament a defective deck was unintentionally used which had only 3 suits, 13 hearts, 13 diamonds and 26 clubs. By chance it was dealt out (before computers) and put into tournament boards and although the clubs were divided evenly among the 4 hands of 6,6,7,7 no specific club card was duplicated in any one hand.

The bidding started with a 3 club opening followed by a trap pass and then an immediate raise to 6 clubs by a sacrificing partner. Everyone doubled and chaos soon ensued before the laughing started.

Before the dummy came down, everyone was supremely happy with the auction, each thinking they had died and gone to heaven with their anticipated result.

Interesting game, and full of surprises, this bridge.

bobby wolffNovember 24th, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Hi Bill,

And right back at you Bill for a powerful Thanksgiving, recognizing our unique blessings by living far away from all the chronicled atrocities going on elsewhere in the world, but at the same time
trying to find a solution for all the bias, different opinions, hate and chaos which unfortunately still exists among us.

Give and take, take and give, but at least attempting to understand each other could be the beginning of the solution, assuming, of course, that all of us only want peace and therefore a chance at happiness.

The weather in Las Vegas has been beautiful the last week or so with every day featuring an Indian summer (warm, but not hot days and perfect, exhilarating evenings, or is that term politically incorrect?).

And to the opening lead, I would have to be at the table also, preferably with at least one opponent, not holding his hand up properly.

AviNovember 24th, 2014 at 5:13 pm

thanks for your detailed answer.
I never went away, I am merely humbled by all the input given here, that I rarely have anything knowledgeble to contribute, or even smart questions to ask 🙂

Jim2 – sorry, North held 983 spades, and Qx diamond.

Iain ClimieNovember 24th, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Hi Avi,

Don’t do yourself down – somebody said that the only daft question is the one that doesn’t get asked. I admit that some of my offerings can disprove that, but your comment today shows how important it is to teach new players about the need to bid smoothly and think ahead. A useful principle is to bid something if you’ve thought a while in competition and preferably not dbl which brings its own problems.



bobby wolffNovember 24th, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Hi Iain and of course, Avi,

There is only one way, Avi, that you would not contribute and that would be, not to answer.

Bridge players are used to random discussions and withcode language, not being necessarily exact.

Since correct sleuthing is vital in solving bridge puzzles, all of us are enabled to understand the problem.

The sum total of all of us participating and the views involved is most of what is important. Everything else is window dressing. Long live our personality differences which is vital to our relevance.

Bridge for Peace is the motto of the WBF. No doubt it is the international vehicle which keeps us all together fighting the non-violent god of bridge as we know it, instead of the seemingly less important god of differences of life styles, to which we were born and in reality, cannot begin to compare with the competitive attributes of our wonderful game when we are competing against each other.

Up with love, up with humanity, up with bridge competition, down with the other imposters who try and rob us of our mutual respect.