Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, November 21st, 2014

In silence can a man most readily preserve his integrity.

Meister Eckhart

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


When this deal came up at my rubber bridge club, I observed that the world seems to be made up of bridge players who like to talk, and those who like to think, and that the two groups seem to have hardly any overlap.

I was West, and with my usual collection (in a similar position Terence Reese remarked that this was about a jack more than his usual hand) led the spade 10 against six no-trumps. When dummy came down South was visibly upset with his partner, and berated him for driving to slam and not merely issuing an invitation.

He won the spade in dummy and tried the diamond jack from the board. My partner took the trick with the ace, as South followed low, and returned a spade. Declarer won in dummy, led a diamond to his nine, and found the good news and bad news simultaneously. When I discarded, he could no longer cross back to dummy to take another diamond finesse, and had to concede one down.

Curiously, if South leads any diamond but the eight from dummy at trick two, he deserves to go down! For example if he leads a low diamond to his hand then he will go back to dummy and play the diamond jack, but East wins and leaves declarer with a diamond loser. By contrast, starting with the eight forces East to cover with the ace. Now declarer can return to dummy and lead the diamond jack, and East’s goose is cooked.

It may not be perfect, but a response of one no-trump gets your values across and the basic nature of your hand. You may not have a heart stopper, but you have the next best thing. Also, you can assume that your partner will bid out his shape if he has any — or that the opponents will raise hearts and let you off the hook if you guessed badly.


♠ A K 2
 J 10 8
 J 8 6 3
♣ 10 8 6
South West North East
Pass 1♣ 1

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 ClimieDecember 5th, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, 1N may get the hand type across but lard may get his hand type (balanced, strong but Hxx) across by bidding 3N. Pass is too timid, but is dbl worth considering despite only having 3S and lard then deciding we’re in business with S10xxx and HAx this time?

I liked yesterday’s quote – shades of “There will be no more edicts”.



Bobby WolffDecember 5th, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, I am with you in thought and especially in bridge.

While I am not sure (or truthfully have any idea) which hand type is more likely, but when partner may have either:

1. QJ10x

2. 1098x

3. xx

or even: 4. xx

and eschews 5 diamonds (or sometimes even 4 spades) for 3NT, only to lose the first 5 or 6 tricks, the effect on that partnership can be far more damaging than just this one board alone.

I agree that certain bids, (negative doubles) should usually have the required 4 card major(s) but every now and then, perhaps 10% of the time, to mislead by having fewer (usually still three) is the lesser of evils action.

All readers who agree please raise your hand.

H’m I do not see much waving. And who said “good bridge is an art rather than a science”? Perhaps only Iain and moi, but I was expecting many more. PITY!

Iain ClimieDecember 5th, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for this, although one comic once said to a British audience “Hands up anyone who thinks (such-and-such) or has done X”. Little happened, so he said “Sorry, that was hands up in the air.”


Iain ClimieDecember 5th, 2014 at 3:14 pm

PS I take it some of the example hands opened 1D, not 1C. Don’t worry about the not-picking, though, and have a good weekend.

Bobby WolffDecember 5th, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, my ramblings mistakenly thought the BWTA had opened one diamond, not one club.

However I do sincerely (yes, really) appreciate your reminder, certainly not nit picking, since without your comment I would never realize how much my impromptu comments might improve with better proofreading.

And, when I just referred back to your comment, I then realize that I didn’t answer your timely reference to the quote.

Most of the so-called brainy quotes, have such common place value, even though often they need to be front and center in mind before they can be analyzed. Indeed, the longer I live, the more silence seems golden.

However, sometimes there is, at least, a small contradiction to that, in discussing bridge.

Your story about hands up, pertaining to a comedian, is so typically, British droll wit.

angelo romanoDecember 5th, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Hi Bobby,
in BTWA I think it’s more useful double to show this hand (i.e. no H stop, no 4+ S) than to differentiate between 4/5 S:
– you can’t do it without the 1H bidding, so if 4th hand pass you’re ok
– over a 2H bid your partner can use support double

Bobby WolffDecember 6th, 2014 at 12:24 am

Hi Angelo,

Yes, there are different ways to skin cats and also handle competitive bidding in bridge.

Flaws doing it one way, become positives the other way and vice versa.

The top Europeans tend to play these possible negative doubles the way you suggest, but on this side of the pond has different handling.

My guess is that it all will work out about the same, but my gut feeling is that the Europeans methods are at least slightly better than ours.

To each his own, making the remembering of what a partnership is actually playing worth more than the specific way it is played.

Thanks for your comment, but I do not like support doubles because if those doublers wind up defending, their opponents will have a firm blueprint what the overall defensive distribution will be.

We all appreciate your thoughts.

Bob LoseyDecember 6th, 2014 at 2:53 am

Can North get by with leading the J of D at trick 2 as long as he dumps a 10 or 9 under it?

David WarheitDecember 6th, 2014 at 6:39 am

Bob Losey: No! The play would go DJ & E would win the A. Then S gets to dummy for the 2d and final time & leads the D8 & E covers with the Q. S wins the K & he now has a winning position in D (6-3 in dummy and 10-4 in his hand with E having 7-2) but like the actual declarer, he has no way to get to dummy to take advantage of the favorable lie of the diamond suit. Down one.

Bobby WolffDecember 6th, 2014 at 6:47 am

Hi Bob,

No, it will not work, since East will hop ace and then South drops the nine. Then, upon entering dummy for the last time, if declarer now leads the 8 it is covered by the queen and in the fullness of time East will take the setting diamond trick.

That combination is a great learning vehicle for up and coming youngsters to better understand exactly what happens when honors are covered. My guess is that type of subject should be touched on early in a bridge curriculum and then, because of its frequency, emphasized in more detail, later.

Honor management is vitally important for both declaring and, of course, defending, which because of that uniqueness in bridge, requires both technique and full understanding of honor promotion.

Bob, aren’t you glad you asked? I, for one, am, since many maturing bridge players will have much to discuss on this subject, since there are many variations, many of which require the proper timing to get maximum on both offense and defense.

Because you submitted an important question I’ll give you a bonus: while defending a suit contract, in the 3rd chair, immediately behind QJ74 in dummy and you sitting with K962. When declarer, while in dummy, when is it usually right to rise with the king when the 4 is led from dummy?

And the answer is: when declarer has the singleton 10, otherwise your king will be subject to be ruffed out after partner is compelled to win the 10 with his ace.

In other words, 2nd hand high is sometimes not only right, it is often necessary.

Thanks for writing.