Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

It is our first duty to serve society, and, after we have done that, we may attend wholly to the salvation of our own souls. A youthful passion for abstracted devotion should not be encouraged.

Samuel Johnson

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


When this deal came up at the table, it was played at both tables in a local Texas league game in four spades, on the lead of a top heart.

One declarer won the lead to draw trumps then lead out the club ace and a second club, and on winning the next heart he played a third club. When the suit did not behave, he still had to lose a trick in each red suit as well as two clubs, and was quietly one down. Essentially this line required three-three clubs or for one opponent to have a very specific singleton or doubleton holding in clubs.

In the other room declarer followed a much better line when he also won the heart lead, but drew trump ending in hand by leading out the jack, queen then ace of spades. Next he led a club to the nine, then won the heart return to advance the club 10, intending to let it run. When West split his honors, declarer took the ace and set up the club nine as a discard for his slow diamond loser, while he still had a trump entry to dummy as a way to reach that card.

Note that as well as needing to play clubs by leading towards dummy’s holding three times, South also needs to preserve the trump entry to dummy to make sure that he can reach the slow club winner in the North hand.

Even though both opponents are bidding actively, you still have prospects of making game, or at least competing successfully to the three-level. It is not up to you to tell your partner what he has by unilaterally going low, by bidding two hearts. Instead show what you actually have by cuebidding two diamonds, to show a limit raise or better in hearts.


♠ K 10 8 3
 7 6 2
 A 4
♣ A 9 8 7
South West North East
1 1 2♣

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


leonDecember 31st, 2014 at 9:58 am


There should have been a 3rd room in your story. In that room declarer pulls only two trumps before switching his attention to clubs (club to the 9).

In the 2nd room that you describe, East should have switched to a diamond after winning the club queen. Now there is no convenient way for declarer to lead another club from the South hand.
Obviously in this layout south can still succeed by playing his last spade, but this is far from optimal (wouldnt succeed with other layouts or leads to unnecessary guesses).

In the 3rd room declarer would get to the South hand with his 3rd round of spades and then lead again a club to cater for all the possibilities.

ClarksburgDecember 31st, 2014 at 11:14 am

Mr Wolff
About BWTA:
When the opponents have bid two suits, is the cuebid raise always shown by cuebidding the first suit they bid?
Also, in today’s BWTA auction, what would be the meaning of cue-bidding clubs (three-level) when a two-level call was available?

Michael BeyroutiDecember 31st, 2014 at 11:44 am

leon just beat me to it. I was going to raise essentially the same possibility. Still here are my thoughts. First a question.

Dear Mr Wolff,
You often mention the specific order in which declarer plays his top cards. Here he draws trump with the jack, then queen, then ace of spades. Is there any advantage, perhaps psychological, in playing them in this order rather than ace, queen then the jack?

As for the play of the hand. True, East can return the diamond king upon winning the club queen. The lead is now in Dummy. To counter this temporary set-back I think Declarer would have to play a club toward his 10 without releasing the ace. West wins, the defense cashes a diamond and reverts to hearts. Declarer wins and takes the final club finesse to discard his slow heart loser. But that’s living dangerously. A more elegant way to skin the cat would be for Declarer to draw only two rounds of trump as leon suggests before taking the first club finesse. He can then return to the column line. Your thoughts?

The last paragraph of the column stresses the need for keeping an entry to Dummy. It cuts a long story short by not mentioning that the opponents would have knocked out the diamond ace sooner or later.

At any rate, at the close of the year it occurred to me that AOB articles should come with a warning label: HIGHLY ADDICTIVE SUBSTANCE. CONSUME AT YOUR OWN RISK.
I know for I have been reading it for the last thirty years!
MY BEST WISHES FOR THE NEW YEAR TO YOU AND JUDY and, going from West to East, to David, leon, Jane, Jim2, Iain, all the way to Shantanu and to the thousands of readers in between who, like me, come here everyday to take their kick.


jim2December 31st, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Best wishes to all, and in the coming year may TOCM ™ afflict you not!


bobby wolffDecember 31st, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Hi Leon & Michael,

Trying to adjust the order of response to like subjects rather than the usual order of reception.

Both of you offer a definite and technical improvement to the declarer play. Not so much in getting it right at the table (although obviously very important), but rather in tempting the opponent (by using one’s specific card holding e.g. the ten of clubs) to challenge that worthy left hand opponent, and dare him or her, not to cover for fear of losing the setting trick.

I’ve often thought that fluid declarer play in bridge was like ballroom dancing was in many years past (my youth). Attempted grace and romance on the dance floor which to me (an old fogey) was sexier then, than bold and commonplace nudity is now. However my children (and grand) have not failed to remind me to “Get With It”, so perhaps my view is just too old-fashioned to be considered, although I am aware that they sometimes watch Fred Astair, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly, Cyd Charise Donald O’Connor, Ann Miller and other sensational and eye snatching dancers in old movies, without commenting.

Now, that I have attempted to deflect the subject away from my inferior presentation, yes, a different order of playing the trumps may at times confuse the opponents, but on this particular hand, a club toward dummy needs to be led, before all the trumps are drawn so that the second club (the ten) is led from hand, but after the outstanding trumps are all drawn, if for no other reason (as Leon explains) than an entry to one’s hand.

And to Michael, many thanks for the very kind words about bridge addiction, your thirty years with the column, and your learned geography (west to east) about our beloved colleagues.

We, here at column central, could not have done it, without the special people like you who above all else, show their appreciation and makes me look forward to getting up early in the morning and hear from my friends.

Happy New Year, here about 19 hours to go.

bobby wolffDecember 31st, 2014 at 2:10 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Although your question sometimes is just taken for granted, it nevertheless should be discussed since like in golf, never up, never in.

While there could be more than two views on the answer, one might be the higher the cue bid (going up) the better, and therefore more inviting the hand. Second, instead choose the cue bid to be made by whatever the better holding would be in the cue bid suit itself (often for NT purposes, but wildly unlikely to be true with this sequence)

Therefore in today’s BWTA, the subject hand would bid on one (above), 3 clubs since I think this cue bid is above average because of the strong bidding around the table can only be based on excellent distribution (unless playing with a pinochle deck), making your prime honor cards especially valuable for partner rather than secondary values which opposite short suits do not fare as well.

However with common reason #2 since you possess the ace of both cue bid suits, perhaps the short diamonds make it more useful in perhaps allowing for a ruff in dummy, allowing partner’s possible 3 little diamonds or Kxx, a full trick better than for you to have Axx.

However these different caveats in learning while at the table, fade with the morning light, where the guessing begins and the fun (or agony), as the case might be, starts.

Aren’t you glad you asked?

bobby wolffDecember 31st, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Hi Jim2,

Perhaps 2015 is going to be a memorable year for you. I’ve heard and sort of believe the old saying of, “unlucky at cards, lucky at everything else”, so maybe since you dwarf all others at being unlucky (TOCM tm and such) you haven’t got long to wait before your ship may be coming in.

In any event, all of your AOB friends will be pulling for you. Just make sure that you continue to suffer from TOCM tm, since if that becomes cured, all bets are off.