Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Everything is not gold that glisters and everything is not a tear that glistens,
And one man’s remorse is another man’s reminiscence.

Ogden Nash

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


I confess that some days when I play bridge I tend to do what first comes into my head as the instinctively correct thing to do. This means that when alternatives might have presented themselves to me, I do not give them enough thought. So the best line goes begging. And indeed, that was what happened on today's deal.

Against two spades West led the club ace and switched to ace and another heart. I won in hand perforce, then played a diamond to dummy’s king and led a spade from the board. When East followed small, the thought that it might be right to play the nine did enter my mind, but left it again just as quickly and I played the queen.

West took his trump ace and played a third round of hearts, which East ruffed with the spade 10. I could overruff and play another trump, but East won, cashed the club king, then gave West a club ruff.

In retrospect, I concluded that I should have given that thought about putting in the spade nine a little more house room. Here it would have forced the ace, but even if it had not, the best the defense might have done would have been for West to win cheaply. From that point on, he is powerless ever to get his ruff, since I would have won whatever he returned and now played the spade king. He could take his ace, but he gets only the five tricks he started with.

Despite your excellent controls, you have a minimum opening bid in an unbalanced hand, with three-card spade support. The simple way to describe your hand is to raise to two spades immediately. The problem with bidding two diamonds and raising spades later is that (depending on the auction) it should promise extras with three trumps or suggest a doubleton spade.


♠ A 6 5
 A J 9 8 3
 10 8 6 4
♣ A
South West North East
1 Pass 1♠ 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieFebruary 4th, 2015 at 9:09 am

Hi Bobby,

If west held A10 or AJ alone in spades, though, then your actual line works better. The question would then be if he would have bid 3D with 2551 minimum and whether he would have led the CA.



Iain ClimieFebruary 4th, 2015 at 10:12 am

There again, many east players would bid a poor 4 card spade suit, while west could have CAK alone, although east’s 6 at T1 suggests not. Maybe you aren’t being too hard on yourself, but the S9 is very counter-intuitive.

bobby wolffFebruary 4th, 2015 at 11:07 am

Hi Iain,

It helps to know one’s players.

In those days, probably before Flannery (4-5 in the majors) was popular or, for that matter was yet to be born, responders did not pass up bidding 4 card majors before responding 1NT.

Since those long ago years, one begins to understand that the difference between wanting to get there and arriving is what occurred on today’s hand, doing it instead of only thinking about it.

That thought is probably applicable at many other forms of competition as well, and I’m here to testify that our great game constantly challenges its wannabes to simply step up or pay a price. If I was also missing the eight of spades, it would be even more clear cut to finesse the nine since the A-H-8, instead of A-8-x with West would also be paralytic.

I do appreciate your protection (and please continue), but sometimes we need to call a spade what it is, a blanking shovel, instead of euphemistically, counter-intuitive.

Playing high-level bridge sometimes demands unique concentration, another way of saying, fewer playing errors. Sensitivity has its place, but not ever to someone who has sky high aspirations.

Iain ClimieFebruary 4th, 2015 at 11:25 am

Hi Bobby,

Your honesty is admirable but when did the hand occur? Hitting yourself with the spade mid-session won’t help and could even leave gruesome stains on cards, tablecloth, yourself and the opponents. I’m not sure what the TD would make of bloodletting out of turn, or even at the appropriate point. The best approach to the realisation of an error I ever found was a pard of mine called Mike Summers-Smith, at least in club pairs. A goof on my part resulted in his beer being drained and the empty glass being profferred with a sympathetic smile. Somehow he managed not to suffer liver damage, perhaps because I was tight-fisted!


bobby wolffFebruary 4th, 2015 at 12:10 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt, in spite of the hypothetical bloodletting, bridge is ONLY a game. I did not intend to suggest that misplaying a card combination is worth severe admonitions or even embarrassment.

I am only attacking (if that word should be used) smoothing over an error which can (and should) be part of a learning process.

If anyone thinks that attempting to win at high-level bridge is fun and therefore relatively easy to accomplish, he needs to rethink. Far from it, but trying to get better should always be the goal, and possibly no one should get a total mulligan (do over) when wrong.

Not a word need be said by anyone. However an aspiring partnership, set sail for greatness, needs to face reality, not make excuses, and in as many ways as possible, rise to the occasion.

That done, the first step in the journey, is done, and both will (should) continue to go in that direction.

In Tombstone Arizona where the Wild West was supposedly won (or perhaps lost), and at the cemetery marking his nineteenth century grave, “Here lies Les Moore, 4 shots from a 44, no less, no more”.