Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, February 7th, 2015

Half the failures in life arise from pulling in one's horse as he is leaping.

Julius and Augustus Hare

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


In today's deal, from a knock-out at a regional tournament, the defenders at one table had no idea of the missed opportunity until it came to the scoring up. What happened at the table where the successful declarer was situated was that a strong club opening led South to declare three no-trump after showing his hearts. The defenders led the diamond queen, ducked round to the king, whereupon declarer claimed his nine tricks and moved on.

In the other room North-South had also done well to avoid playing the hopeless four heart contract. On the action shown, where South had promised a good 17-19 and a balanced hand, West led the diamond queen and East paused for refection before playing to trick one.

With West having no more than a six-count, three of the points being in diamonds, the defenders could surely take no more than four tricks if they ducked the first trick, or won it and pressed on with diamonds.

East could see declarer’s quick tricks looming, so desperate measures were surely called for – and that meant finding his partner with the spade king. To cover all the bases East won the diamond ace and shifted to a subtle spade queen. When the eight appeared from South West woke up to the significance of his blocking spade nine. He worked out to signal with it on the first spade, whereupon a low spade to the king saw West play a third spade, and the defenders could now take the first five tricks.

The auction has timed out perfectly for you. You can double one spade for take-out, showing extra values with a real heart suit and a hand that is at least playable in clubs. You were right not to double at your first turn, by the way, since if the opponents had bid spades you might have found it hard to get your hearts in conveniently.


♠ 10 8
 A K J 9 8
 K 7 5
♣ A Q 3
South West North East
1 Pass Pass 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


angelo romanoFebruary 21st, 2015 at 11:42 am

Beautiful … but in the real hand S had the S King third (or K10), and W the H King, so he wasn’t very happy of the S Queen shift !

jim2February 21st, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Yes, TOCM ™ !

bobby wolffFebruary 21st, 2015 at 12:51 pm

Hi Angelo,

As 2nd citizen said after Mark Antony’s stirring eulogy about Julius Caesar, “Methinks there is much reason in what he says”, especially if declarer had the K10 of spades, leaving room in West’s hand for the king of hearts, which would require a double unblock from him while holding the 984 of spades.

However if East dug deeper for hand evidence, he might conclude that if South had only 17 HCPs and 5 hearts to the AJ he might have opted to open 1NT (if playing 15-17) instead of 1 heart.

In truth though, many hands, perhaps too many, require some guesswork on defense in order to succeed in defeating them, but, if so, a partnership also needs to execute correctly. The play of a high spade is necessary, as is West’s unblock of the nine, both crucial.

If the game of high-level bridge ever gained the recognition it deserves, as a very cerebral extremely worthwhile competitive contest, statistics would need to be kept of the partnerships which continued to succeed bidding, declaring and/or defending while playing peers.

Add that feat to the consistent proper active ethics always required while at the table (discounting those who appear to want to do any and everything they can to win with sometimes going too far) and the worth of all competitive pairs might then be able to be measured more accurately.

Until and if, that day would ever arrive, we, as great supporters of that expert game, can only dream of such a thing but first we need to help guarantee that the game itself, as we know it, will not, as Abraham Lincoln once said, perish from this earth and to accomplish that, both the ACBL BOD’s and our home office in Horn Lake, MS, need to understand that without our highest level game (and players) we are then left with not enough substance to warrant sustaining our existence. Making money alone is not enough, nor should it be.

bobby wolffFebruary 21st, 2015 at 1:33 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, and in spades (both literally and figuratively), but TOCM TM rarely involves playing errors and the lead of the queen (to help partner) instead of the ace, is indeed (if I didn’t overlook something) just wrong.

You’ve been my every day hero, never making a mistake, but rather instead, always paying a dear price.

Please Joe* (of the shoeless variety), I mean Jim2, “say it ain’t so”.

For those of other countries:

*When Shoeless Joe Jackson of the Chicago White Sox (turned black), a great baseball star of that era, helped throw the 1919 World Series and was caught, his many fans all wanted him to deny it.

bobby wolffFebruary 21st, 2015 at 1:52 pm

Hi Jim2,

I am the one who is wrong.

All you did was state, as it always is for you,
that if a player mistakenly led the queen of spades, not the ace, TOCM TM would make him pay for it. No doubt that dread disease would have dealt Kxx in spades to declarer but would be ready to switch both the spade king and a 4th diamond to West (and the heart king to South) if you would then lead back a diamond.

jim2February 21st, 2015 at 2:44 pm

The cards move! They just wait until I commit myself!


bobby wolffFebruary 21st, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Hi Jim2,

A possible cure, juke like a running back. Oh, to be like OJ Simpson.

Well, not exactly like him! (I wish I knew, like you do so well, how to activate my smiley).

PRCFebruary 21st, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Dear Mr. Wolff:
I enjoy reading your column and comments but cannot figure out some of your shorthand for words like: TOCM TM, BWTA (bid with the aces?) etc. Could you provide a list for us?


jim2February 21st, 2015 at 4:02 pm

colon (or semi-colon) then dash then parenthesis (one way for happy, other for sad)

jim2February 21st, 2015 at 4:04 pm


TOCM ™ = Theory of Card Migration — just google it in quotes …

Iain ClimieFebruary 21st, 2015 at 6:46 pm

Hi Bobby,

This may seem odd, but have I found the secrets of winning pairs, at least at moderate club level. I’ve been on a good streak recently, so analysed the last 5 sessions (excluding last night’s). Out of 120 boards, the plus scores brought in around 80% while the minus scores (rather fewer) scored just under 50%. I mentioned this to my old regular partner, whom I played with last night, who naturally thought it was oversimplistic.

Our plus scores (12 / 24) were around an average 0f 63.5%, our minus scores around 45%. We only played 9 out of 24 hands, averaging just under 63%. We defended 15, in many of which we were helpless to do much better, and averaged less than 51%.


a) Play the hand and get a plus score, preferably a good one but sometimes any plus score.
b) Play the hand as much as possible or at least get a plus score if defending
c) Minimise the pain and damage at other times.
d) Avoidance of major goofs at any level of play pays off, although it is hardly enough to emerge unbattered and still in the saddle during high-level jousts.

OK, this is a small sample based on moderate club pairs, but my partner recalled playing in a strong tournament with several sections playing the same cards back in the early 1980s. We defended practically all the hands (sitting EW) and made few errors, scoring 56%. Not great we felt, but we were the best score by around 1.5% across all the pairs sitting that way. Is this evidence that it really is a bidder’s game, or (advice from Jeff Rubens in Secrets of Winning Bridge), if you really don’t know what to do, just make sure you go plus and score something?

Can I also say hello to PRC and add two abbreviations: FRL = Front Row Lemming (OK, they don’t really jump off cliffs, but I have days like that when I take phantom sacrifices costing 1100 or write down -930 AGAIN and a pet term for bridge table rage (see also road rage, air rage, parking rage, throwing the computer out of the office window etc):

T ension
A ccentuated
N euroligical
T rauma
R esulting (in)
U ncontrolled
M ayhem
S yndrome

With apologies to Myrtle Bennett.



Iain ClimieFebruary 21st, 2015 at 6:47 pm

Sorry, paragraph 2 was last night of course.

bobby wolffFebruary 21st, 2015 at 7:26 pm


TM stands for trade mark but, of course, is facetious.

BWTA is Bid With the Aces at the end and is a feature every day except Sunday which allows the reader to examine the bidding and then discuss (starts out one way, but easily can be joined, merely by asking a question or contributing a suggestion).

The bridge with the Aces is a syndicated 7 day a week bridge column in many places, (primarily in the USA) subscribed to by our client newspapers, but reprinted on this site with a two weeks delay so as not to compete with our client newspapers with original news matter, but instead when printed on our site, just old soup warmed over.

Also BTW=by the way and IMO=in my opinion just in case they appear. Not too long ago I, like you, relatively new to the world of computer communication, was in even a bigger quandary than you appear to be in, but you will, no doubt, learn much faster.

In any case, a big welcome to you and hope you join our fun.

bobby wolffFebruary 21st, 2015 at 8:33 pm

Hi Iain,

Your bridge results would be a bookmaker’s dream in following you and your partner’s trail through the field.

He would predict a very good game for you & partner if you had slightly over average cards, and particularly so when intimidating confidence comes into play. Whether everyone voicing an opinion has the experience necessary to stamp valid or not is not for me to say, but overall, surely some of your plus scores were not necessarily earned at the table (but, of course, perhaps they were) but when a competing pair sat down against you, it is unlikely they were either as confident as you and partner or as battle hardened to play your best.

In other words, it is other forces which probably has made the difference lately with your good streak. Like so many competitive sports, including all physical ones, there are those who deliver and other, just or almost, as knowledgeable, who somehow do not.

I do not necessarily think that many plus scores always score well, but rather plus scores manufactured rather than rolling over and waiting till the next round.

At least I think that confidence at the table starts out the 2 partnerships at a 60-40 or more so ratio of success, rather than the particular hand dealt. Strangely I think that all current top level sports and mind competitions in business or in the courtroom are also determined by mostly perceived emotion rather than principally talent.

And so it goes. Please do not take what I am saying as what I think is gospel, because I am just guessing and interpreting my experiences and trying to find the solution your comment deserves.

As someone recently said, we have found the enemy and that enemy is us, is what probably happens when some days competition goes sour. However, merely trying to do something about it, even if it is true, is easier said than done.

That’s all folks!!!!!!

Iain ClimieFebruary 21st, 2015 at 9:08 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for this, but all the weak players we played against last night seemed to doraaise their game or do things right against us! I’m philosophical about being fixed, but partner was struggling to see the funny side.


PRCFebruary 23rd, 2015 at 12:47 am

Thanks to all for your replies. It is refreshing that the “art of conversation” is alive and well through this medium with the bonus of learning something new.