Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 13th, 2015

Teach us that wealth is not elegance, that profusion is not magnificence, that splendor is not beauty.

Benjamin Disraeli

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


At last year's NEC tournament In the round six encounter between Down Under and Hinden both pairs had an opportunity to show off their skills.

Had Graham Osborne opened a weak two spade bid he might have gone quietly plus in that spot. But he opened one spade, and Francis Hinden was obliged to make a try for game. Of course two no-trump was a considerably more testing spot than two spades would have been, after Peter Newell’s lead of the diamond nine. After this lead, Hinden made the first nice play of the deal when she put up the diamond queen from dummy. If West ducks that, Hinden’s plan would have been to unblock the heart suit then play a second diamond toward her king and come home with eight tricks.

Martin Reid therefore won the diamond ace and responded to declarer’s coup with one of his own. He played back the diamond jack at trick two, forcing declarer to win the diamond in her hand, and cutting her off from the heart suit. From that point on declarer had only six winners.

This was a much admired play in the reports of the time. But note that if the spade 10 and two were reversed, declarer would have been able to succeed. She could have won the diamond, unblocked the heart jack, then cashed the club ace and played a spade towards her 10.

So perhaps winning the diamond and playing the club jack at trick two might have covered all the bases equally efficiently?

When you bid two clubs in front of your partner, you indicated your unsuitability for defending to spades. Your partner heard you, and indicated that he really wanted to defend two spades. You should pass, and my guess would be to lead trumps to the first trick. Yes, you saw that right!


♠ 2
 A K Q 7 5
 K 5 4
♣ 10 7 4 2
South West North East
1 Dbl. Rdbl. 1♠
2♣ 2♠ Dbl. 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 27th, 2015 at 9:14 am

Hi Bobby,

East doesn’t know South hasn’t got the S10, although south doesn’t know east hasn’t got it either. After the DJ, though, imagine declarer plays a heart to the J and a small spade of table. Good stuff hindsight, but would it have been worth trying?



Mircea1February 27th, 2015 at 10:47 am

Nice hand, full of bluffs and counter-bluffs. I really like Iain’s suggestion of a small spade at trick 4.

On the BWTA, if Rdbl denies the fit, is it almost guaranteeing a penalty double if the opponents try to buy the contract at any level and in any strain?

Mircea1February 27th, 2015 at 10:51 am

One more comment for Bobby: do you approve the ultra light 1S opening in first seat? Is it really that effective to make it worth adopting? If yes, does it need to be alerted?

Iain ClimieFebruary 27th, 2015 at 11:53 am

Hi Mircea,

Thanks for the kind comment and I think U’d avoid 1S for fear of having to put that mess down as dummy. Bobby will doubtless have more sensible reasons for or against.


Iain ClimieFebruary 27th, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Sorry, an afterthought. East takes T1 and plays the CJ back. Win in dummy and cash HJ, now lead SQ. If east ducks, lead SJ and east is going to have to concede something. Needs clubs 5-1 I admit, but east may well have SAK if he only has CJ.

bobby wolffFebruary 27th, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Hi Iain,

Your provocative questions and banter tend to make me feel like a monkey with bunches. Only the bunches are difficult bridge decisions, not exactly a feast of bananas.

While each problem you suggest deserves a specific answer, some are purely table judgment at the time, and perhaps an overall assessment is more appropriate.

Your type presence is what I often discuss when judgment at the table arises. With you, it becomes closer to a battle of wits instead of a technical bridge game, at times forcing a reorganization of thoughts and understanding that almost anything goes and imagination is the order of the moment.

My sane advice is only the above and your opponent must be prepared to think “out of the box” with the alternative, when not, is to get used to losing.

Also, in regard to ducking the first low spade off dummy, it certainly appears from East’s view to do so, with rising (at least IMO), a clear mistake.

Your final analysis (after thought) above rings true and wins my vote, but that is only when East doesn’t return the jack of diamonds at trick two.

bobby wolffFebruary 27th, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Hi Mircea,

Yes. when the partner of the opening bidder, injects an immediate redouble, the storm warning flag begins waving, causing caution to rule.

However, some partnerships (mine being one of them) sometimes have trump fits for partner, but elect to redouble immediately to just show control of the hand at an early stage, often a worthwhile choice.

Opening the hand above demands an across the board system which both consistently does it, but has built in strictures which allow for its obvious weaknesses.

1. being ultra careful about doubling the opponents.
2. raising the bar on what the responder needs to make GF responses.
3. since slam bidding needs more “meat” many traditional nuances need to be adjusted to cope.
4. while early safety is not usually a factor, still the partnership needs to adjust to a different bridge drummer.

No, I am not an advocate of 1 spade on the hand in question, but since I have not sold my soul for that hopeful advantage, I probably am not the person to ask whether it will show, in the long run, an advantage. However, the surprise of such a system will start out being an intimidation advantage, particularly against inexperienced opponents.

However, just because old dogs do not usually like new tricks doesn’t mean for others not to try them, but it is unlikely, from all that I have gathered, that a long term love affair will occur.

However, at least up to now there hasn’t been a rush to very light openings, although one might wonder whether going that route might be merely a cover up for not being that competitive in the old tried and probably true tradition. At least IMO as I write this.

bobby wolffFebruary 27th, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Hi Mircea,

Sorry for the omission. Yes, in tournaments, very light opening 1 bids need to be pre-alerted when the opponents arrive at the table.

I am not speaking from absolute knowledge of the above, but to not do so is above ridiculous.

Iain ClimieFebruary 27th, 2015 at 6:12 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for this and he psychological aspect of bridge is why I much prefer it to chess nowadays – although Mikhail Tal (World Chess Champion 1960-61) was considered to bring a whole new aspect to chess. Like Zia Mahmood at the bridge table, he seemed able to unnerve opponents by his very presence and to make moves which, while perhaps not objectively sound (MT – “There are 2 types of sacrifices, correct ones and mine”) were too much for his opponents. Your column, however, is a steady source of interest, enjoyment, stimulates the imagination and highlights plays and coups which dry textbooks don’t cover. It is the source of some of my flights of fancy, much to the horror of my most straight-laced partner but to the pleasure of the rest.

Tal and Zia Mahmood also have (or had, MT died some years ago) another common quality – a huge love of the game they played. I odten see some players looking like rabbits in headlights, and others looking like the “Before” part of an advert for a constipation cure. If you want to get to the very top, then a serious minded approach may be essential, while many others make a living teaching, playing, TD’ing or organising the game, so fair enough. For we lesser mortals, though, why the seeming misery at what is a fascinating, intricate and delightful distraction from the grind of everyday life? It’s weird, especially as over-stressing about hands gone by surely increases the likelihood of more mistakes, and might even deter newcomers whom the game needs now as never before. Anyway, I try to give credit where credit’s due if one of my coups, inspired by your column, comes off. Goofs are my own fault.



Mircea1February 28th, 2015 at 1:51 am

Nice words Iain.

I subscribe fully to your comments and tip my hat to our host for all the enjoyment that he brings us with this column and all the high level advice that he is willing to share with us all for free. I learned a lot from here, especially the most difficult part of this game: judgment. I may be ignorant but I don’t know of any other player of Bobby’s caliber who is doing something similar to what he is here. Perhaps the reason for that is that they are not that many of them.

Thank you Bobby.

bobby wolffFebruary 28th, 2015 at 2:48 am

Hi Iain,

No doubt, bridge is many different things to many different people.

During my many years of varied services and competitions, most every form of emotion has been felt. Accomplishment, satisfaction, graceful cooperation, correct analysis, and working deception are often followed by misunderstandings, misjudgment, forgets, system failures and lack of discipline, all during only one session of perhaps 4 hours.

We have all been there when all of the above, both good and bad, has crystallized in front of our very eyes.

The sadness does not come from any of the above, only the possibility of that person not coming back for more. When a player finishes a session and blurts, “I only made 3 mistakes in this session”, what he should be saying is that he only made 3 mistakes that he knew about.

Even a world class player, and I am very careful to who I give that exalted compliment, will average perhaps 10 to 15 plays or bids each session to which he likely should have done something different.

Such is this great game as many of its most dedicated players know it. And the world over!

There is no such thing as one country being bridge smarter than another. However, all countries need to have bridge available for all to participate if available and the better the competition the more fun it becomes all the way up to the World Championship level.

Mental challenges are both rewarding, but sometimes disappointing. We have all been there, many have done that, and I, for one, can only hope that our great game will grow with time.

But to do that world bridge administration must concentrate on getting the best players to play better and reward top class play whenever and however it appears. Yes, beginners and novices have to be able to learn, but without the electricity from the world’s top players competing against each other, our game, like many others, is just a stopping off place.

We must never let that happen in our own country.

bobby wolffFebruary 28th, 2015 at 3:04 am

Hi Mircea1,

I am overwhelmed by your very warm and kind words.

If the truth be known I enjoy joining in the discussions and feel like I am every day, and forever, learning from all the advice, bridge humor, different views, real hands and other bridge teaching and learning going on around the world.

Only in bridge do the players from warring nations, Israel and the Middle East, China and Taiwan, Russia and their satellites, India and Pakistan, various African nations including the apartheid controversy relating to South Africa and their closely related inhabitants get together socially and trade hands and stories about their latest bridge adventures.

All political squabbles and vast government differences and emphasis fade into insignificance.

People are respected for only their relative bridge ability and how they have individually contributed to making our game more popular.

It is truly a world stage and will always be remembered by me as the most important part of what bridge can do for constructive relationships, to exercise the mind, and to challenge fiercely, but peacefully.

I feel much of that while participating on this site. Thanks again Mircea1, your presence has made this site more enjoyable for all of us.

bruce karlsonMarch 9th, 2015 at 11:29 am

Absent previous agreement, would anyone else find value in passing the North hand to await events. Obviously giving up the pre-emptive advantage but better able to show the values in the mix.