Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measures life may perfect be.

Ben Jonson

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


It is often overlooked in the heat of battle, that when you have to make a discard you should part with a card that cannot possibly be of any use, rather than one that might conceivably take an active part. This deal is a good example of the theme, although the mistake is one that many players might have made.

Defending against four spades East overtook his partner’s lead of the club jack with his queen. When this was allowed to hold, he attacked hearts by leading out the king ace, and a low one. Declarer ruffed high and West, who was sure his hand could play no further part in the deal, parted with a low diamond.

In view of East’s take-out double and West’s discard, the diamond finesse looked a poor bet, so declarer cashed the club ace and ruffed a club, then played off four rounds of trump, discarding two diamonds from dummy. East had to retain the heart king and so parted with a diamond. Now the diamond ace and king left South with the winning five.

In retrospect, maybe West should have seen that if he had held on to all of his diamonds, he would have made the setting trick with his six at the end.

In summary, when discarding, the weak hand should make life easy for the strong hand. But beware of telling partner information he already knows, and also of helping declarer more than your partner. Additionally, keeping winners rather than losers never goes out of style.

My views here may seem somewhat sacrilegious amongst the 'Majors first at all costs' but I would raise to two diamonds rather than bid one heart. The former preempts a level of the auction, and tells partner where you live. Bear in mind that in third seat partner with limited values will tend to bid suits he wants led. So you shouldn't worry about facing three small diamonds here.


♠ J 9 8
 J 6 5 4
 A J 8 7
♣ 8 3
South West North East
Pass Pass 1 Dbl.

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 ClimieMarch 4th, 2015 at 10:03 am

Hi Bobby,

A classic case of guarding the suit held on hour right, although perhaps difficult to realise it is diamonds. Should west under-ruff instead, though, partly for effect, partly fun and it will surely mess with South’s head!



Mircea1March 4th, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Hi Bobby,

Isn’t this a case where East should go passive and play a top club at trick 2? He knows declarer’s hand precisely, so all he has to do is wait for his tricks to come his way.

Bobby WolffMarch 4th, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Hi Iain,

Ever the showman and by under-ruffing you may soon become known as the Zia of And further as an excuse you might say, since you held the 6-4-2 of one suit but only the 5-3-2 of another (albeit trumps), you, of course, discarded from your weaker.

On a slightly more serious educational note, it would help (as any knowledge often does) the bare characteristics of what elements are part of developing a squeeze and when declarer ruffs the third heart, obviously high, that entire suit becomes transparent to all, causing someone familiar with squeeze elements to turn his attention to diamonds, and although holding only the 6, partner needs exactly the Q109, with AJ87 visible to all who survey, to make the correct defense possible, but “tonight’s the night”.

If so, the battle did go to the strong. “No careless plays, here”!

Iain ClimieMarch 4th, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Hi Mircea,

A brilliant effort if you can manage it at the table, but easier said than done. If west leads a heart at T1, though, east plays HQK then a small heart but can later get in with a club to lead the HA and kill the menace. The timing is different so east has the entries to lead hearts 4 times.

on your line, though, declarer can take CA, ruff club and duck a heart but east will surely rise with H honour and we go back towards the column line.



Bobby WolffMarch 4th, 2015 at 3:32 pm

Hi Mircea,

Not really since declarer after ruffing the 3rd club in dummy could draw trump and come down to a 6 card end position of J654 of hearts and AJ of diamonds in dummy and a high spade, 98 of hearts and Kxx of diamonds in hand and then lead a heart (negotiating the 107 with West but perhaps in actuality, not needing to).

While there are other advantages for EW to develop their 4th defensive trick (how about, challenging what you say about East precisely knowing declarer’s hand by instead declarer possessing an extra spade but without the lady and only Kx in diamonds, then holding 6 spades to the AK with West then, of course, holding the remaining Qx and poised for the heart overruff?).

Sometimes it is a complicated game we love to play, but the thrill of accurately unraveling the mystery will always win the day.

Mircea1March 4th, 2015 at 8:28 pm

Hi Bobby,

OK, you convinced me. Nice declarer play. I’ve only been able to pull off a few squeezes so far so I’m still working on developing an eye for them.

But now looking at West’s hand, when declarer ruffs the third club, what’s the point in holding on to the remaining cards in that suit? Yes, the diamonds don’t look promising at all but clubs are guaranteed to be of zero help. I know this is easier said than done, but you just need to be half awaken at the table to realize that.

jim2March 4th, 2015 at 10:11 pm

I interpreted the West 2D discard as telling pard nothing in diamonds.

Bobby WolffMarch 4th, 2015 at 11:06 pm

Hi Mircea & Jim2,

Admittedly for the 6 of diamonds to come into play as a possible trick is only usually a product of a very imaginative, but sometimes unrealistic bridge mind. However Mircea is quite right in after declarer ruffs his 3rd club the other clubs become ornaments for West and not ducats to keep.

Also I agree with Jim2 that a diamond discard tends to show little or nothing in diamonds, but that information, not being useful to partner, only serves to help declarer (momentous in this case) and should be avoided.

Loose lips sink ships and many no win discards allow the declarer to play the hand to best advantage, creating more ships to be sunk and, in this case, without costing the winners even the price of one torpedo.

Iain ClimieMarch 4th, 2015 at 11:54 pm

Hi Bobby,

A quick query from a fairly moderate knockabout club teams tonight (men vs ladies so pride and then something at stake). At game all, pard deals and opens 1D (poss 3, 5 cd majors) and you bid 3D (limit) on A8x x Q9xxx KJ10x. LHO bids 3S, pard bids 5D, P,P and LHO bids 5H after a slight pause. Pass, 5S and your go now – do you save, pass or go for the axe?



Bobby WolffMarch 5th, 2015 at 1:05 am

Hi Iain,

I would definitely bid 6 diamonds and hope that my RHO (partner of major suit bidder) does not bid 6 hearts.

Partner, for his 5 diamond effort, figures to have a minimum hand in high cards but very likely the AK of diamonds, the Ace of clubs (your worthy partner playing his LHO for the queen) and since he will certainly have some hearts, no more than a singleton spade.

Perhaps my RHO will now continue on but we figure to take at least one minor suit trick and with imagination partner may figure a heart ruff with spades as trump and a spade ruff with hearts as trump.

The only fly in this ointment would be, at least on this hand, for partner to not have enough minor suit strength to justify his jump, meaning behind his 5 diamond effort. The major minus in most wannabe partnerships are impatient unilateral actions which tend to cause partner (you in this case) to take wrong high-level action.

You understand that I’ll now agree to represent you in a bridge court of your choice, especially involving a partner who would like a divorce.

I doubt seriously however that your result on this hand will be at all displeasing to your partnership, but if so, this hand will not get a virgin.

I now will await your reply and if 6 diamonds does goes down while 5 spades would also go several tricks down you are not committed to inform me, even if you are longing to.

Best regards (conditionally),


jim2March 5th, 2015 at 1:54 am

Note that I was interpreting the 2D discard, not defending it.

On Iain’s KO hand, I’m not pulling anything out of the bidding box that isn’t green.

Iain ClimieMarch 5th, 2015 at 2:28 am

Hi Bobby and Jim2,

6D loses 200, 5S passed out loses 650 and double rather more as LHO hols KQ10xxx AJ9xxx none x and dummy holds J9x K10xx Kxx xxx with pard having x Qx AJ10xx AQxxx. Perhaps pard could have bid 5C on the way to 5D but he strangely didn’t find the H lead to beat 5S! My belief that he’s
d have a heart trick was horribly mistaken, while RHO’s move to 5S avoiding the spade ruff in5H was inspired. Ouch.



Bobby WolffMarch 5th, 2015 at 6:25 am

Hi Iain,

What did this hand symbolize, if anything?

Possibly something we have always known, and pretty much agree on. Bridge is a bidder’s game with ties going to the declaring side. With the exact bidding which occurred, the king of diamonds was either in the opening bidders hand or if not, almost surely offside for the minor suit holders. Of course the 6-6 hand could have held it, but the odds were very strong against it. Also the queen of clubs could have been either the singleton with the 6-6 hand, but if not, very transparent in the weak balanced hand making it fast prey to be guessed, or, of course with the opening bidder.

Again Damon Runyon’s famous quote rings true: “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that is the way to bet” as would be guessing where key cards happen to be after a telltale auction.

If one’s assumptions are similar to mine or even close it then becomes much clearer why the game has always been, at least when Auction turned to Contract and everyone had to learn to bid well to win, a game which vastly favors the last bidder rather than passer.

On any one hand, not necessarily, but in the long run, very much so. One could argue that 5 spades could go down to why bid 6 diamonds, but that is also a key element over the long run. Let anyone who even sniffs at a heart lead after the bidding throw the first stone.

Everyone who has ever played bridge has had many chances for post mortems, usually proving either nothing or at the most, very little. However, if strict objectivity is the language of the day (in the later days of the aces, but not from the get go) everyone present will learn, but without it, one will be doomed to keep trying to analyze what he will never be able to have a good record doing, e.g. trying to pinpoint a precise contract and be right an inordinate number of times.

The best one can do is just practice concepts and let the law of average work in his (or her) favor.

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