Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Criticism is easy, art is difficult.

Philippe Destouches

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


Nobody ever pretended that bridge is a simple game, and all too often what makes it especially complicated is the inability to see the wood for the trees. Very few deals boil down to a simple analysis of requiring a specific number of tricks from one suit -there are all too often complicating factors which require you to play off one suit combination against another.

However, today’s deal is one where, if playing teams or rubber bridge, we can focus on a single theme and not worry too much about the other suits. Playing three no-trump on a top club lead from West, we can win in hand and should concentrate our energies on making nine tricks. With six sure winners outside diamonds, and no obvious danger suit, we simply require to take three diamond tricks. If we only need three tricks in the suit we can afford to lose two tricks, so at trick two we simply duck a diamond. East might do best to overtake his partner’s 10 and shift to a spade. If he does so, we duck his play of a low spade, and cover his 10 with the queen. On regaining the lead we can advance the diamond nine, planning to cover an honor from West, or duck again if West discards on this trick. Whatever happens after that, we can ensure our nine tricks against any lie of the cards.

Note that if you take either the first or second round of diamonds, the contract becomes unmakable.

Your partner is marked with at least scattered values and close to a maximum pass. The question is whether to go aggressive; if you did, you would probably lead a club rather than a heart, since even though dummy rates not to have long majors, your club holding is relatively safe. Or you could try to go passive with a spade. I vote for clubs, but make the club 10 the nine and I might change my mind.


♠ 10 5 4
 K 7 6 3
 Q 5
♣ J 10 3 2
South West North East
Pass Pass 2 NT
All 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 ClimieMarch 16th, 2015 at 1:03 pm

Hi Bobby,

The play today could even pay off at pairs – duck the first diamond, hoping west wins and plays another club. If he does, lead another diamond with the extra chance of west showing out when you duck again. Similar possibilities exist with say Qxx opposite AKxxx or AK10xx when the long suit is in an entry less hand. Playing the Q first feels wrong but gives extra chances.

This doesn’t solve the problem of east overtaking and ramming a small spade through, when finessing is probably right, but does show how often stray extra chances can occur.



Bobby WolffMarch 16th, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, bridge presents itself in varied, inconsistent ways, but usually only with correct solutions which need to be specifically solved.

Today’s hand represents the need to duck two diamonds in order to secure the number of tricks necessary to achieve the goal. What does this all mean and what about degree of difficulty?

Simply put, yes, it will indeed be imperative for declarer to know what is expected (here, nine tricks and with six others plainly evident, and assuming no lucky breaks to come, three diamond tricks will suffice).

Therefore, every very good player will (should after gleaned experience) know that since there might not be an entry left if we get greedy find the required solution, duck two in order to overcome the entry handicap and therefore score up three.

Column hands are here to both entertain, but more educational, to teach. Sure, especially with matchpoint duplicate, overtricks assumed a major significance, but our real game of contract bridge, which now and has always featured both rubber bridge and IMPs which emphasized what today’s column hand does, what it takes to make a game contract.

Bridge is definitely a thinking man (or womans) game and, in order to eventually excel in it, need to firmly know what was intended—to concentrate on scoring up one’s contract.

By learning the game the above accepted way, the offshoots, such as matchpoint duplicate, although through a slightly different reward system, still become very learnable as long as the fundamentals present are always duly emphasized.

Your above special point is brilliantly presented when you mention that if declarer had the Qxx in diamonds, (but only needed 4, not five diamond tricks) he needs to play the queen first since with the lack of entries to the diamond length he needs to be prepared to duck one which he could do by playing low in both hands from the get go, but it seems better to play the queen first and then decide later whether, after West follows, presuming he does, whether to go for the extra tricks (usually while playing matchpoints).

All of the above makes bridge the cerebral (and sensational) game we all know it to be. Let’s not dilute it nor cater to the novice so-called, “High Card Win” set. If we make the impossible choice of so doing, yes it may cause bridge to last long enough to keep our home office and the ACBL BOD’s in business some years longer, but then the final result will be nothing less a disgrace to all those miscreants who so chose.

The complete novice game of bridge has absolutely no lasting appeal and unlike most of Europe and all of China we will have sold our beloved game down the river and eventually, worse, totally out of our and our children’s lives.