Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow.

Punch magazine

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


One of the plays that separates the expert from the intermediate player, is that while both of them take finesses when they must, somehow the expert’s finesses ether work more often – or good things happen when the finesse loses. Let’s see a deal that reflects that theme.

Consider the play in six spades in today’s deal, where East-West have competed in diamonds and West leads the diamond king. How would you set about catering for unfortunate lies of the cards?

After ruffing the first trick, declarer must draw trump in two rounds to avoid nasty accidents. At this point the stage is set for an elimination play, which requires two entries to dummy to ruff away the remaining diamonds from the North hand, to remove the defenders’ safe exit cards.

South starts with the club ace then queen. This brings the good news that the suit divides 3-2, and now declarer leads the club jack to dummy’s queen and ruffs a diamond. Dummy is reentered with the club nine and the diamond suit is finally eliminated with another ruff. Declarer now passes the heart 10 to East, who finds himself endplayed into leading a heart back into dummy’s tenace or conceding a ruff-and-discard. Either choice gives declarer 12 tricks.

Obviously, a heart at trick one breaks up this endplay. But note that if you do not make the effort to strip off the diamonds, East wins the first heart cheaply, exits in diamonds, and sits back to wait for his second heart winner.

Bid one no-trump now. You do not need a spade stopper for this auction but you do require a club stopper, and you have this to perfection. Remember your partner should have spades relatively under control because of his double, and your side has enough high cards to suggest the no-trump partscore.


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


Mircea1March 24th, 2015 at 11:15 am

I am often told by my partner that my post-mortem is biased but isn’t it obvious for West that the declarer is void in diamonds therefore he should lead something else? True, choosing between a club and a heart is a toss but…

BryMarch 24th, 2015 at 12:23 pm

Would not a club or spade lead have also sunk the contract?

jim2March 24th, 2015 at 1:19 pm

I played this deal in the Lower Slobbovia Mud Cup Individual. My partner was/is a notorious Hog, and this deal was no exception. In fact, I am sad to admit, he has since held this hand up as absolute proof of his prowess and justification for his approach.

You see, I sat North and partner opened two clubs. In the individual that year, each hand was with a different partner and the South and West players’ convention cards were always used, no matter what. So, if one played an esoteric system, one risked many partners being completely lost.

Anyway, partner opened two clubs and I had to bid two spades, showing three controls (ace = 2, king = 1).

Of course, once I bid spades, partner had a bidding problem extraordinaire! You see, there was no way in hell — in fact, there was no way in any of the levels of hell! — that he was going to let ME play that hand, so what does he do now?

His diamond void and West’s overcall meant he dare not play in notrump, so his only option was … you guessed it by now, I’m sure — was CLUBS!

Since the field was sure to be in six spades, he knew he had to be in seven clubs.

And so it was. A cold top that will live in infamy!

I still get nasty letters from his later partners blaming me for having encouraged him ….

Jane AMarch 24th, 2015 at 6:47 pm

Very funny. I think I might enjoy playing in Lower Slobbovia. Actually, my partner and I play a system that also would allow us to open two clubs with the south hand, followed by a bid of three spades naming spades as trump of course and which shows a four loser hand. We would have wound up in six spades also and the play of the hand has to go as Bobby describes. We do not play step responses needless to say. Never will either as I don’t care for this system.

Our Las Vegas sectional is going on right now, and Bobby and Judy are there, as they usually are. Mr. Bill Gates is also coming in today. From what I hear, he needs silver points.

bobby wolffMarch 25th, 2015 at 1:26 am

Hi Mircea1,

Having just returned from downstairs bridge wars I feel ready to take on the column challenges.

Jumping to slam, after the opponents have vigorously bid and supported a suit doesn’t always show a void or even close, but rather sometimes enough length to think that partner must be very short: For example s. AKQxxx, h. AQx, d. xxx, c. A might suit a slam jump to an excellent competitior. Remember, you the opponents, might jump at the chance to sacrifice at seven, taking a phantom save while doing so, but falling for the opponent’s clever ruse.

These kinds of successful strategies are commonly pulled off by very tough opponents. Let the winners explain how they did it, especially when bamboozling was the order of their day.,

bobby wolffMarch 25th, 2015 at 1:32 am

Hi Bry,

Yes, of course it would, since there are not enough entries to ruff out the diamonds, but in that case, perhaps one of the two heart honors will be onside, giving the declarer a 75% chance to make the slam anyway.

The lesson stays that if given the chance by a diamond lead, seize the opportunity to convert 75% to 100%.

And, BTW thanks for writing in.

bobby wolffMarch 25th, 2015 at 1:49 am

Hi Jim2,

But do not moan about some other bridge genius bidding and making a grand slam in clubs. For that to happen for you, old Humpy would have to straighten up and he has been a hunchback all of his life. Clubs breaking, no ruffs out, finesses being onside or whatever it would take, would not have happened for you, so just be proud that you would have played it well enough if you had received a diamond lead. Of course, both heart honors were off side for you, but so what, as good ole Rudyard Kipling would have described to you when he offered water from that regimental beisty, “will get his swig in hell from Gunga Din”.

Good luck, but one day that curse will end, and everyone will then know who the greatest was, always and forever!

bobby wolffMarch 25th, 2015 at 1:55 am

Hi Jane A,

Thanks always for your valuable editions. Hark Bill Gates has arrived and guess who we just played in the current KO? Yes Bill and his great woman partner Sharon Osberg. However only I and a few hundred players downstairs now know who won, so stay tuned and either Judy or I will pass it on to everyone around the world.

The tournament is totally thrilled to have him among our competitors. He lights up everyone who he contacts not with his wealth, but just his personality, enthusiasm and accomplishments which lights up everyone around.

Mircea1March 25th, 2015 at 9:38 am

Congratulations on winning the KO, Judi and Bobby! Looks like you eliminated Bill’s team (including Fred Gitelman and Sheri Weinstock) in the semi’s?

Mircea1March 25th, 2015 at 9:45 am

I forgot to ask one more question: do you approve South opening 2C as dealer as suggested by Jim2 (I enjoy his comments)? His hand matches a rule I just learned from Marty Bergen of considering opening 2C almost any hand that has four quick tricks and no more than four losersl

jim2March 25th, 2015 at 12:34 pm

I was that Hog’s system! 🙂

He could have opened one club in another system with me being forced to reply one spade to show controls. You know, something like:

1C (artificial) — 1D [natural overcall] — 1S (3 controls – with Pass=0-1, 1H=2, 1S=3, 1N=4+)

Oh, and thanks!

bobby wolffMarch 26th, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Hi Mircea1 & Jim2,

Yes, the choice of opening the bidding with very strong hands is one of the more difficult choices in attempting to play excellent bridge.

While there is not much more to say, no doubt, forcing club auctions are better suited to saving room for more information to be passed, that is, unless those worthy opponents interfere with a high preempt and then, if so, the auction usually becomes pure guesswork.

Of course, the dealer of the hand, Dame Fortune, becomes in control and she has been known to be a fickle female, and even sometimes ruthless in the way she handles her victims.

“You pays your money, you takes your choice”! It is as simple as the salutation, 1,2 and 3, Pop goes the weasel.