Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, April 24th, 2015

Income tax returns are the most imaginative fiction being written today.

Herman Wouk

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


Cardinal Morton was Chancellor and tax-gatherer for King Henry VII. His argument was that if the merchant had an ostentatious lifestyle, he could well afford to contribute generously. However, if he lived frugally, then he must have salted his money away, so the same would apply.

North-South were playing oldfashioned strong jump shifts, and when North showed a very strong balanced hand South found a unsophisticated jump to slam. The contract was far from comfortable (there are only nine top tricks, after all) but South found a way home.

West’s passive spade lead was won in dummy. South played a diamond to hand, then neatly impaled West on the prongs of Morton’s Fork by leading the club seven.

Let us see what happens if West takes the king. On a heart return, South needs to take care. He wins the ace, unblock clubs, crosses to dummy’s second heart winner and then takes the club queen. If the jack does not fall, he crosses back to hand in diamonds, tests hearts, and finally will try to run spades if neither hearts nor clubs have behaved. Today, by virtue of the jacks descending in the rounded suits, declarer comes to three spades, four hearts, two diamonds and three clubs without needing spades to behave.

If West withholds the club king at trick two, declarer puts up the queen and can then set up a fourth trick in spades, eventually taking four tricks in each major and two in each minor.

The choice here is a call of two clubs or a bid of two no-trump. The latter gets across the invitational nature of the hand, while not the skewed honor structure and the side four-card suit. The two club call may lead to a missed game facing a hand with no fit but 8-9 HCP say. Overall, though, if your partner does not pass the two club bid it lets you follow up to show the extras and leaves you far better placed.


♠ A K Q 10 2
 A Q
 5 2
♣ Q 10 5 3
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 1 NT 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


David WarheitMay 8th, 2015 at 9:41 am

In the other room, S played the S10 at trick one. E won and returned a D. S won, cashed dummy’s AQ of H, returned to hand with the CA, and cashed the K10 of H. He then ran dummy’s S, coming down to dummy having the CQ and a D and declarer Kx of D and W found himself squeezed. Making 6!

jim2May 8th, 2015 at 11:33 am

Just another flat board for David Warheit. If I would have played the 10S, though, East would have played back another, perhaps even accidentally dropping the 3S on the table instead of the intended diamond.

jim2May 8th, 2015 at 11:35 am

TOCM ™ — sigh. It even moves cards in a defender’s hand while the player is not looking.


Bobby WolffMay 8th, 2015 at 3:45 pm

Hi David & Jim2,

Touche to both of you. David for his near correct analysis and Jim2 for finding the weakness.

Back in the dark ages, before WWII, popular magazines such as Cosmopolitan ran bridge puzzles in their weekly or monthly editions asking the reader questions like, Would you rather declare or defend the subject contract, here 6NT?

Was this healthy? Very, for the learning of our great and inspirational game. Perfect for mind development and for the application of numbers which in description should be called numeracy. As good for the mind as sports like tennis and golf are helpful to the body.

And while not everyone, but rather a relatively smaller percentage have the facility to excel in physical sports (speed, strength and mind) the learning of bridge can, will and did take our country by storm.

Those days are now only history and our youth have found other pastimes. Not so healthy, wealthy or wise, but rather more hedonistic, a condition which sometimes caters to greed, selfishness, and even lawlessness.

Perhaps, in these days of a much smaller world followed, of course, with cultures colliding are we paying a stiff price for the above change?

I think so, and only all of China and much of Europe have seen fit to install many years of teaching and learning bridge in their regular school curriculum to offset this enigma. It is now firmly established and gets nothing but rave notices from their teachers and students.

Thanks to David and Jim2 for at least on this hand, keeping it alive on our bridge site, and from my standpoint and with today’s hand, notice the club position and how West is faced with an impossible dilemma when a low club is led from declarer. Rise and secure that trick but then allows 3 club tricks for declarer, but if ducked he then enables an adept declarer to rise with the queen and eventually score up his 12 tricks in 6NT.

Is that magic or just an interesting puzzle which can and should fascinate all of us in numerate application? I have already dealt with my answer. What say the rest of you bridge devotees?

Thanks to all of my very loyal and talented write-ins who, each in his or her own way, continue to scintillate with their questions, answers, creations and opinions.

Iain ClimieMay 8th, 2015 at 8:31 pm

Hi Bobby, JIm2,

I saw a classic example of the situation JIm2 describes a year or so back. I was in 2S I think and the oppo held the DAKQ between them, and one wasn’t led. Drawing the obvious inferences (that West who had led something nondescript, didn’t have AK, KQ or all three diamond honours) I started to plan the play accordingly and found cards turning up in unexpected places. Eventually, around trick 9, I had to lead a heart to the King in my hand, and West, a keen novice but rather erratic and prone to lapses said “Oh, I thought I had that card!” as she’d put the DK in the hearts and held DAQ to boot. Partner was away from the table getting a coffee, but I saw the funny side, and the unauthorised information wouldn’t have helped East so I let it go. Partner returned with coffee, I took the 35% or so with good grace, and said “Sorry partner, on the defence I just didn’t realise West had such a strong diamond holding.” “Neither did I” said West and partner wondered why the three of us were helpless with laughter.

I’m sure some players would have called the director, but it was an ordinary sesson at a friendly club, so “why ruin the joke?” I thought. I did later point out to West (when I’d stopped laughing – it took a while) that there would be some players who’d kick up a fuss, so please try not to do it against them. You know the type – they look like the “Before” picture in a constipation cure advert



Don GrishamMay 8th, 2015 at 10:27 pm

Do you like weak jump shifts or strong jump shifts?
i.e. 1C,pass,2S Weak or strong? 1C,1H, 2S weak of strong?

Joe1May 8th, 2015 at 11:35 pm

Actually the line taken is only 50-50, the CK must be with E? Another 50-50 is spade finesse; or running the spades to drop J. As the cards lie the line worked. But which is the best?

Joe1May 8th, 2015 at 11:35 pm

I meant KC west

Bobby WolffMay 8th, 2015 at 11:46 pm

Hi Iain,

While all here can appreciate the humor, more often than expected the “high card wins” (HCW) set looks only at the trick at hand, without considering previous plays, nor, of course the bidding on that hand, since the bidding happened so long ago it had become irrelevant. In other words when those two types of levels play against each other, the two different games which are played go together like oil and water rather than candy and cake.

Unfortunately the laughter (from a combination of wonder and fate) is not meant to take others down, but rather to just unleash pent up emotion, when fantasy not bridge, is being played. My guess is that never the twain will meet and the only thing worse would be running a bridge club in eternity with only HCW players in attendance except the chosen pair which is forever condemned.

Bobby WolffMay 9th, 2015 at 12:43 am

Hi Joe1,

If the only evidence is the opening lead of the spade 8, it seems slightly better to play for West to have the king of clubs and for the spade jack not to drop (or, of course play the opening leader for 4 to the jack, including the 8)

However, those odds are based on players, not percentage tables. Then, when the odds are close, as they are in the play of the two black suits, go with the psychology of what is on the opening leaders mind, when he chooses his lead.

And Joe1, I can assure you that the higher up the ladder the bridge players are, the more years of experience are necessary to gain the edge. All the intellectual knowledge of card combinations play little in this decision, but a knowledge as to where the cards might be will be known, just as for the top poker players, based on intuitive mind reading. The tempo, style and even the personality of the foes comes into play and the winners will win and the losers will lose and both parties will tend to be the same ones over and over.

Try it, you may like it, but only if you become one of the constant winners.