Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

I love my fellow creatures – I do all the good I can –
Yet everybody says I’m such a disagreeable man!
And I can’t think why!

W. S. Gilbert

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


In today’s deal, maybe it was a rush of blood to the head, or the flowers that bloom in the spring generating optimism, but something compelled you to open the South hand with a strong no trump. Maybe the light was bad, or the cards dirty? Your partner used Stayman to enquire for four-card majors, and settled in three no-trump. When West leads the diamond three, it is up to you to try to make bricks out of the limited amount of straw available to you.

The solution is based to a certain extent on whether you think it is conceivable that West has led from a three-card suit on this auction; highly unlikely, I would say (indeed, it is a safe guess that West is very likely to be 3-3-4-3 pattern or to have an ‘unleadable’ four-card suit).

If that is so, then I think your best practical chances for the contract lie in deception. You have to be up to ducking the first trick. But you also have to remember that this in itself may not be enough. You must also take care to follow at the first trick with the six, concealing the two, to encourage East to continue the attack on diamonds, in the belief that West has led from a five-card suit. If you do not, he may well find the club switch at trick two.

When the defenders continue diamonds, you can take four diamond winners and later bring hearts home for four tricks to make your game.

This hand is far too good to pass two clubs — you might miss a cold game or even a slam. A simple invitational raise to three clubs should suffice. You may belong in three no-trump, but it will be up to partner to move toward game if he has extra values.


♠ A 9 4
 Q 10 6 5
 A 4
♣ 9 8 7 4
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 Pass 2 ♣ 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 20th, 2015 at 9:26 am

Okay, you are E and you just won the opening trick with the D10 with S following with the 6. What’s going on, especially in the D suit? Let’s see, there are 3 honors missing: KQJ. Clearly partner doesn’t have all 3, but he must have at least one, otherwise he would have led a higher D. If he has 2, then declarer has one. If the one is the J or Q, surely declarer wouldn’t have ducked. Maybe he would have ducked with only the K. If partner only has 1 honor, then declarer would have won the first trick no matter which honor he was missing. So either partner had specifically QJ fourth (or fifth) or something fishy is going on. If fishy, then the C shift is obvious. What would you conclude had you been E?

Mircea1May 20th, 2015 at 10:52 am

Hi Bobby,

Is South’s 1NT opening that awful as the text in the column implies?

On BWTA what will partner do with an unbalanced hand in the range of 14 to 17, something like this:


Is 3H now showing 3 cards there or a (semi)stopper? What is 3S by opener?

jim2May 20th, 2015 at 11:29 am

At our table partner played it at 3N, also. He won the first diamond and led a club from the Board. East covered with the 10C, pard covered that with the JC, and West won and continued diamonds. Pard resumed clubs and ended up with one spade, four clubs, three diamonds, and one most unlikely club for none tricks …

jim2May 20th, 2015 at 11:29 am

Not “none tricks” — NINE

— sigh —

bobby wolffMay 20th, 2015 at 11:48 am

Hi David,

Your analysis and rhetoric along with, definitely deserve an A grade, ranging up to A+. Furthermore, to work and therefore achieve the accuracy you spout, deserves nothing less than a complete heartfelt response together with proper annotation.

From East’s perspective, and of course the most likely substantive diamond holdings which partner must have are simply (1) QJ932, (2) QJ832, (3) QJ732 and, of course, (4) J983 or (5) J973. Of course West could have QJ fourth as well, but that would bring another discussion which would even be much more complicated and perhaps take a full month to analyze the possibilities.

Assuming I, as East, am on track with these specific likely holdings (always considering declarer’s play of the six at trick one by a very good player) what should then lead me to play at trick two? Well, with #1, partner may have chosen the Queen since he had a QJ9 combination and the bidding by South denied a four card major, making it more likely that declarer will possess at least four diamonds. However it might make a difference if the game is IMPs or matchpoint duplicate since at matchpoints a seasoned player will tend to lead the Queen in order to make it less likely to be giving away an overtrick by allowing the diamond 10, if held by declarer, to score.

Following through, and from what I can routinely suggest, other evidence becomes relatively subjective in nature and therefore can only relate to the time declarer used to make his 1st trick play. If he thought about 5 seconds or less and then ducked in both hands, unless he was (is) a superstar one can almost rule out #s 4 and 5 since he would be giving up on a 3-3 break, a big decision when he would be wide open in clubs.

However, for anyone both good and experienced enough to delve through the alternatives with lightening speed and just play low (in both hands) at trick one, the poor 3rd seat defender must return that talent with the respect that it deserves, but still, and maybe because of it, switch to (on the subject hand) a killing club return.

The high-level psychology evident on this hand is somewhat typical of what happens when bridge giants collide in competition. Declarer’s double duck at trick one, like the three bear’s porridge, should not be too hot nor too cold, but just the right temperature to not give anything away to his brilliant RHO.

And that my dear David, assuming I did not overlook an elephant in this room, is what makes the difference in winning and losing when playing our usually underestimated off-the-charts game at the highest level.

As an afterthought, is it any wonder then that a grizzled very old veteran would always choose bridge over money when that choice is discussed. (a recent lively discussion on Bridgewinners).

It doesn’t at all mean that money doesn’t make the world go round, since it certainly does (especially when listening to the song from Cabaret)) but, at least to me, bridge will always ring the bell as that important and, to my dying breath.

bobby wolffMay 20th, 2015 at 12:15 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Certainly not awful, and becoming very commonplace. At the time, our admonition is only intended to keep standard NT values (15-17) from falling further by spreading gloom and doom if those opening 1NT values, like the stock market might, start to accelerate downward.

Concerning the BWTA, yes a now 3 heart bid would be both forward going and showing 3 card support, while a 3 spade bid would ask partner to “DSI” (do something intelligent). However his partner would now probably opt for 3NT, not nearly as good a contract, especially at IMPs, as 5 clubs.

However, if your example responder now cue bid 4 spades in response to 3 spades, 6 clubs could result, a very bad slam but what about if partner’s heart queen was the club queen, now the club slam is almost laydown.

As many of us males think, some queens are more attractive than others.

bobby wolffMay 20th, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Hi Jim2,

How much did declarer have to pay East to cover the nine of clubs with his ten? He either got a healthy sum for that play or else he doesn’t belong to the honor conservation society.

jim2May 20th, 2015 at 12:25 pm

The HCS!


Judy-Kay WolffMay 20th, 2015 at 6:28 pm

Having read firsthand the reference above to the upcoming WBF events in India (ad nauseum), I am more convinced than ever that our once majestic game has succumbed to the disgusting depths of money first, bridge .. wherever you can work it in. The least of my concerns is how pros earn their living. Because of global improvement of other countries, it is imperative we send THE VERY BEST SIX PAIRS (or very close) that Zone 2 can produce to these prestigious events.

Perhaps I am biased (and proudly so) .. having wed two undisputed world class bridge aficianados who have scalps on the wall and the battle scars to show for them. However, I am appalled at the thought of degrading the elegance of bridge by letting the almighty dollar compromise the standards of our once exalted game .. which is rapidly falling from grace.

Though our younger set is on the rise, it is sad that U. S. dominance in prestigious competition for many decades has hit the skids and we are headed to not be taken seriously .. and may even drop to ‘also-ran’ status.