Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 29th, 2015

Small habits, well pursued betimes,
May reach the dignity of crimes.

Hannah More

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


South correctly decided that his hand was inappropriate for a one no-trump opening, so he opened one heart. North was playing the forcing no-trump, with a direct raise to two hearts constructive. So he responded one no-trump, planning to raise hearts later. When South raised to two no-trump, suggesting 18-19 balanced, North decided to take a shot at four hearts. Thus the standard contract was reached in convoluted fashion.

West was on lead with what he considered one of the more routine defensive problems. He led out a top club and decided that it was safe to continue with the club ace and another club.

South ruffed the third club, cashed the heart ace-king to find the bad news, then crossed to the diamond ace to ruff the fourth club. Then he took the remaining top diamonds, discarding a spade from dummy. West discarded, but that simply postponed the evil day for a short while. Finally a heart endplayed West, forcing him to lead into the spade tenace. A neat route to ten tricks, don’t you think?

Very competently played by declarer, but West takes the blame for missing the point of the defense. After one top club reveals the layout of the clubs when East follows with a small club at trick one, West should see the endplay looming. He should switch to a diamond at trick two, and now when declarer wins in hand and leads a low club, West can let East take the trick and shift to spades.

You may be regretting your decision to respond to one diamond but it is too late now. Much as you would like to pass, that is verboten. Your partner’s bid is game-forcing, in theory. Give preference to three diamonds and hope partner can bid no-trump, so you do not have to.


♠ 10 9 5
 J 8 4 3
 A 5
♣ 10 6 5 2
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 WarheitJune 12th, 2015 at 9:15 am

While it is true that, after the opening lead, W knows that declarer has only 2 clubs, he does not know who has the CJ. He must therefore cash a second club before shifting to a diamond. Otherwise, if declarer has that card, he can play like the actual declarer did, only he has a choice of whether to endplay W with the HQ or a C.

David WarheitJune 12th, 2015 at 9:26 am

Oops. While W is, in a sense, endplayed, all declarer gets to do is discard a S from his hand, meaning that sooner or later he’ll have to take the S finesse. But this is only because declarer has 3D & 3S. If he had SAQ and DKQxx, my suggestion stands.

Mircea1June 12th, 2015 at 9:58 am

Hi Bobby,

David raises a good point. How does West know that East has the CJ? On the lead of the king, most play count. Is that sound?

On BWTA, do you like Lebensohl over reverses? If not, what should South bid if the ace was swapped with a small spade?

Iain ClimieJune 12th, 2015 at 11:50 am

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA, the hand isn’t that bad given the pointed suit holdings. If I’d dredged up 1H on 10xx KJxx x 10xxxx I might risk passing 2S and partnerr’s possible tantrum if game were on.

On the play hand, deep finesse nobbles the rest of us. CA, C9 ducked in dummy but taken by east’s jack, spade back. Bridge is an easy game if you are a silicon smartass!



bobby wolffJune 12th, 2015 at 2:11 pm

Hi David,

All you say is true. However often, as is here,
there can be much to learn and so little space to describe.

From a complacent West (OL) comes the lethargy of relaxing by way of not giving a worthy declarer his due, and although there is nothing which guarantees declarer to have precisely his exact hand, nevertheless it is a possible one.

Therefore, if what should seem likely to an expert West, that declarer probably possesses AKxxx in hearts, the OL should regard Qxx in trumps a dangerous throw-in tool available to declarer which he will soon discover. Then, of course, if declarer also possesses the AQ of spades, defense beware.

Another way to get across this defensive worry is to claim that at trick one, four tricks are well in sight, but what can we do to make sure we get them? In this way aspiring players (with the talent to get there) may begin to realize the complex nature of their responsibility to perform and take it from there.

To your credit, and with your keen analytical bridge mind, your comments are always directed to doing just that, but from this writer’s viewpoint it becomes not only difficult, but well nigh impossible, to discuss all aspects of many hands.

I apologize, but want to explain as vividly as I can.

bobby wolffJune 12th, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Hi Mircea1,

No question West does not know that East has the jack of clubs, only that he didn’t hold only Jx.

First, attitude is usually given at trick one, and when partner leads the K (from either AK or KQ) against a suit contract a doubleton should be signaled positively with hopes of ruffing the third lead.

However, having said the above, the only thing which trumps the above standard defensive traditions is sometimes taking chances in the defense on finding partner with what could be considered a possible holding which, in turn could lead to a set, without which a good declarer will find a way to make his contract.

In other words sometimes in the interest of playing top flight bridge, one needs to be able to tell tradition to “Go Fish”.

In answer to your query about Lebensohl, do you mean your ace of diamonds is only a small spade, if so then pass rather than 1 heart is clearly the correct response to your partner’s opening bid.

No, I do not necessarily like Lebensohl over reverses, but I do like an overall plan which has some sort of artificial very weak hand response which will alert partner to tread softly, possibly the next suit in line if the reverse was less than 2 spades. Besides with that BWTA, 2 spades is not a reverse, but rather a jump shift which is GF in most every bridge partnership menu and yes, it could be artificial (meaning less than 4 of them) e.g. s. AQx, h. AKx, d. KQJxxx, c. x.

bobby wolffJune 12th, 2015 at 2:47 pm

Hi Iain,

As usual an uncomplicated accurate description of what all levels of bridge are about. Of course, while emphasizing that at the high-level players care, not necessarily true at other levels where that oft mistreated word of fun is often substituted.

My direct answer is that fun is very unlikely to be present in any bridge playing room where whatever the class of players playing, is always going to be accompanied by the desire to win.

And as far as your Silicon analogy ever since Hal taking center stage in “2001, A Space Odyssey” was proclaimed to be human, it was even acknowledged then, at least IMO, that it took being human to hate and be evil which then in fact, caused that show to be a horror movie, but in fact, very effective.

Here is to you, surely the leader in bridge tantrums being thrown at, unless under that thick skin of yours is a very humorous side which thrives at returning the favor to those partners who didn’t realize that an unseen bridge genius was at work.

A.V.Ramana RaoJune 12th, 2015 at 2:51 pm

HI Mr Wolff
Interesting hand. But there is a subtlety. I would like to know which club did W play at third trick. If it is Q, declarer can ruff it felling East’s Jack and the Club ten is good in dummy. Declarer can play two rounds of trumps and then a diamond to A and take a spade pitch on the established 10 knowing that it cannot be ruffed and two more diamonds and if W does not ruff lead a trump and W is hopelessly end played. However, if W played a low club at trick three, the play becomes interesting. . Declarer after playing two rounds of trumps will surely place east with the missing club and may play on diamonds. ( If he tries to ruff the club 10 , he will assume that W can over ruff and exit with a diamond & the end play disappears. ) So declarer plays three rounds of diamonds and W can ruff the third round with Q of trumps and now produce a rabbit out of his hat in the form of Q of clubs and declarer is sunk. Though he can discard one spade from dummy on third diamond, he is yet to lose another spade which puts the contract down.
However with due respects — for instruction purpose the 10 of clubs can be interchanged with east and assumes East shows count on the first club trick and W unthinkingly continues with clubs, declarer just cannot go wrong


bobby wolffJune 12th, 2015 at 3:17 pm


We just assume, as should you, that West after cashing 2 clubs then since East did not encourage with his doubleton, MUST, according to bridge logic, have a 3rd one which would always be the Jack (only one left).

That type of reasoning would also be known by an experienced declarer who would (should) have noticed that East did not signal a come-on which he would have with QJxx, resulting in, at least at that precise time, all knowing the full original club layout around the table.

“Little by little we learn great things” is often a wise quote to remember and is constantly available as one rides the “up” escalator in bridge knowledge.

Bridge being the greatest game ever in sheer logic and its application needs to be taught in every countries public school system. What the USA is waiting for is, at least to me, an immense disappointment, demanding remedy.

Mircea1June 12th, 2015 at 8:35 pm

Hi Bobby,

I have a nagging dilemma, that I’m not sure has an answer. Say West’s clubs on today’s deal are: AKxx with the same dummy as in the column. E-W have the agreement to lead K from AKx(x). When East encourages, how does West know he has a doubleton or Qxx?

TedJune 12th, 2015 at 9:47 pm

Hi Iain,

Regarding your BWTA comment, I once had a partner pass me on the identical auction (1D 1H 2S all pass). I made 5 as he looked like he wanted to hide under the table. We got up to go to the next table and I asked him to never do that again, but that we had just gotten a top.


J10x Axx x 10xxxxx

AKQx x AKQ109x Kx

LHO had the Club A and Jxxx in Diamonds.

4S was the only game contract and the field was in Diamonds or NT. No one else was in Spades.

bobby wolffJune 12th, 2015 at 11:37 pm

Hi Mircea1,

The Qxx hand does not automatically know what to do usually, depending on the bidding and what else is held in the hand by the dummy. However a high low signal certainly cannot be discounted by the opening leader from his partner against a suit contract and needs to respect his partner’s decision.

Furthermore there are ethical strictures attached meaning a slow high low makes it even more necessary for the opening leader, since the UI should never make it easier for that partnership to be right so that the opening leader will be barred by any self-respecting TD or later, a committee, to not force that partnership to lean over backward not to take advantage of physical UI.

I know the above may sound draconian to a relative newcomer, but I can assure you that there is no other way to demand compliance in our sometimes difficult game Without which we have no worthwhile game to play.

Lean over backward to comply or else give up the game entirely should be our everyday motto to anyone who doubts that fact.

A.V.Ramana RaoJune 13th, 2015 at 7:28 am

Hi Mr Wolff
Thanks & Yes. We learn little by little and step by step. Wisdom lies in not forgetting what we have learnt.
Another interesting feature about the hand is even if W jettisons his Q of trumps under K/A, he cannot avoid the end play. The deck is stacked against him. Just how much difference it makes between continuing clubs at trick 2 & switching .

Iain ClimieJune 13th, 2015 at 10:43 am

Hi Ted,

Shades of Napoleon’s comment about a general – I don’t care if he is good, is he lucky? The problem with replying on marginal hands short in pard’s suit is they tend to rebid with a jump in it. On the hand you quoted, partner’s manufactured 1H (if I read it right, it was Axx, or did he have 4H and no D?) could have been genius or madness. Perhaps it is best to keep such ploys for pairs and 1 sympathetic partner, as opposed to 3 very annoyed team mates.



bobby wolffJune 13th, 2015 at 3:39 pm

Hi Iain & Ted,

Please forgive me Iain, for intercepting your note to Ted, but, no doubt “lucky” will continue to trump “good” in all aspects of life, including war and bridge.

Also first in the 1940’s and then again in the 1950’s within the ACBL original teams-of-four expanded to first five and then six in order to allow for and counter fatigue in long team contests.

The good news is that solution worked, but the bad news is that it allowed for more people despising the assumed “goat” of who caused the loss for that team.

And when one realizes that usually only one team wins and all others lose, there follows then, too much disgust to deal with.

Does that then mean that there is a direct correlation between “lucky” and “hate”? You tell me.

TedJune 13th, 2015 at 4:48 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, partner manufactured the heart response — and it was pairs.