Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, July 17th, 2015

A thought is often original, though you have uttered it a hundred times.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

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



A solid trump fit can sometimes be overvalued at the game-level (though not at the slam-level). In a typical delicate game contract you often hope for favorable breaks – and too much strength in trumps reduces those options.

In today’s deal South’s four-card support for partner would often be enough to break the transfer. However, South’s hand would have had much more potential had some of those values been outside trumps. Hence South’s decision to bid an obedient two hearts.

When East aggressively balanced with two spades South upped the ante, and now over West’s three spade bid North got involved again. The appropriate odds for a vulnerable game assume that the alternative is plus 140. But here it was quite possible that the alternative might have been minus 140 (with East/ West making three spades).

Although there were four top losers in four hearts on a spade lead, declarer found a line to give the defenders a problem they didn’t solve. First, he won the spade lead in dummy, leaving the defenders in some doubt as to the location of the spade king. Then he cashed just the heart ace before playing a club to dummy’s nine and East’s ace.

East accurately switched to a low diamond now, but West did not focus on the earlier club play to see the urgency of winning with the ace and returning the jack. He took his diamond jack then ace, and reverted to spades, so declarer could dispose of two of dummy’s diamonds on his clubs, and make his game.

It might be right to raise hearts to the two-, three- or four-level. The problem with preempting here is that with a trick and a half on the side, you may be unnecessarily going minus against nothing, when your side had a safe heart contract (it would feel very different to me were the honors in the long suits). The fifth trump persuades me to make a limit raise to three hearts, rather than a simple raise to two.


♠ A 3
 10 9 7 6 5
 8 7 3 2
♣ K 9
South West North East
    1 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


Suzanne ThomasJuly 31st, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Reading this at the breakfast table and still a bit groggy, but I think you meant to have the opening lead be the Jack of Spades and not the Queen since North is dummy? I love your column and read it every day- it has taught me so much over the years! Also love your quotes!

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 31st, 2015 at 2:06 pm

Hi Suzanne,

What I think actually happened is that during the actual transcription of the hand, the spade six was misread as the spade queen.

Iain ClimieJuly 31st, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Hi Suzanne, Judy, Bobby,

Open season on typos, gremlins and sub-editors who don’t play the game but should learn? East’s small diamond back would have worked well if West had DAx but is the king better with a dozy partner? Despite the clash of DAKQJ on 2 tricks, EW do get the contract off if South has taken just one trump out. EW have to each overtake an honour, but west should smell a rat after the club play. I sympathise with East though, at least provided he just showed length at T1.



Bobby WolffJuly 31st, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Hi Suzanne,

First, thanks for your very kind words.

Whatever the reason, is no excuse
for making our column harder to decipher, by having the lead not even a card held by the opening leader.

Sometimes, it seems to me, presenting the hand the way it should be played can be just as hard, or perhaps even more so than, in this case, West rising with the ace of diamonds and returning the jack, hoping East had the king, not that phantom queen of spades he supposedly led.

We hope to get better in producing our column, and both your encouraging words and what the column has taught you plus the quotes, helps me to overcome our disappointment in what happened.

Bobby WolffJuly 31st, 2015 at 3:01 pm

Hi Iain,

Everything you say is worth remembering.

When a bridge partnership goes over the hands, usually after a competitive bridge duplicate tournament and when that session had recorded and distributable hand records, it is usually a constructive idea for each partner to disclose his thinking process before every bidding or playing pause, whether successful or not.

As Shakespeare may have said, by so doing. we may get the reasoning used, on target or not and why, of who did it.

Therein the two partners will have an opportunity to exchange thought processes, which, in truth, are the enabling factor to much better bridge. Without which, a partnership will often remain in the shambles of mediocrity.

Try it, and that partnership will generally like it, as no embarrassment from other players present to overhear. It also will help with the concentration necessary to remember.

Phil ReitzJuly 31st, 2015 at 3:02 pm

When South plays low club toward dummy 9, I believe West can defeat the strategy (of discarding diamonds on high clubs) by rising with the Ten. True?

Phil ReitzJuly 31st, 2015 at 3:04 pm

Or does that merely promote dummy’s Nine?

Bobby WolffJuly 31st, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Hi Phil,

Your second comment wins the day.

The only other truth I might add is that if the combination featured K9 in the dummy and AQJx with declarer then the playing of the 10 by the hand in front of the K9 would eliminate one entry declarer may be trying to create to dummy for likely either suit establishment or for an additional finesse.

Otherwise there is no material gain and is an unusual finesse, since no extra tricks are actually forthcoming, only possible tactical side advantages.