Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 20th, 2015

History is mostly guessing; the rest is prejudice.

Will Durant

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

*Transfers to spades


All the deals this week come from the summer nationals last year, held in Las Vegas in July 2014.

When Kit Woolsey gives you a deal he thinks might be interesting, you can assume it will offer more than most people’s challenges. So put yourself in four spades as South and see if you can match his logic.

At trick one, West leads the diamond jack to East’s king. Back comes a low trump and you have to plan the rest of the play.

It might seem like a blind guess as to whether to rise with the ace or finesse the queen, but look a little more closely at the position. When you are in a bad contract, look for a set of conditions that would allow you to make. When, as here, you are in a good contract, go to the other extreme and look at what lie of the cards might defeat you – then protect against that lie.

At trick two Woolsey put up the spade ace, calculating that the contract was in danger only if East had the club king. If that were so, he could infer that East would have short spades and a full opening bid if his hand included the spade king. So if he held that hand, he would have been favorite to have acted over North’s one heart response to show spades – either by doubling, or cuebidding one spade, perhaps.

Woolsey concluded that it must be right to rise with the ace – and so it proved.

The diamond suit must be your best chance to defeat the game. The normal lead from this holding is the king, but at teams you might be prepared to sacrifice overtricks to maximize your chance to set the game. If you lead a low diamond this works when partner has the doubleton ace and dummy jack-third (or declarer jack-fourth). So I’d risk the low diamond lead at teams.


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


Joe1August 3rd, 2015 at 9:07 pm

How to get there without transfers?

Lee McGovernAugust 3rd, 2015 at 9:14 pm

@Joe1, after 1!C what about a ‘drop dead’ 2!S response by north which would then be raised to 4!S?

Lee McGovernAugust 3rd, 2015 at 9:15 pm

@Joe1, after 1♣ what about a ‘drop dead’ 2♠ response by north which would then be raised to 4♠?

Bobby WolffAugust 3rd, 2015 at 9:44 pm

Hi Joe1 & Lee,

Methinks that all bidding roads lead to 4 spades, but most, without modern day 1 level transfers, would have the play from the North long spade hand. The most likely exception would not be the transfer auction after a 1 club opening (very modern and still to be developed), but rather having South open a not so modern (and more common) 2NT with only 19 HCP’s (19-21) and then have North immediately transfer to 4 spades.

Of course, by coincidence or whatever, the defensive problem presents itself in a more cohesive manner with South being the declarer, enabling this declarer, after the lead of the diamond jack to the king (instead of the more deceptive ace), and after a spade switch, and some brilliant sleuthing, to ring the bell and guess the singleton spade king with West.

Where there is a will, there usually are either relatives, or, if not, some other worthwhile reason(s).

I bet neither one of you realized the varied type of learning to be gleaned right here!

Definitely no harm, no foul, at least IMO.

jim2August 4th, 2015 at 1:08 am

1C – P – P – Dble
2N – P – 3H – P
3S – P – 4S – P
P — P

Bobby WolffAugust 4th, 2015 at 4:20 am

Hi Jim2,

Or: 1C-P-P-1NT

However it is almost impossible to believe that North wouldn’t bid or imply spades at his first opportunity.

jim2August 4th, 2015 at 11:51 am

I confess that I would probably pass pard’s 1C, as I indicated in my original bidding proposal.

My reasoning would be that my club holding made 1C reasonable while I would be far better placed to introduce spades if the bidding was reopened.

Bobby WolffAugust 4th, 2015 at 12:49 pm

Hi Jim2,

That same, at least partial club fit, together with a 7 card major suit would tend to make me not rely on tradition forcing my LHO to come to the aid of my party and reopen.

Granted that those two above stated assets do not exactly make my hand a slam invitational jump shift response, but really, how would you feel if lefty said to his partner, “Your lead”?

Perhaps, or maybe soon, there will be a medically staged book on the psychological effects of TOCM TM especially targeted for and at bridge partnerships. And then a special name for this how to book of the year, may be “To Rise From the Ashes When Every Finesse Loses” or “A Grand Slam For Others Is Like Nine Tricks To Me”.

No doubt, passing one club with the hand in question, is YOUR correct bid. However for others, but…………..?????