Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be a duck.


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


The reasons for ducking a trick are many and various. Let’s see a deal from the finals of a pair game at a recent US Summer Nationals. It was misplayed by almost every declarer who encountered it. Can you do better – you may care to consider it as a single-dummy problem by covering up the East and West cards.

Having been pushed to three spades, how should you play this contract on the lead of the club queen? Let us assume from East’s take-out double that the most likely lie of the defenders’ cards involves a 4-1 trump break, onside. If so, you have eight easy tricks but no comfortable route to reduce your trumps, a necessary move to achieve the trump coup to allow you to score that extra trump trick in dummy.

The right line (which combines deception and technique) is to duck the first club smoothly. There is no way the defenders will be able to work out what is going on in this suit – is there? Win the expected club continuation, and play a third club to pitch a diamond from dummy. Now lead a spade to the 10 for the immediate finesse, then play a diamond to the ace and take a diamond ruff. After a spade to the ace, as East discards, dummy is down to three trumps. You can now ruff a diamond and exit with a heart. The defenders can cash three rounds of that suit, but must then lead a plain card, and allow the spade K-J to take the last two tricks.

This is the sort of hand where knowledge of the vulnerability is critical. Wild horses would not tempt me to act if vulnerable, but if at favorable vulnerability I might even risk a three spade preempt. With neither side vulnerable I would feel obliged to act – you could tempt me to break discipline and open two spades. You’re only young once.


♠ K J 10 7 4 3
 9 6 2
 7 4
♣ 8 4
South West North East

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


slarSeptember 17th, 2015 at 10:10 am

In BWTA, would you be more or less likely to act if you were in third position instead of first?

Iain ClimieSeptember 17th, 2015 at 11:42 am

Hi Bobby,

Good hand today although east’s reaction when west plays another club after a discouraging signal at T1 can be imagined. TOCM could also give east a singleton SQ.

On the quote, I can’t helping of Daffy duck and the guy who pursues him. Obviously some people need to check it tastes like a duck just to be sure. Sorry about that!



jim2September 17th, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Preach it, Brother Iain!

Iain ClimieSeptember 17th, 2015 at 12:13 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks but what if I start burning heretics?


jim2September 17th, 2015 at 12:56 pm

As long as it is done in an environmentally-sensitive way ….

Michael BeyroutiSeptember 17th, 2015 at 1:54 pm

“Brother Iain”, I like that!!!
Why not rename this site “Bridge at the TOCM Shrine”?… with permission from our host, of course.
No heretic, I.

bobby wolffSeptember 17th, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Hi Slar,

Regarding your important question about the choice of opening bid, if any, I would (at the table) open 3 spades NV in any of the first 3 positions, but pass while vulnerable.

Yes, while choosing in 2nd seat, there is reason to not want to preempt partner, since there is only one technical opponent left (with possibly an opening bid or stronger) making it appear to not be as logical to go all out.

However, in practice I have found that difference is primarily valuable only to mathematicians and not to winning bridge players. After all, a 3 spade opening does bare all to partner, about which suit and very little defense, as well as to the worthy opponents.

Go for it, not only for the thrill available, but IMO and more importantly, I think it necessary in bridge to be a difficult opponent, which never comes without at least, some risk.

bobby wolffSeptember 17th, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Hi Iain,

The “duck” union has forbidden all writers to speak of how ducks taste for fear of having a run on its species. Like the poor cow’s promotion of “Eat more Chiken” sic, cows, (at least the ones who live in America, don’t spell wellll).

East’s consternation when a club was continued after his negative signal, to which you refer, would definitely be tabled, if he, in fact, would have been dealt the singleton spade dame.

Even more interesting might be declarer’s teammates (if it was teams and not pairs) returning to the table minus 140 and then wondering after the comparison, why that result was not duplicated.

Thatss alll folkksss!

bobby wolffSeptember 17th, 2015 at 2:35 pm

Hi Jim2,

Sorry for that because only today, with the world’s bridge cheating scandals getting all the attention, could any other bridge discussion overrule the attention TOCM TM would generate.

bobby wolffSeptember 17th, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Hi Iain,

If it happened in Salem with witches, it could happen with heretics.

bobby wolffSeptember 17th, 2015 at 2:38 pm

Hi Jim2,

Always room for another Republican candidate now that you have your platform.

bobby wolffSeptember 17th, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Hi Michael,

Brother Iain!

I need to say that fast 100 times to envision Iain ever in a monastery. No, change that to 10,000.

Iain ClimieSeptember 17th, 2015 at 3:10 pm

Hi Bobby, Michael, Jim2,

Unlikely as it may seem, I may have one or monastic traits. The hair is disappearing in a manner which gives me the right look and I like pottering around my large garden growing a few fruit trees and some vegetables, as well as having to muck out our demented chickens. The soil is good here, so many plants like elders grow quickly and form woody stems; I clear these and dry some of the wood so that local pubs with log fires can have cheap kindling….. This could be giving me not just the wrong ideas but the fuel to put them into action. During my first incarnation as a bridge player (before the 25 year break) I admitted to a friend that I was worried my partner for a certain congress was looking nervous. I was promptly told that I made evryone nervous – Ouch!

In terms of monastic life, though, can I suggest a quick read of Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose” to dispel any illusions that all is automatically well. I’d also miss the dulcet tones of my wife and three daughters (aged 22, 19 and 17) so the tranquillity would be difficult to handle as well as the early to bed and early to rise routine. David Bird’s monks seem to manage, though.



jim2September 17th, 2015 at 3:17 pm

Brother Cadfael, in the fantastic series by Ellis Peters, has nothing on Brother Wolff!

bobby wolffSeptember 17th, 2015 at 4:30 pm

Special to Jim2 & Iain,

It might appear immodest of me to immediately admire both Brother Cadfael and Ellis Peters and will enlist my resident computer guru, Judy, to allow me to familiarize myself with both of them.

And speaking of David Bird, monks and reading Iain’s very impressive family history, I feel a need to educate both of you with some of my recent stolen statistics:

“80% of married men cheat in America. The rest cheat in Europe”.