Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Poor intricated soul! Riddling perplexed
Labyrinthical soul!

John Donne

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


This deal emphasizes that there is a time and a place for rules at bridge, but there is no substitute for using your intelligence at the table. Relying too much on bridge maxims like ‘third-hand high’ can be fatal.

When this deal came up in a pairs tournament, the standard auction was for South to play three no-trump after an uninformative auction. After a diamond lead by West, declarer could win in hand and play a club. When East won the trick, unless his partnership were playing the Smith Echo so that West could strongly suggest to East that he switch the attack, it was hard for East to find the spade shift.

But the hand also proved a problem when West led a spade to the first trick, South inserting the nine from dummy. After the lead of the spade six, East can tell from the bidding his partner does not have both top spades. Declarer has opened a strong notrump, while East and South have 20 HCP between them. So West cannot have more than 5 HCP.

Also from the rule of 11, South has at most one card higher than the spade six. If East plays the spade queen to trick one, declarer makes three no-trump easily, since the spade jack in dummy represents a second spade stopper.

But if East plays low, the defense will take five tricks whenever West has the spade ace. And note that if the ace and king were the other way round, declarer would have two spade tricks whatever the defenders did.

As 10-counts go, this is bare enough to be positively parched. The choice is to cuebid and raise partner’s major, inviting game in the process, or to go with a heavy one spade response, planning to bid hearts if there is further competition. As a passed hand I’d go the more aggressive route, but at pairs I think the discreet one spade call has a lot going for it.


♠ Q 7 4 2
 7 6 5 2
 J 5 3
♣ A K
South West North East
  1 Dbl. 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


Lee McGovernOctober 13th, 2015 at 8:44 pm

Hi Bobby, while trying to avoid sounding like a sycophant I would like to say that I enjoyed your book immensely which gave a very intriguing insight into the behind the scenes world of bridge at the highest echelons. I think it is especially pertinent with the recent accusations coming to light of some of the history you identified in your work of the ‘C’ word. I also firmly believe in standing up for your morals and beliefs in the face of obstinate opposition. Your daily column is also infinitely useful to me as a player who has just completing a second year in the game at the age of 32. I want to thank you for your generous contributions most of which I imagine have been behind the scenes beyond our imagination.

Bobby WolffOctober 14th, 2015 at 1:26 am

Hi Lee,

Much thanks for all the glowing and kind words.

Just like it is for many people, time (and I mean my whole adult life) has gone by so fast, that I often feel like the main character from, Stop the World, I Want to Get Off.

Yes bridge, and its idiosyncrasies has been quite a ride. From learning, improving, winning, administering, serving, multi-culturing, investigating, writing, creating and finally retiring because of severe hearing loss, there were things I wish I had done differently (been tougher with bridge rascals was one) and the other was wondering, What Kind of Fool am I?

Yes, the “C” word now present, at least IMO, needs to be handled justly but thoroughly and in order to do that, much vigilance and determination needs to be shown by the WBF, the EBL and the ACBL in general, but the USBF in particular.

Above all, precedents MUST be set, showing no mercy for transgressors, making a statement which leaves no room for doubt.

This needs to be done realizing that politics in the form of both lynch mobs and the other extreme, wimps, have no reason to be involved since the future of our off-the-charts game is very much at stake and when cheating by only one very good pair is in the mix, much less the current possibility of multiple, nothing except consistent judgment and logical solutions, subject to transparent scrutiny, can be accepted.

During our underrated world recession bridge columns are in jeopardy as newspapers continue to experience downsizing. However if enough bridge lovers with talent and enough energy can learn to get along, world wide, bridge can not only survive, it can prosper, if the cheaters (whoever they may or may not be) are caught and all bridge loving countries come together using the WBF motto, Bridge for Peace.

Lee, it is players like you, who will make our game better, and of course, together with the brilliant idea started in Europe and then followed suit in all of China (bridge in the primary and secondary schools), but up to now not included anywhere in the Western Hemisphere.

I, of course, wish I could do more, but all I can really do is be a cheerleader and give advice when either asked or even when not, when I feel my experience needs to be shared.

No doubt, as we talk today, what is happening world wide in bridge MUST be brought to a happy and just ending, otherwise man the lifeboats.

Good luck to both you and the future of bridge.