Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Great actions are not always true sons
Of great and mighty resolutions.

Samuel Butler

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


In today’s deal you are faced with a dilemma that often occurs at pairs: should you go active or passive on defense? There are just enough clues here to work out the answer – see if you can do so.

After a straightforward auction in which North produced a nonforcing raise and South suggested either a little extra, or maybe just a dose of optimism, partner leads the spade 10 to your queen. You then cash the ace, declarer following suit with the jack and partner playing the seven. What now?

Ignore declarer’s false-card in spades. Partner’s lead of the 10 guarantees shortness; so declarer has three spades and at least five hearts. For the defense to succeed, you need to come to a trick in each minor. The minimum that you need to set the contract is for your partner to hold at least two of the missing high honors in clubs and diamonds – try it for yourself and you will see that declarer always has 10 tricks if he has the club ace or king, together with the diamond king.

Assuming that partner would have led a club if he held the ace-king, you must switch to a diamond, hoping partner has both the diamond king and club ace. If partner has a top trump and the club king, a club shift may be necessary – less likely I think. If you exit passively with a third spade or a club, declarer will build dummy’s clubs into a discard for his diamond loser, and will come to six hearts, a ruff, and three tricks in the minors.

There is no universal agreement on what opener is showing here. I suggest it shows both minors (4-4 with better clubs or, more likely, 4-5 in the minors) without real extras. With a real reverse, opener jumps to three diamonds, or forces to game by cuebidding two spades. You have just enough to invite game by raising two diamonds to three; but do not suggest no-trump. Let partner do that if he has extras.


♠ 3 2
 Q J 6 2
 A J 10 3
♣ Q J 3
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ 1 ♠
Dbl. 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


Iain ClimieOctober 14th, 2015 at 9:21 am

Hi Bobby,

An interesting hand today, but isn’t the defence more appropriate to teams? If playing pairs there is a horrible possibility of conceding an overtrick when South has extra high cards (e.g. the DK) even if only holding 5 trumps. I suspect I’d be taking the wussy route if playing pairs and playing a trump back at Trick 2 or even another spade. Still, if few pairs are in the game, it is essential to try to beat it. All the overtrick will do is drop our score from 15% to zero but there is a near top if it can be beaten.

Also, I think you’ve got a birthday coming up (today, tomorrow ? – so much for my filing system), Can I just say Happy Birthday as well as thanks for all the many helpful and enjoyable posts over the last 12 months and before. I used to play bridge very seriously, then took a long break before returning to the game and treating it more as a relaxation. Whichever approach is preferable or saner, the column is great. Where else can I get friendly, tolerant and helpful advice from a genuine guru and it is all free? Have a really good day and I look forward to the many posts still to come.



PS You’re winning the war on gremlins – did David Warheit lend you a good book on this, or just a heavy one to club them with?

ArunOctober 14th, 2015 at 10:01 am

Declarer could also have 5 hearts, 3 diamonds and CAX.

In this case a club shift is necessary and a diamond shift gives away the contract.

David WarheitOctober 14th, 2015 at 10:42 am

Happy birthday, Bobby, and many more! And, sorry, Iain, I don’t have a book on gremlins, but I do own a signed photo of Hoyt Axton as he appeared in Gremlins!

jim2October 14th, 2015 at 12:10 pm

A TOCM ™ special!

Iain ClimieOctober 14th, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Hi David,

Any heavy but non valuable time will do although cruel to the book. I looked up Hoyt too as I hadn’t realised he was such a musician.


Iain ClimieOctober 14th, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Sorry tome not time.

Bobby WolffOctober 14th, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt, while playing matchpoints, the goal may be different. And especially on hands like this since by switching to a diamond and catching declarer with that king and the Ace, without the king of clubs, away will probably go a vital overtrick, tying your side for bottom rather than having a good chance to do better. Half full, everyone?

And fie on matchpoints, a good enough game, but like Whist (Contract Bridge’s grandfather) it often is just too tough a game with luck, rather than logic, sometimes playing too large a part.

We need to teach gremlins to play bridge so that they will grant us an exception to their activities. I’m soliciting volunteers.

Finally, much thanks for the very kind words, and for today being a fine day (birthday), at my age, there is no such thing as less and with you and all our many mutual friends who participate on this site, I feel truly blessed.

Bobby WolffOctober 14th, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Hi Arun,

No doubt that holding would force a good declarer to settle for less than an overtrick, but with declarer then holding: s. Jxx, h. AKxxx, d. Kxx, c. Ax, he would (should) win the ace of clubs, ruff his third spade, draw trumps in two rounds and then end play us by leading his club, thereby guaranteeing his contract.

Also, and to spy a little closer, might he (you) cue bid 4 clubs, making a slam try and hoping for partner to have: s. x, h. QJx, AQJxxx, c. Jxx or, of course, even much better. No doubt he after possibly cue bidding 4 diamonds and having you return to 4 hearts, perhaps be slightly tempted to cue bid 4 spades (showing that 2nd round control for a possible slam) but perhaps not, only proving what a glorious game we indeed play. And what about, s. Ax, h. QJx, d. AQxxxx, c. xx.

Well we can dream can’t we? Yes, yes, I know, Jim2 would do doubt catch a 5-0 break in one or both red suits, but I hope I live long enough for bridge doctors to either find a cure for his disease or discover an inoculation to prevent it.

Bobby WolffOctober 14th, 2015 at 3:49 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks for reminding us, but you should know by now, that we never forget your curse and admire you for soldiering on.

Bobby WolffOctober 14th, 2015 at 3:54 pm

Hi David,

Thanks for your birthday greetings.

I thought I was a movie buff, back then and I recall “Gremlins” but wouldn’t have remembered Hoyt Axton and, my word, his autographed photo. WOW!

Bobby WolffOctober 14th, 2015 at 4:07 pm

Hi again Iain,

Laddie, to me, tome refers to Lassie or was that come home?

Bobby WolffOctober 14th, 2015 at 4:16 pm

Hi Arun,

Oops!, 4-0 in diamonds, not 5-0 and I always thought, since Carol Channing, diamonds were everyone’s best friend.

Iain ClimieOctober 14th, 2015 at 9:58 pm

Hi again Bobby,

My wife is a bibliophile so Home sweet Tome applies here, or home is where the library is. To be fair she is a Librarian and not in the Terry Pratchett sense. I hope you’re having a good day..


bobby wolffOctober 15th, 2015 at 12:47 am

Hi Iain,

Yes, except for all the possible worldwide bridge cheating and my beloved Texas Rangers losing in their baseball playoff series.

To be sure most Librarians are born in October or at least it sure sounds that way.

Since your day has probably just ended, its on to the next, but never take 24 hours for granted. I bet you never do!