Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

That arithmetic is the basest of all mental activities is proved by the fact that it is the only one that can be accomplished by a machine.

Arthur Schopenhauer

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


At the Dyspeptics Club, when South heard East preempt in spades, his natural ebullience persuaded him that his partner would not contribute wasted values in that suit, so that six hearts would have decent play. Right he was, but that same optimism that had taken him to slam led to his misplaying his contract and suffering the consequences.

After the lead of the spade nine, South elected to win and draw trump ending in dummy. Then he played the non-preempter for the diamond queen, by cashing the king and finessing, and claimed he was unlucky when the missing queen turned up in the wrong place.

It often seems that North likes nothing better than to have a reason to criticize his partner, but on this occasion the intricacies of the play so occupied him that his analysis was delivered quite politely. What line of play do you think he suggested?

After drawing trump and ruffing out the spades, you find East with nine cards in the majors. Next play off the club ace and king. When East follows twice, cashing the diamond king and running the 10 is guaranteed to endplay East to give a ruff-sluff if he can win the trick. But if East turns up with a singleton club, he surely has 8=1=3=1 pattern. Cash both top diamonds and play a third, to endplay East in parallel fashion.

And if East turns up with a club void, then lead a diamond to the ace and finesse in diamonds with complete confidence, because West can have no more diamonds.

If playing two-over-one game forcing, jump to three notrump now with this hand. This is emphatically not a weak signoff. In a game-forcing auction this shows a strong no-trump or its equivalent. With less, or more, bid two no-trump first, planning to move on over a sign-off with the hand with extras. It is sensible to agree that all jumps in no-trump in game-forcing auctions show moderate extra values.


♠ A 7
 A 10 9 7
 A J 9 4
♣ K 10 6
South West North East
    1 ♠ Pass
2 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 28th, 2015 at 12:19 pm

Hi Bobby,

On a bad day, I fear I’d draw trumps, ruff the spade and play 3 rounds of clubs hoping the oppo lead a diamond. It works against players who’ve been taught that ever giving a ruff and discard will condemn you to some bridge Hades but fails against the rest. A lovely example of the need to think things through properly.



bryanOctober 28th, 2015 at 12:48 pm

How did North get the count on Spades?
2 rounds is not enough to identify 8/2 , 7/3 or a suicidal 6/4?

Bobby WolffOctober 28th, 2015 at 1:10 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt, your bait would catch the fish.

“Nothing succeeds like success” so by doing, God will be in his heaven, all will be right with the world.

Also, as an extra bonus could be a sheepish explanation by you to them that learning to count the declarer’s hand (only to 13) is a small price to pay to turn a zero percent play into a better than 50% chance (since you, West will have the three diamonds declarer figures to play you for the elusive queen).

Where else but in bridge, and at the Dyspeptic Club can a declarer make the wrong technical play, still make the hand (pride + money) give the opponents a public lesson (domination) and live to continue to be thought, cock of the walk?

Why are you apologizing, can’t everyone think, GENIUS?

Bobby WolffOctober 28th, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Hi Bryan,

We (the writers) are assuming that most experienced players, while leading partner’s announced suit will lead low from 3 or more when having never supported. Although customs and trends are sometimes different among bridge groups the above is fairly standard once a suit is not supported.

However, your question is indeed excellent and worth discussion.

David WarheitOctober 28th, 2015 at 1:25 pm

The Dyspeptic S should have (luckily) made his contract, even if he finesses W for the DQ. After drawing trump, he ruffs dummy’s remaining S & then cashes the DK and finesses W for the DQ. E wins but is endplayed. Of course, had S been playing 6D, his only problem would have been trying to make an overtrick.

David WarheitOctober 28th, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Bryan: to answer your question: because W showed N his hand. But how did S get the count on spades? See our host’s answer.

Iain ClimieOctober 28th, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Hi David,

In your line, are you cashing the top clubs first? Here East is stuck regardless, but he might have had Cxx and DQx.


GinnyOctober 28th, 2015 at 5:21 pm

Hi Bobby,

Should West think about bidding 6 Spades?

Bobby WolffOctober 28th, 2015 at 7:22 pm

Hi David,

Yes 6 diamonds with its 4-4 distributions and thus a valuable club discard on the 5th heart would be the right contract, except of course when the diamond spots are somewhat less and, of course, the suit breaks 4-1

However, a jump by South to 5NT over the 4 spade preempt should be Baron, asking the 1NTer to bid 4 card suits up the line (obviously excluding spades).

Again David scores up his slam, thereby pocketing the money, but not being invited back to this exclusive club for losers. (except for a couple of hustlers).

Bobby WolffOctober 28th, 2015 at 7:31 pm

Hi Ginny,

No I do not think West should sacrifice at 6 spades in spite of the 6 heart slam being made (if in fact it was).

Just because someone bids 6 hearts doesn’t always mean that he will make it. And against partnerships who seem to always sacrifice against slams there will be more opponents who will tempt that sacrificing partnership until their tendency becomes satisfied because of doubt.

Long trump, not just two, is usually good evidence in whether or not to bid on. Bidding on also runs the risk of defeating your partner’s purpose of taking NS’s bidding space away, and to then sacrifice at the six level sometimes results in the opponents bidding and making a grand slam, unless EW then bids 7 spades.

It sometimes happens with all kinds of varied results.

slarOctober 30th, 2015 at 12:14 am

When in doubt, I bid on with a singleton and pass with a void or a balanced hand. (The void strongly suggests that something will go wrong for whoever is declarer.) 6S is not on my radar in this case.
Of course, this is just a tie-breaker and not a substitute for other types of judgment.