Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, November 12th, 2015

Women are wiser than men because they know less and understand more.

James Stephens

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


Today’s deal comes from the World University championship, played in Taiwan a few years ago. It contains an important point of partnership agreement – but it also emphasizes the point that one can only go so far with signals and discards. No matter what message the signal carries, the partner of the player giving the signal has both to interpret the signal and then decide what to do next.

Graeme Robertson, representing England, led the club ace, and his partner followed with a middle spot card at the first trick.

How should you signal here? You could certainly argue that this position should be suit preference. The point is that West may want a ruff in clubs – and whether he does or not, East can’t know that he doesn’t. Additionally, continuing clubs looks unlikely to be necessary, since it can hardly promote a trump or kill an entry to dummy.

However, according to this partnership’s methods, the seven was simply a regular count signal. Robertson inferred that his partner had six clubs. He sensibly decided that his partner could not hold more than one card from the top two hearts or the diamond ace. The play that covered the most bases was to shift to the heart 10, this being the card that the partnership would lead from an interior sequence. His partner was able to win the diamond ace and return a heart to allow the defenders to take four winners.

This won him a game swing and the award for the best played/defended hand of the tournament.

If your first reaction was to show your clubs, or to invite game, think again. I admit you might not always make game, but this may not depend on whether partner has a maximum. If your partner can find a way to bring the clubs in for five or six tricks, you are heavy favorite to bring three no-trump home. Just up and bid three no-trump, protecting partner’s tenaces and giving nothing away.


♠ J 10 8
 6 5
 A 4
♣ Q J 9 7 4 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 NT 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


Bill CubleyNovember 26th, 2015 at 5:12 pm

Great defense! It is often very difficult to lead away from AJT into declarer’s hand as the best defense or even a good defense.

Very similar to Sherlock Holmes noting that when you have eliminated everything else, that which is left, while highly improbable, is the solution.

bobby wolffNovember 26th, 2015 at 5:36 pm

Hi Bill,

Your opinion strikes home to me and also your reference to the Sherlock Holmes quote. However let me perform some minor housekeeping in order to summarize.

The above hand was in real life, so we must make do with the true particulars, however let me add ones which, at least to me make more sense:

East should give his partner his lowest club as suit preference (therefore diamonds instead of hearts) allowing West to use his bridge judgment by then switching to the jack or ten of hearts putting nuts away for the winter so that when East gets in with his suggested ace of diamonds he will now have the setting trick all set up and ready to be delivered. End of story……

Also the Arthur Conan Doyle quote has to do with eliminating the IMPOSSIBLE, then whatever is left, however improbable, becomes the answer (at least in the storybooks). Perhaps East will not have the ace of diamonds nor a heart honor, well so be it, but that is why IMPs and rubber bridge is real bridge and not its imposter, matchpoints, which, likes its grandfather Whist, is just too difficult to play it anywhere near perfectly, thus, at least to me, is right on.

Thanks much for your initial imaginative assessment.