Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, November 13th, 2015

Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.

Peter Drucker

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


At the table, the opening lead against five diamonds was the spade two. The original declarer played the queen from dummy, ruffed away the spade king, then led a diamond to the jack. Next came the spade jack, covered by the ace and ruffed. Declarer played a second trump to dummy and tried to endplay West with the spade 10, discarding a heart from hand, but West won the 10 and played back a spade. That left declarer dependent on the heart finesse, and when that failed he had to go down one.

It is better to play the spade nine or seven from dummy at trick one. The logic is that the contract is cold unless the heart ace is wrong. If it is, then both spade honors rate to be on declarer’s right.

Suppose declarer puts in the spade seven. When East covers with the eight, declarer ruffs high, crosses to table with a medium trump to the jack and leads the spade queen. East covers and South ruffs. A medium diamond to the king sees the spade jack, covered yet again, and ruffed by South. The club ace, king and queen then sees South lead the spade nine, throwing a heart from hand. When West wins the 10, he is endplayed, obviating the need to play East for the heart ace.

Finally, if East turns up with all four high spades, declarer can discard a heart from hand on the fourth round of spades, and still make his contract if the heart ace is onside.

A jump to three diamonds would show genuine invitational values, and perhaps suggest a hand like this but perhaps with a ruffing value in clubs, or a slightly more useful spade holding than this, having contributed a free bid at my first turn I feel comfortable in giving simple preference to two diamonds and relying on partner to make another move with real extras.


♠ Q J 9 7
 6 4 2
 K J 5
♣ K 8 6
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


David WarheitNovember 27th, 2015 at 9:35 am

At trick two, after E covers the SQ with the K and S leads a D to the J with both opponents following, S knows the entire layout. E has the SAK, W almost surely has the S10 (otherwise why would he have led the S2 at trick one) and W has the HA (otherwise what could he have had to make his bid of 2S). So, lead the SJ, covered and ruffed, D to the K, ruff a S, cash 3 C tricks ending in dummy and lead the S9 and discard a H, endplaying W. Of course, the line you suggest is better, but then you did use that word (“better”) and not, say, “necessary”.

ClarksburgNovember 27th, 2015 at 1:04 pm

In BWTA, does South’s simple preference explicitly announce “less than invitational values”, or could it be considered “still unlimited” ?

bobby wolffNovember 27th, 2015 at 2:51 pm

Hi David,

Yes, the word “necessary” would have been a “better” word to use or should I say, as you did, that “better” was not then as descriptive a word as “necessary”.

Extending that thought should one who writes a bridge column be necessarily a “better” “bridge player” than a “writer” or vice versa.

And speaking of that, how about anyone who prefers his vice, versa.

Such as this hand, sometimes strict bridge logic does require the above type of thinking and further, often then makes playing bridge a necessarily better game.

Finally “wars with words” is still not as much fun as “tricks with trump”.

bobby wolffNovember 27th, 2015 at 4:15 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Definitely limited, since negative doubles have large ranges starting out to be from perhaps 6 to infinity hcps (keeping in mind that all of them in one hand is limited to 40, or to be specific 37) but then to be soon calibrated with the negative doubler’s next action.

Note: When then a jump to 3 diamonds is not even forcing as are then bidding a new suit, a mere preference to 2 diamonds is lesser and sends up clear warning signs to partner that he is minimum.

With strong hands, and after making a negative double the only bid then available would be a cue bid in the opponent’s suit, which would tend to be GF. South, holding:
s. AQxx, h. Ax, d. KJxxx, c. Qx would first use a negative double to show 4 in the other major, but when partner denied holding 4 spades by responding 2 clubs, he then should next cue bid 2 hearts, encouraging partner to bid NT while holding the queen (right siding the eventual NT) but if not, then deciding whether the best contract would be 3NT (with only one heart stop) or perhaps 5 diamonds (maybe even a slam) instead.

Some guesswork will always be part of becoming a very good player, but sophisticated judgment is what improves with experience. However an adequate partner is also necessary.

Good luck and keep the questions coming.