Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 14th, 2015

But I, I cannot read it
(Although I run and run)
Of them that do not have the faith
And will not have the fun.

G. K. Chesterton

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


At a recent Las Vegas tournament I was greeted by an old friend with a hand written on a scrap of paper. Why is it that the better the deal, the smaller the scrap and the more illegible the handwriting?

My friend told me that this was a missed opportunity on his part but did not tell me which seat he had been occupying. At the table against four spades West started with the club ace and a second club to East’s king. East played a spade, knowing that there was no way declarer was going to run it to dummy. Declarer won the spade ace, cashed his other top spades, and played diamonds. East ruffed the queen but was endplayed into leading a heart. Had he not trumped, declarer would have been able to ruff the diamonds good and then either throw East in with a spade, or simply cross to the heart ace to play an established diamond, discarding his last heart as East ruffed with his winning trump.

Had West switched to a heart at trick two, declarer would simply have won the ace and discarded his club loser on one of dummy’s diamonds before conceding a spade and a heart.

Can you see how the defense can prevail? East must play his club king under the ace, and then West must cash the club queen before switching to a heart. Now, whatever he does, declarer must lose two clubs, a heart and a spade. At the vulnerability, one might find this play, I suppose, assuming that West’s clubs rate to include the queen.

Whether two clubs is a one-round force or a game-force, I believe you are supposed to jump to three diamonds now, suggesting a solid suit (or solid missing the ace or king) and a non-minimum hand. Purists or pedants may quarrel with my interpretation of this hand as possessing a solid suit – or indeed, extras. I stand by my guns.


♠ 10 5 4
 A 6
 A K Q 10 5 4
♣ 8 3
South West North East
1 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


Michael BeyroutiNovember 28th, 2015 at 3:57 pm

Dear Mr Wolff,
although you “stand by your guns” I do not understand your position in BWTA. Opening one diamond and rebidding two diamonds should show a six card suit in a minimum hand. Why or how do you see more here?
Michael, spokesman for purists or pedants worldwide 🙂

bobby wolffNovember 28th, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Hi Michael,

When I learned bridge (hopefully I still am) please compare the illustrated hand, s. 1054,
h. A6, d. AKQ1054, c. 83 with s. Q75, h. KJ,
d. K97532, c. A7 each 3-2-6-2 with 13 hcps.

To me there are several tricks different in possible evaluation. Sometimes, especially when not declaring, both hands become relatively insignificant, but when winning the contract and especially when opposite a good hand, the above BWTA example takes on substantial trick taking and since bidding is all about description, I have believed for many years the difference in evaluation needs to be shown as early as possible in order to inform partner of what to expect.

Yes indeed, you are 100% correct in your questioning my judgment. However, I ask you to consider why and if bridge is to play an important part in your leisure pleasure, talk it over with others you respect and together then reach a conclusion on this subject.

Again, true, other bridge authorities will talk and, no doubt, write differently but are they doing it for altruistic reasons or rather ones in order to sell books and comply with how to count points, the salvation of the enthusiastic novice?

Yes, if push comes to shove, I admit I am more in favor of Ely Culbertson’s honor trick method than Charley Goren’s (really Milton Work’s) point count, but in truth, both of them are severely flawed.

TedNovember 28th, 2015 at 5:00 pm

Hi Bobby,

Apparently, I fall into the unpure catagory, since over 2C I would have bid 3D without much thought. Over 1H or 1S, however, it would be 2D.

Where I have a bit more difficulty would be over 1NT. At pairs, probably pass, at teams 2D. At teams, though, would you ever consider a state of the match 2NT or 3D?

Iain ClimieNovember 28th, 2015 at 6:53 pm

Hi Bobby,

One of my regular and long-suffering partners would approve of the defensive coup you describe as she is often driven to distraction by my wonky preempts, especially in 2nd position where they make less sense. Can I tweak today’s hand slightly, though, giving south a heart less and a diamond more.

West cashes CA, east unblocks so west cashes CQ and then switches to the H8 which declarer assumes is not away from the K. Take the HA and lead the S10 as a no cost extra chance. Even on a good day, how many east players will play smoothly and we can all see what happens if the S10 is covered and there is an extra entry to dummy.



bobby wolffNovember 28th, 2015 at 7:34 pm

Hi Ted,

Yes, especially while playing the current 2 over 1 game forcing, a modern partnership should look for more efficient meanings to unusual jumps, which come closer to filling the needs every partnership will have to apply to different type hands.

You also make a good point when behind in a match (although perhaps a better point is never to let your team get behind to start with) to up the ante by trying to score up a game your counterparts at the other table may not reach.

However, my suggestion might be (but please do not quote me in bridge public) to jump all the way to 3NT rather than the wimpy 3 diamonds or 2NT.

OK, it is all right to also relay this to my one friend and especially to all my enemies.

bobby wolffNovember 28th, 2015 at 7:48 pm

Hi Iain,
You are indeed a clever rascal, by now leading the shameful spade 10, tempting East to cover.
We've all encountered an East who appears to be studying for at least 15 seconds, before playing the three, causing us to be thrown into a moral dilemma. We duck and then, of course lose to the jack (no story unless that happens).
We take it to a committee whereupon East introduces his hearing aids, which were not in his ears at the time of play and thus a compassionate committee (synonym for gullible) sides for him as not hearing your call and so appearing to study.
Now the real test begins, explaining to your teammates how you went set on this hand especially since spades were 2-2 and the king of hearts onside.
I guess the moral of this adventure could be, while adding another string to your bow, better be careful to what falls out, especially since I was a witness to that bridge committee, wearing hearing aids and thus understanding the dark side.
However, everything considered I think your play to have enough merit to be a temptress or is it temptor.