Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 28th, 2015

O fat white woman whom nobody loves,
Why do you walk through the field in gloves…
Missing so much and so much?

Frances Cornford

E North
None ♠ A K 5 2
 K 7 4 3
 A 5
♣ A 8 4
West East
♠ 9 4
 10 6
 J 8 7 2
♣ K Q J 5 2
♠ 10 7 3
 A J 8 2
 Q 10 4 3
♣ 10 6
♠ Q J 8 6
 Q 9 5
 K 9 6
♣ 9 7 3
South West North East
Pass Pass 1 ♣ Pass
1 ♠ Pass 3 ♠ Pass
4 ♠ All pass    


This board came up on the first day of the Baze Senior Knockout Teams at Providence last fall. Neither table got it right – but I thought it a fine example of playing for your best chance. Beware! The early planning will be critical. You play in four spades as South on the lead of the club king. You can see that finding a doubleton heart ace will suffice. Can you do better?

The best line bears the cryptic name of an incomplete elimination. After ducking the first club and winning the second, you draw only two rounds of trumps, and must be careful to use one high trump from each hand. Assuming trumps split, you then ruff out the diamonds and exit with a club.

If West is left on lead in clubs with no trump to play, the best he can do is lead the heart 10. But declarer puts up dummy’s king and has a finesse against East’s jack on the second round of the suit. Equally, if East ruffs his partner’s winner, he can give a ruff and discard or lead hearts. Either way, the defenders can take only one heart trick.

The play is called an incomplete elimination because one trump is left out. Critically, you must use a high trump from each hand to draw trumps, since if you use both high trumps from dummy, West can exit with a fourth club and East can overruff dummy, preventing the ruff and discard.

Note that if the cards do not cooperate, you can always fall back on playing East for the doubleton heart ace.

As a general rule, when worth a simple raise of partner’s hearts, make the direct raise rather than introduce a spade suit, however strong it is. The logic is that delayed support or simple preference suggests only two trump. If you plan to jump raise partner, by all means bid spades first – especially if it will help partner evaluate his hand. That is not the case today, though.


♠ Q J 8 6
 Q 9 5
 K 9 6
♣ 9 7 3
South West North East
  Pass 1 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


John StoreyDecember 12th, 2015 at 4:30 pm

Hi Bobby – I just thought I would let you know that the “Subscribe to our feed” button has not been working for some time.

If you click on it you get the following error message:

Server not found

Firefox can’t find the server at

I can still find your column every day, however, so I’m all good.

Thanks, John

Bill CubleyDecember 12th, 2015 at 5:28 pm

Bobby, I like your BWTA hand and comment. Mya I offer a quote, well here it is before you answer.

John Paul Jones said, “No captain ever did wrong by putting his ship next to an enemy.”

Bridge version is, “No player ever did wrong by supporting partner’s suit” Finding a fit when there is not yet a game is critical. Besides the opponent’s may bid spades to their regret when the double is bid.

Richard RemDecember 12th, 2015 at 5:50 pm

The problem seems more complex to me. The suggested line hopes to find West with a doubleton spade. From the carding at tricks 1-2, it appears West has 5 clubs, and he will show up with at least 3 diamonds, leaving him at most 3 hearts if he has a doubleton spade. So doubleton A with East seems unlikely. West’s lead of the heart 10 could be from AJ10 or not unreasonably a deceptive lead from J10(x), in which case the suggested line would fail.

There is a slight inference that East has the heart A – West might have opened with HA, diamond honor and KQJ clubs. An alternative partial elimination line might be to lead to the heart queen and duck a heart. This works against any doubleton J (assuming no unblock from Jx), and any doubleton 10 if East is careless in not overtaking. I am not skilled enough to work out which line is better, particularly as this second line will work more often against less talented opponents.

Peter PengDecember 12th, 2015 at 6:39 pm

hi Bobby

I saw a bidding situation on-line that I had not seen before. I report and would like to know if there a name for that.

I write from memory, so hands are only approximate.

West held 5-2-5-1, weak hand, like


He opened 1D in second seat, NV all.

North had a monster hand, something like


I believe he was just waiting to open 2NT, but now 2NT would show 5-5 in H and clubs, I believe. N doubled. S bid 1H, having 5 to KJTxx plus Q in spades, Jx in diamonds and Qxxx in clubs. Nine HCP but I think he thought too many of those in Qs and Js.

Now West bid 1S, to complete his 5-5 description.

North bid 1NT, not knowing what S had.

East came in with 2S, clear suit preference.

North, now knowing what to do, doubled.

W went down 2 NV, when NS had 30 HCP combined.

Is there a name for that bid by West…


bobby wolffDecember 12th, 2015 at 8:56 pm

Hi John,

The problem to which you allude is directly caused by our internet company Century Link, which handles our needs.

Since your unhappy experience, order seems to be restored, so anchors aweigh.

Thanks for letting us know, because sometimes we can do something from our end, but only if someone has informed us.

bobby wolffDecember 12th, 2015 at 9:01 pm

Hi Bill,

Amen, by dear friend, amen.

Experience had definitely proven that all partners seem to light up when they are supported, so if given a choice, just do it

bobby wolffDecember 12th, 2015 at 9:14 pm

Hi Richard,

Thanks for your sophisticated discussion.

Yes, West, in the early going, appears to have 5 clubs and since East did not split his diamond honors when ruffing out that suit and then possibly following small to the diamond ruff might indicate that the West had at least three of those and likely four, suggesting declarer to play West for shorter hearts, at most 3 after he follows to 2 spades. Therefore the column line “feels OK” but you are right and one needs to be there to feel the vibes.

And yet sophistication comes with experience, but your attention to numerate details bodes well for your bridge future, if, in fact, you intend to pursue the game.

And welcome to the Aces bridgeblogging site.

We all will appreciate your learned contributions. Especially insights about playing against different calibers of players.

Kind regards!

bobby wolffDecember 12th, 2015 at 9:25 pm

Hi Peter,

Yes, the name of opening that hand is psyching, which should be defined as grossly overstatiing and distorting one’s values with the main objective of getting the opponents to do the wrong thing, usually underbidding their hands.

Players are allowed to do such things making psyches an important tradition in bridge ever since its inception about 88 years ago.

An occasional psyche can win the day, but only when it is well timed and at least one opponent falls headlong for the ruse.

Most of the time psyches, by misleading partner (and to not mislead him, as well as the opponents, is a serious breach of bridge ethics) will often lead to a poor result, which kind of reminds me of a bug called cockroaches.

They tend to mess others up, but seldom do any good for themselves. Nothing horrible, but generally not recommended, assuming winning is the goal.