Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

A man may build himself a throne of bayonets, but he cannot sit on it.

Dean Inge

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


Today’s deal features an interesting combination of plays for declarer and the defense.

Everyone knows that it is generally wrong to over-ruff with a useful trump, but just how small can a useful trump be? Consider this hand, from a Junior European Tournament, where the popular contract was four spades by South, which was usually defeated on the heart king lead. However, at most tables, the line of play selected by declarer was an inferior one.

The best play is to win the heart lead with the ace and cash the diamond ace before crossing to dummy with a low spade to the queen. Now comes a low diamond, ruffed with the spade nine. If West overruffs, the rest of the play is very straightforward; so let’s say West declines to overruff. Declarer now continues with the spade king, which West cannot afford to duck (or declarer scores four plain suit winners and six trump tricks).

So West takes his spade ace and continues hearts, forcing dummy to ruff the third round. Declarer now leads a second low diamond and ruffs with his last trump in hand, the four. West must decline to over-ruff with the five, otherwise dummy is now high. When he discards, the hand falls to pieces.

At double-dummy (but not in real life) when declarer leads a diamond from dummy at trick four he must discard from hand! East is left on lead and can do no better than return a club. Declarer wins his ace and leads a spade up, and the defense is helpless.

In this position double by you would be take-out. Should you make that call? I think not. With such a skewed hand, it feels right to bid diamonds now. You may decide to act again, but for the time being, the main feature of your hand is your diamond suit. I agree with the decision to pass initially, by the way. You rate to lose the spades for good if you preempt here.


♠ Q J 8 7
 3 2
 K Q 9 7 5 2
♣ 4
South West North East
Pass 1 ♣ 1 2 ♣

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


slarDecember 17th, 2015 at 6:07 pm

Is it me or is that a very strong 2H overcall by West? I would have made that bid without the ace and as East I would have had a hard time finding game if I had a nice fit. I would have bid any other number of hearts (1, 3, 4, even 5 white on red) before I bid 2.

bobby wolffDecember 17th, 2015 at 6:38 pm

Hi Slar,

No doubt West had, at the very least, an Intermediate Jump overcall, but this hand actually occurred in a Junior Tournament. Perhaps the Junior who made that bid was emulating what he saw while kibitzing his parents in a home game, just decided to shake things up in a competitive way, or never took the time to learn what the other bridge roosters were doing in the bridge barnyard.

Sometimes it is just editorial license taken by unscrupulous bridge columnists in an effort to describe why declarer did this or that.

However, for whatever reason, he reached back many years to emulate bridge bidding when it was customary to pretend that the more one bid, the better hand he or she held.

At any rate, your modern (current 50 year period) methods are what you think they are, therefore you are not afflicted with a terminal bridge disease and continue to have hopes for a very bright bridge future.

FYI: About 75 years ago, in order to jump overcall 2 hearts you would need both an extra ace and an extra heart. My first regular bridge partner played defensive jump overcalls forcing for one round being liberal in nature, to those who played it GF.

Needless to say, them bids didn’t occur all too often!

slarDecember 17th, 2015 at 7:09 pm

Hehe. Leave it to me (doing my Futile Willy impersonation) to bid 5H, get doubled, and lose 7 tricks for -1100 opposite a failed game. Club lead, club ruff, diamond, club ruff, diamond, trapping me in hand to lead a low spade to south who draws dummy’s trump. Ouch.

Yeah, maybe save that 5H bid for matchpoints when I only have one partner to annoy. 3H is probably the winning bid in teams since it takes away an invitational bid and still invites 5H.

bobby wolffDecember 17th, 2015 at 9:50 pm

Hi Slar,

Whether all out or less exciting moderation is in order, remains the province of lady luck.

Hence the time honored advice of “let the winner explain” which tends to get more players respect.

Winning at bridge is all about doing the right thing at the right time, and to have a good “batting average” requires experience more than any other factor. Sure good technique, a good enough bidding system, and partnership compatibility helps, but mental strength when adversity calls, becomes mandatory.

Hang in there and learn from what happens instead of trying, like most, to justify one’s choices.