Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 10th, 2015

Labor. A noun, one of the processes by which A acquires property for B.

Ambrose Bierce

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


The profits for Frank Stewart’s latest book go directly to local causes. “Play Bridge with Me” is available from the writer $23.95 postpaid to the US (signed on request) from PO Box 962 Fayette AL 35555.

Frank declared this deal from the book in a Sectional Swiss Teams. Against six spades West led the diamond two, East playing the jack, and Stewart ruffed and drew trump, finding East with a singleton. That player discarded two diamonds, as dummy also let go of a diamond.

With 11 top tricks, there are many chances for one more. One option is to take the top hearts and ruff a heart, hoping for a 3-3 break. If hearts broke 4-2, declarer could try a club finesse of the jack. If it won, he could ruff another heart, setting up the fifth heart for 13 tricks. If the club finesse lost, declarer would still get home if the clubs broke 3-3 or perhaps (if East failed to return a club) with a squeeze.

But Stewart did better. At the fifth trick he led a heart, and when West followed low, instead of playing an honor from dummy, he ducked in dummy. He ruffed the diamond return, then took both top hearts and ruffed a heart. Now he crossed to dummy with the club king to take the fifth heart for his 12th trick.

As you can see, the unfriendly lie in hearts and clubs make this the only winning line; and had hearts broken 5-1, declarer would still have been able to fall back on the club finesse of course.

I tend to rebid one no-trump over one heart with a completely balanced 4-3-3-3 pattern, and may even do so with 4-2-3-4 shape. So a one spade rebid here tends to deliver extras in high cards or shape. That allows me to jump to three clubs in response, knowing of at least four clubs opposite. With the diamond jack in addition I might stretch to use fourth suit forcing and drive to game.


♠ 9 6
 A K 6 5 2
 9 6 3
♣ K J 5
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Pass
1 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


David WarheitDecember 24th, 2015 at 9:39 am

EW will make 8 tricks in D, so only -1400. In teams, no big deal, but at duplicate, a big win. So, at duplicate, I think W should bid 4D over 3S. E can then reasonably surmise that he will make 6D tricks and 2C tricks only supposing his partner has nothing but a D fit and the CJ. Of course W didn’t have CJ, but his H holding and C shortness nicely made up for no CJ.

Iain ClimieDecember 24th, 2015 at 2:32 pm

Hi David, Bobby,

While minus 1400 is OK against a load of 1430s, can you guarantee that all the NS pairs will reach slam or play it properly if they do? It may not be seasonally cheery to give opponents rope, but it can still be worthwhile, especially against weaker players or a pair who have just had a row. The hand where North rebid 1N on 1444 shape after 1D 1S the other day, so a disgruntled South then decked the contract, is an example of how to win the easy way – letting the oppo mess up.



bobby wolffDecember 24th, 2015 at 5:32 pm

Hi David,

First Happy Holidays to you and yours.

Second, you are as right as you can be since West would lose little by raising to 4 diamonds, although vulnerable, since the opponents are also vulnerable where their successful auction in both reaching and then bringing in their spade slam with the result of their ingenuity, scoring up +1430.

However, in practicality and in actuality how good would -1400, or even -1100 or -800 really turn out in an average duplicate? The two smaller amounts would need to have a dream dummy for East, the primary diamond holder, but certainly possible, centering around West’s club holding and diamond length.

Briefly and in retrospect it is IMO a MUCH better bet for EW to hope for this specific declarer, South at this table, to misplay 6 spades (and allow EW a tie for top score, +100 EW)) then fly to a big set and hope South (at least at this table) to not play correctly.

Believe it or not, in the old days (now approximately 45 years ago) in the critique of actual challenge match hands played every weekend and against strong enough opposition during their training and therefore learning period an EW pair going down 1400 against their possible -1430 would likely get a black charge (the worst possible) for taking that sacrifice, even though they would have saved an IMP at the table (assuming correct bidding and play by declarer).

Even at matchpoints, to venture seven diamonds is a markedly inferior action despite its possible success on paper.

The above is a reasoning process only attributable to our wonderful game which involves OVERALL expected results from various actions.

So while your suggestion is right on and eminently correct, DOCTOR, your patient, with the above related reasoning actually died. At least in the eyes of the at that time learning group of bridge playing DALLAS ACES.

Please do not misunderstand my objective in discussing this hand with the above perspective. To accept 7 diamonds down 1400 is to champion S. J. Simon’s beloved Unlucky Expert character who first appeared in his “Why you lose in bridge”.

It also exemplifies bridge as it is, rather than what it isn’t, a golf course with only par as its goal on every hole. And these days, seldom is a golf tournament won by making 72 pars, rather than being special and striving for enough birdies and most of the time, but not all, satisfied with achieving only par.

Going still further, and at least to me, this special quality separates the really great bridge players from the very good herd.

bobby wolffDecember 24th, 2015 at 5:49 pm

Hi Iain,

While replying to comments in the order of receiving them you are echoing what I was attempting to clarify or more succinctly vice versa.

Bridge is a game of mistakes as well as occasional brilliancy. In order to win consistently the psychology of what you mention needs to be considered.

When, where and how is up to the individual players within the partnership, but without joining the enterprise necessary to succeed, may not be doing enough.

Yes, a tall task to expect, but not to try, is not worthy of players with great playing talent, to add to their quiver. And, after all, being world class in anything is likely worth giving oneself completely to become that.

Thanks, along with to David, for your intelligible and accurate posts.

David WarheitDecember 24th, 2015 at 8:25 pm

In considering whether to bid 7D or not at duplicate, I notice considerable discussion about how things will go at other tables. No. The only relevant considerations are 1) is 6S makeable, and 2) is the S player at my table capable of achieving his contract. If it is, and if he is, then 7D is right, even if only one other pair reached and made 6S. Even if S at my table would have been the only player in the room making 12 tricks, regardless of how many S were bid, I have merely changed a zero to a zero, but I have prevented S at my table from bragging about how brilliantly he played the hand.

Iain ClimieDecember 24th, 2015 at 8:28 pm

Hi Bobby,
Thanks for this and can I also send my compliments to Frank Stewart. The hands are not overly complex but they are all instructive and a useful reminder to take a step back and think clearly, which is sound advice for me all too often!

bobby wolffDecember 25th, 2015 at 12:53 am

Hi David,

Yes, I apologize for questioning the logic of your statement. The Oneupsmanship of depriving your worthy opponent from being able to bid and then make that very worthy slam, needs to be more valuable than searching for less than good play by an opponent in all the wrong places.

When that table is set exactly the way you want it, is definitively the time to strike and to not do so, would be a lethal blow to Stephen Potter.

And besides, when thinking just that way is always agreed by partner, you will have discovered what Ponce de Leon was actually looking for, The Fountain of Perfect Bridge Partners, and no doubt in the same state he was then searching, Florida.

Bob BordenDecember 25th, 2015 at 4:04 am

At my table (and probably at Jim2s as well) west led the C9 at trick 1

bobby wolffDecember 25th, 2015 at 5:35 am

Hi Bob,

And that is why a long ago famous bridge writer from the UK, John Brown, wrote very emphatically in his famous book “Winning Defense”, at that time (around 1940), that if a very average player would get off to the best opening lead every time, he would win every bridge World Championship.

After reading his comment, I, at first, doubted that conclusion, but since then, I have changed my mind and now agree with him.