Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

We’ll get them in singles, Wilfred.

George Hirst

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


Today’s deal comes from a recent knock-out teams event played at the 10-day Brighton Summer Congress, one of England’s premier events.

South, Steve Raine, played in four spades, and West led the club queen, the suit his partner had opened. When dummy went down it all appeared to be plain sailing to declarer. So long as trumps broke 3-2 there would be one loser in each of the side suits.

On ruffing the club continuation, two top spades were cashed, declarer getting the bad news of the 4-1 trump break. At first glance it appears that the contract must now fail, but declarer turned his attention to a trump coup – where he could try to single in his small trump separately. Accordingly Raine continued with the diamond ace, then another diamond to the eight and king. East helpfully returned a club, which South ruffed, and he next played a heart to the ace and ruffed his last club.

At this point declarer played a heart to the king, then a diamond from the dummy. This left East with no winning option: if he discarded, South would ruff with the spade nine for his 10th trick. And if he ruffed in, declarer would pitch his losing heart and take the rest.

Incidentally, declarer had been assisted in his task by inaccurate defense. East could have beaten declarer by returning a heart when on lead, as now declarer cannot shorten his trump sufficiently. If declarer has the heart jack, there is no defense to the game.

This would be easy if a simple raise in diamonds was 6-9 HCP. But it is not, it is inverted, showing a limit raise (plus) in diamonds, with a jump raise preemptive here. So our choice is to invent a heart suit, respond one no-trump with a singleton in a major, or pick between the underbid of three diamonds and the overbid of two diamonds. I go for the overbid in diamonds. That fifth trump is worth quite a lot.


♠ 5
 A K 10
 J 9 8 5 4
♣ 9 7 6 3
South West North East
    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


Iain ClimieJanuary 13th, 2016 at 12:11 pm

Hi Bobby,

Hasn’t east got a more obvious (and safe) exit of a spade honour instead of the mistaken club? Does this work when South has HJxx, for example?

On the subject of ducking (see yesterday), your point was well made by the following hand form last night:

SQx HQJxx Dxxx C10654 (dummy)

Partner bulldozed into 6C (surprise), took the spade lead in hand and cashed the CA finding the clubs 1-1. She crossed to table cheaply and ran the HQ which lost, whereupon the defence exited safely in spades and the diamond finesse later failed. I’d be interested in your view on the best line (perhaps eliminating spades early and playing HA then small) but, if that line is tried and West has Kxxx, the best defence is to duck the heart; wading in with the King just solidifies the contract. declarer might then try running the H9 with amusing results for the defence.

Finally on BWTA, which of the bids available will make it hardest for the oppo to bid spades, especially at pairs? Maybe 1N has an unexpected virtue here, although I’d bash out a limit raise to 3D this side of the pond.



Iain ClimieJanuary 13th, 2016 at 12:50 pm

HI again,

I was also amused by the quote which was aimed at Wilfred Rhodes, an irascible but brilliant bowler for the England team around 1900. He could enrage people so much that, when the team carrying the England team back from a tour of Australia was caught in a storm, the team captain supposedly said “Well if we do all drown, at least that b*gger Rhodes will go down with us!” I hope nobody has anybody in their team (or even a partner) to whom similar sentiments apply.


Bill CubleyJanuary 13th, 2016 at 5:28 pm


I liked the limit raise in diamonds before I read you comments. Maybe I am getting better after all these years. Maybe I cannot see anything better than raising partner’s suit with 5 trump and evaluating this as worth about 12 points in support. The thought you provided an easy problem did not occur to me.

Happy New Year to you and Judy!

Bobby WolffJanuary 13th, 2016 at 5:37 pm

Hi Iain,

One may talk about versatility, usually one quite educated at trick producing in bridge (especially with what we feature), then gives an example of his own complete hand with appropriate nuances, poses a bidding problem already partially described, teaching us to become a tougher opponent by making life difficult for high-level adversaries.

To that, his keen historical background, adds the particulars to an ethnic quote which few, including me, knew diddly about, but, as usual, enabled universal understanding to what it referred, together with the “rest of the story”.

Even add, as usual, his always colorful presentation and you may begin to get the essence of his wit, education, and entertainment value and to which we, my opinion, as one, mightily respect.

Indeed, the internet should be treasured for us being given a gift and therein pleasure of his company.

BTW, I also prefer a 3 diamond limit raise on the problem with the BWTA, bringing both sides of the pond together, though perhaps only between two old fogies. Shall we say, ducky!

And with the 2nd hand play of West while holding K10??, he should cover the nine with the ten, providing the other spots around the table such as holding the eight himself, are compatible.

Iain ClimieJanuary 13th, 2016 at 6:04 pm

Hi Bobby,

I looked again at the example hand and the best line is SA, CA, club to 5, ruff SQ high, HA then 9 and play the Queen if West plays low. If it loses, you need the D finesse. If it wins, ruff a heart, high, club to the 10, play the HJ and throw a losing D endplaying west to lead a D from his King. Works when the D finesse is right or West has the HK or east has HK or K10 only. Easy after the event…


TedJanuary 13th, 2016 at 6:25 pm

Hi Iain,

Enjoyed your story about Rhodes. Many thanks.

The hand you presented is guaranteed after the 1-1 trump break, if West has the heart K. (Love those club spots.) Ducking makes no difference. Declarer when on the board, ruffs the third heart, crosses back to dummy and endplays West with the remaining heart honor while throwing the small diamond.

Iain ClimieJanuary 13th, 2016 at 10:53 pm

Hi Ted,

Thanks for that especially as cricket is one of Britain’s (and especially England’s) odder contributions. Take a damp, crowded country and invent a game needing loads of space but stop play when it rains. To maximise excitement, allow a 5 day contest to peter out into a draw. I enjoy the game’s various forms but I do sometimes wonder why, while my wife thinks I’m just twisted to watch it at all but she is half Irish.


Bobby WolffJanuary 13th, 2016 at 11:30 pm

Hi Bill,

No doubt there is sound bridge logic behind some of the new bidding suggestions made the last numbers of years.

However, there is also a price to pay with details such as remembering those agreements. Jumps from one to three in the same suit have for many years been stronger than only single immediate raises and then added to it a certain forcing feature somewhat complicates some difficult choices.

Yes, I, too, prefer the old fashioned style of jumping to three of a minor to show a limit raise, and also remember that taking space away from the opponents may be most important when long trumps are held since that often means that they too, have a fit in their best suit and sometimes would like a safer way to be able to come into the bidding.

Thanks for the season’s greeting and the same in No Trump back at you.