Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

In trying to be perfect, He perfected the art of anonymity, Became imperceptible And arrived nowhere from nowhere.

Dejan Stojanovic

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


I do not always name the guilty players in my column; and since this deal was provided to me by the unfortunate victim, I will content myself with saying: “No names, no pack-drill”.

It does however feature a Belgian junior player, Eric Debus, getting the better of a world championship runner-up. After the aggressive two no-trump opener, the final contract seemed normal enough.

West led the club king, which held, followed by a second club won by East, who switched to spades. Declarer won, drew trump, cashed the spade king and exited with a spade, which East won with the queen. What would you do now with the sight of all four hands?

For East, the hand was an open book. He knew the full distribution, and he knew that South had to hold both the diamond king and jack even to come close to his two no-trump opener.

That being so, he knew that offering a ruff-sluff would be the standard defense here, since it could not help declarer, who was known to hold a 4-4 fit in diamonds. However, he envisaged that if he did so, declarer was favorite to win and play him for the diamond queen, a line which would succeed this time. Accordingly, he switched to the diamond 10 himself.

Declarer reasoned his opponent would not be foolish enough to shift to a diamond with an honor in the suit. He put up the diamond king then led low to the ace, playing West to hold the doubleton queen. He will know better next time.

You have far too much to pass (indeed you have almost enough to drive to game). It would not be stupid to bid notrump now, on the basis that partner’s double strongly rates to deliver a spade stopper, and in any event the opponents don’t rate to have more than four spades to cash. But if you feel more cautious, a call of two diamonds shows a diamond stop and looks for a spade guard.


♠ 8 5 3
 K 10 7 3
 A 9 6 3
♣ 9 7
South West North East
Pass 1 Dbl. Pass
1 1 ♠ 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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


David WarheitJanuary 20th, 2016 at 9:22 am

After drawing trump, S should cash the DA and then play SA & exit with a S. If W has 5S and only 1D, he is forced to give declarer a ruff-sluff which, followed by the successful D finesse. brings home the contract. Even without having cashed the DA before exiting in S, S should have won E’s D lead with the A and then decided whether to take the D finesse or to play W for DQx, perhaps learning something from W’s play on E’s D lead and from E’s play to the second D.

Bobby WolffJanuary 20th, 2016 at 5:45 pm

Hi David,

Someone once asked me to attempt to describe various stages of bridge development akin to life from the womb to the tomb.

While I cannot remember anywhere near my full answer, I might try it again and, if so:

1. The earlier stages have to do with the inconsistent natures of the game, from defining gratuitous evidence (choices of play, both suit and specific card, by the enemy) to such which cannot be camouflaged (sometimes by the bidding, but more often by counting out the hand).

2. The order of suits played by the defense, from the choice of opening lead, especially as his hand is unfolding, the tempo of his pauses and therefore the psychological twists in his mind, the dogs who barked during the bidding as well, of course, of those who didn’t. Keep in mind your side’s bidding and whether or not everyone at the table could almost read your exact distribution because of the bidding, the opening lead and usually important, how you, the declarer, have gone about your then early choices of play.

3. The later points in declarer play guessing are similar to the very best negotiator being prepared to get the most favorable deal he is destined to receive if he understands that a worthy player (and, at a certain high level, all are) and the last thing he wants to do is give worthwhile clues to his hated (for that moment in fierce competition) opponent.

4. Younger players need to go through a learning period concentrating not so much on what the most deceptive play might be, but rather, while playing against that specific opponent what his best chance will be to make that player go wrong and a word to the wise, “that play will greatly vary from time to time”, especially if there is a history of those two playing against each other.

5. The above has little to do with the strict technical side of the game, although all the fundamental caveats of being excellent players are always expected to be present from all those participating at that level (which, more often than many might suspect, is simply not the case and can result in unexpected disappointment).

6. Finally, in complete simplicity, when crunch time arrives, doing exactly the opposite of what some very wily opponent appears wanting you to do, is a fail-safe way of, at the very least, making one’s decision, however if you are one off, pity the result.

7. All the above might apply to someone who carefully leads the 10 in the spot he led it. But one word of caution, there are plenty of double, triple and even quadruple bridge agents out there who have become among the very best competitors, so any other advice I could give, is to just try it yourself and may the Force be with you.

Finally, especially to David, all the technical excellence in the world sometimes backfires because an opponent can than be more sure of exactly what you hold and therefore be in a better psychological position to counteract it and make you more likely, at the death. to guess wrong.

slarJanuary 20th, 2016 at 9:30 pm

> He will know better next time.

I guess. I think if someone pulled that stunt on me, I’d say “well-played” and go to the next board.

Bobby WolffJanuary 20th, 2016 at 10:57 pm

Hi Slar,

Yes, very sporting of you, and how does that love song go, coming from a loser, “I’m laughing on the outside, crying on the inside….. cause I’m so in love with winning (or some such)”.