Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, January 18th, 2016

One change always leaves the way open for the establishment of others.

Niccolo Macchiavelli

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


In today’s deal, when North hears his partner open one heart he uses the forcing no-trump then jumps in hearts. This shows invitational values, in a hand unsuitable for an immediate jump to three hearts.

Typically this suggests 10 to 12 points; with less, North would make a simple raise. With more, North would make a two-over-one bid or use the Jacoby two no-trump.

In four hearts on a top diamond lead South can see that he will probably lose one diamond and as many as three spades. All will be well if East has the spade ace, but South should not rely on an even-money chance. If the club king is onside he has significant additional chance against the three-three or four-two break in clubs. (They break this way more than five times in six.)

South must go after clubs before drawing trump, since dummy’s hearts represent critical entries to the board. After finessing in clubs, cashing the club ace and ruffing a club, the heart nine is an entry to dummy to permit South to ruff a second low club, and the heart ace gets him to dummy in time to cash the last club.

South eventually discards a loser on dummy’s last club and then leads a spade towards the king. If East has the spade ace, South will make an overtrick. The ace, as it turns out, is wrong, so South would have failed in his game if he had not managed to develop the clubs efficiently – and if trumps had been drawn prematurely, the clubs would not have been established.

It is hard to look beyond hearts, the suit partner is most likely to hold, for your opening lead. But you want to avoid giving the impression of length or strength in the suit. So lead the heart seven and hope partner can work out to shift as and when appropriate.


♠ Q 5 3 2
 7 3 2
 10 7 4
♣ A J 7
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Dbl. 1 NT
All 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


jim2February 1st, 2016 at 1:31 pm

One nuance not addressed in the column is that declarer should win the opening lead even if East does not attempt to over-take with the KD.

Bill CubleyFebruary 1st, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Finally a quote from someone who would have been a good bridge player had he lived in the present. Would he have been on the Blue Team? 😉

bobby wolffFebruary 1st, 2016 at 3:20 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, although that would not be a fatal error to the contract this time if he would. Also the column didn’t bother to mention ruffing the clubs with high trump in hand indicating that we trust that our readers are not complete newbies.

However those above bridge plays, if given enough writing space, only help promote the game for everyone who may or may not be that interested from the beginning.

Since I sincerely believe that once bitten by the bridge bug, it, like food and water, is very difficult to ignore. However, perhaps that feeling, for a few, is closer to the definition of love than it is to a card game, no matter how great. For most it is a virtual tie for 1st place.

bobby wolffFebruary 1st, 2016 at 4:22 pm

Hi Bill,

Yes Mac (Niccollo Macchiavelli), was a superior and without doubt, an intelligent politician (around the days of Christopher Columbus) in Italy, who apparently became popular because of his controversial ethics and aggressive behavior making him a well quoted scholar.

Yes, he could have, also no doubt because of his heritage of being born in a country rich in talent for bridge, been a worthy member of the Italian Blue Team, but only if he would have strictly followed the mandates from their evil all-powerful Captain, Carl Albert Perroux.

TedFebruary 1st, 2016 at 8:21 pm

Hi Jim2,

I’m missing something. Can I blame Monday?

What E/W hands enable you to make this by taking the diamond A at trick one, but fail if you duck? (8-1 diamond breaks with the underlead of the K don’t count.)


bobby wolffFebruary 1st, 2016 at 9:09 pm

Hi Ted,

Although my name is not Jim2 I’ll offer an explanation. First, you are not missing something and Monday is not to blame.

As you probably already know from your bridge experience, writers often suggest ducking the opening lead in order to either set up positions for later squeezes or, more likely, serve to destroy the defensive communication.

This time, as you so explained, it made no never mind. However Jim2 being very aware of technique, was probably just commenting on the possibility of such a duck.

None of my business, but, unless Jim2 had a different reason, it was just a somewhat playful remark relating to the way bridge columnists usually go about their explaining.

jim2February 1st, 2016 at 10:55 pm

No, I was not so much being playful as noting that declarer could go down if s/he ducked on different layouts.

Specifically, swap the major black honors. That is, give West:


If West holds the first trick, he switches to a spade. Declarer now loses 2S, 1D, and 1C, but s/he would have made it by winning the first trick.

bobby wolffFebruary 1st, 2016 at 11:45 pm

Hi Jim2,

It is almost unfair to everyone else that you, being the poster boy for TOCM TM, already know that the king of clubs will be offside.

It enables comprehensive thinking of how to score up maximum tricks while playing a heart game and also on some layouts to go down at least one lesser trick, in slam.

Mere mortals like the rest of us have to think both longer and stronger since, let’s face it, we cannot be sure that all or even most of our finesses are off side.

Thanks for tipping us off to your decided advantages.

TedFebruary 2nd, 2016 at 12:34 am

Thanks Bobby and Jim2,

I’ll still blame Monday, since I visualized the hand you showed and counted 4 losers either way. By this afternoon, my counting has improved some.