Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ But conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right.

Martin Luther King

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


Playing a two over one style where a two-club response is game forcing by an unpassed hand, North cannot make that call at his first turn. His problem is whether to bid a forcing no-trump then jump in hearts, or simply to make a constructive raise to two hearts. This is a case in which the points do not tell the whole story. If North’s 10 points were made up mostly of queens and jacks, he would be quite satisfied to raise directly to two hearts. In this hand, however, North’s 10 points consists of two and one half quick tricks. For this reason, North can reasonably choose the aggressive route.

Of course today North-South would reach game either way today.

This deal is far easier at teams than pairs, where the lust for an overtrick might tempt South into doing something that he would regret later. The point is that South’s diamond holding would ordinarily suggest taking two finesses.

The trouble with this plan today is that West can win the first diamond, cash a spade, then play trumps. Now best defense will leave declarer unable to avoid losing three diamonds and a spade.

The safe plan is to take no finesses at all. South begins by discarding a spade on one of dummy’s top clubs. He then cashes the diamond ace and gives up a diamond. The plan is to give up two diamonds and then ruff the last diamond with dummy’s heart king. As the cards lie, the contract is safe if played in this manner.

The range for a response of one no-trump to one diamond goes up to 10 points in the context of a two-over-one system. Is this ideal – not really! But one can’t make an omelet without breaking the odd egg; here, a jump to two no-trump must invite facing a balanced 1214. You have no game interest facing a minimum hand, given your sterile shape and poor intermediates. So bid one notrump.


♠ 9 5 3
 K 3 2
 7 6 5
♣ A K 4 2
South West North East
  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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieFebruary 9th, 2016 at 12:02 pm

Hi Bobby,

Should West be leading a trump at T1 today, given his diamond holding? As he’s only got 2 hearts, it may not be enough but swap the SK and Ace round, and he would have been able to put East in for a third lead, killing the ruff. Also 3NT is cold regardless although I can’t see a sensible way of reaching it.



bobby wolffFebruary 9th, 2016 at 4:09 pm

Hi Iain,

As usual, you enable a combination column reader and, of course, talented aspiring player to visit different roads to success whether as declarer or on defense.

By so doing, you embrace the high-level game with its many challenges and often necessary camouflaged solutions.

Because of its many nuances, at least to my knowledge, no one person has ever thoroughly mastered our game although, of course. some have come closer to succeeding (about 50% of the way) than others.

However, like other major decisions in real life, perhaps we could all be measured in terms of what is accomplished and what isn’t. The person whose quote we use today would be in the running for a very high place in humankind, at least in the USA.

For what it is worth, I happen to think that your wide ranging approach to teaching and therefore learning bridge has a very broad and worthwhile appeal. Much thanks to you for and from all who have the sophistication to appreciate what you, and sometimes others, bring to both our site and, of course, the bridge table.

Finally I choose to appreciate the games of rubber bridge and IMPs more than I respect the much too difficult game (to me, borderline impossible) of matchpoints.

However, to each his own.

T GatesFebruary 9th, 2016 at 7:20 pm

What if declarer ducked spades twice, took the ace on third round, pulled trump, ran clubs discarding a diamond on the king and ruffing the third club, then led the 10 of diamonds to endplay West?

Of course, East could overtake West’s queen of spades at trick one and lead a diamond, but would he? You do not suggest that. If East came up with the king on the second play of spades things seem to still play out for game, don’t they?

bobby wolffFebruary 10th, 2016 at 12:27 am

Hi “T”,

With your series of plays and the distribution (length in diamonds with West) all would be clear to make it your way.

However the column suggested play would score it up without risking West having another club and one less diamond. Your play (at what is called double dummy, with all four hands exposed) gets the same result, but doesn’t appear to be best.

However, thanks for your comment and I do appreciate your interest and for taking the time to post.