Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

You cannot blame circumstances for any failure. The ultimate power lies within you to fearlessly conquer challenges for your achievements.

Lailah Gifty Akita

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


One of the arts a successful player must possess is to help his opponents err, and to make sure their mistakes do not go unpunished. Today’s deal is from the Women’s Trials and demonstrates this theme.

South showed her two suits, then advanced over her partner’s simple preference to two diamonds with a bid of two no-trump. This call showed real extras, and North had plenty in hand to go on to game.

West started with the intelligent opening lead of the club seven, which ran around to the king. Declarer’s first shot was to take a heart finesse. East won and switched to her spade queen, won by declarer’s ace. Declarer should perhaps have begun to worry about her communications at this stage and ducked a diamond, but instead she played the diamond ace, followed by the diamond king and a third diamond. At the point when East won her diamond queen, the defenders had two tricks in and needed three more. East gave her side a chance when she now played the club ace. Declarer could still have succeeded by unblocking her jack. (The best East could have done now would have been to play a heart, but she would have been put back on lead with a heart, forced to concede the last tricks to dummy or declarer).

However, declarer followed low under the club ace, and another club put South in her hand with no entry left to dummy. She could cash two diamonds, but had to lose two spade tricks at the end.

With this hand, your action should be the same whether you are a passed or unpassed hand (though in one case you are stretching slightly, in the other case you have a maximum for your call). Double one no-trump, showing a hand short in spades, playable in the other three suits. This is a rare auction where a double of notrump is for take-out.


♠ Q
 K 10 8 6
 Q 9 6 4
♣ A 10 8 4
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Pass 1 NT

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 10th, 2016 at 3:26 pm

This is a tough hand to play not seeing all four hands.

I think that — at the table — I would follow small from the Board, hoping to see the 8C from East and that it would mean clubs were 3-3. When East played the 4C, I would win, cash the other honor in hand and read the clubs as they are.

The contract would now appear to rely upon the heart finesse or something good in diamonds. However, leading the JD would seem to be safe, because if it lost, I would have a free entry to a second heart trick.

When the defenders ducked it, I would conclude the diamonds were 4-1. However, now the heart finesse looks perfectly safe. Even if East did not have the singleton QS, I could split on a small spade return and make West lead away from the second spade honor or the QD, that I would mistakenly think s/he has, or a heart to the two tops on the board with the AD still a closed hand entry.

bobby wolffFebruary 10th, 2016 at 5:14 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your description of the trials and trails of your thoughts is typical (the ts have it) of what should go on in a competent bridge mind as the play unfolds.

One suit and one challenge at a time, with the number of tricks required (usually figured inversely concerning how many can be lost, here four, and still succeed).

Perhaps the column has not had a better example than today to illustrate the above in action.

Thanks for your pillar to post description. However I would suggest to the real bridge aficionados that they review what you suggest until their thoughts mesh (at least mostly) with yours. Many of declarer’s often considered challenges including unblocking, entry creating, keeping control and realistic card reading are incorporated.

To some others, perhaps similar to betting on horses, this hand is just too complicated, requiring more time and effort than they wish to contribute.

All I can answer to that is the few winners in horse gambling can be compared to the even fewer who become their best as bridge players.

Thank you for your trouble and especially for winning the derby.

jim2February 11th, 2016 at 1:05 am

How would you have played it?

bobby wolffFebruary 11th, 2016 at 6:16 am

Hi Jim2,

I tend to emphasize at least trying to tempt the opponents to make decisions before they may be ready. If so, I would tend to win the king of clubs and lead a heart to the jack, expecting that whoever held the king would allow me to score up the first heart.

Next, if the heart jack held, I would then, of course, simply lead a low diamond to the jack.

Nothing spectacular and on this hand, perhaps on my way to going set.

I sometimes do not take enough time on hands which offer several about equal propositions, thinking that it will be well nigh impossible to figure out the exact best percentage line.

The hands in which I take a much longer time are those which seem to offer an almost sure trick way to score up the contract trick. I do not want to ever go set on those, so I spend more time on them, but ones which have several reasonable choices I choose one and away I go.

The above is certainly not for everyone, and who knows what is right, but most players have their own style and tend to follow it.

The one inalienable fact is that when playing matchpoints it literally drives me crazy trying to combine lines which are relatively safe for the contract, but do not offer an easy foolproof way to garner the necessary overtricks for 80+% results. However it is certainly clear that to not make enough overtricks during that session is a sure way to not win the event.