Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

I act with complete certainty. But this certainty is my own.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

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


South’s overcall of one notrump might not have been everybody’s choice, but he decided that his balanced hand was most suitable to show via the simple no-trump overcall rather than by a takeout double. This is a reasonable principle when balanced, (though whether one should, for example, conceal a five-card major is less clear).

North now had a straightforward raise to game, and West decided to lead a club, since he thought his partner rated to have real clubs for a third-seat opener. This is also a sound idea: when in third seat with a marginal opener, try to bid a suit you want partner to lead, even if that might be a four-card major.

It looks natural to play low from dummy at trick one, but East would have won with the club queen and would immediately have shifted to hearts. The defenders would then have been in position to win a club, a diamond, and three hearts.

This would all have been very unlucky, but the location of the club honors was known at trick one from the spot-card chosen by West. South was fully on the ball, and had no reason to expose himself to ill fortune, since he had a sure-trick line at his disposal. He could afford to win the first trick with dummy’s club ace and immediately knock out the diamond ace. This assured him of four diamond tricks in addition to the three spades, one heart, and one club which were always there for the taking. The club seven in dummy represented a fourth round stopper.

While you could invite in spades immediately, this hand looks closer to a defensive hand with incidental spade support than a raise. I would redouble initially, planning to raise spades at my next turn. This gets my values across at once, and allows me to show the support later. Since our side has the boss suit, we cannot easily be preempted out of it.


♠ J 9 4
 J 10 9 3
 A 4
♣ K Q 5 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♠ Dbl.

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 WarheitFebruary 17th, 2016 at 9:37 am

If the 8 & 2 of C are switched, W leads the C4. S now faces 2 dangers: E having 5C and W having HK. If both of these dangers exist, S goes down unless H block. If neither exists, S makes his contract. But if only one of the dangers exist, which would you play for?

bobby wolffFebruary 17th, 2016 at 5:54 pm

Hi David,

Since you took the time to ask a highly pertinent question, demanding of thought, I will try and comply.

And also since I believe (perfect quote for today to challenge confidence and its bridge ramifications) that perceived talent of choice (being of course, subjective) often becomes the deciding force in winning and losing at the higher echelons.

Only a superior player would ever lead a singleton small club in this moment in time, especially while also, playing with a relative equal as his (or her) partner. Furthermore, because of the bidding, while East should be heavily favored to possess the heart king, that realization has nothing to do with experienced or not so, opponents, so I would likely play for the heart king to be offside rather than clubs to be 5-1 and thus immediately to be established.

However, that critical choice would be entirely dependent on what I determined to be the inclinations of those specific opponents and have less to do with the strict percentages of where cards and distributions are likely to be.

At least my conclusion is that bridge at the top has everything to do with the individual players at the table while competing and less to do with strict aritmetical science.

All the above is directly related to IMPs or rubber bridge, since while playing matchpoints (and incidentally probably, but not necessarily, from the wrong side) frequency of gain rather than amount is the controlling factor and I would play all out for as many tricks as possible while assuming the king of hearts is with East, not West.

Finally, South may rue this day when he decided that 1NT was a more attractive bid than a TO double as his first effort (resulting in playing 3NT from South rather than North), although it might be necessary, with North as declarer to rise with the ace of hearts at trick one, depending on both what the club spots happened to be and, of course the specific layout of the defensive hands.

Two different games, matchpoints as against IMPs or rubber bridge and to be successful, at least to me, that factor is always an overriding one.

Again thanks for your very provocative thoughts and thus subject to back and forth discussion.

David WarheitFebruary 17th, 2016 at 8:36 pm

Thank you for your analysis. Note that when, in my hypothesis, W leads the C4 at trick one, he can only have the singleton 4 or doubleton 42. If he leads the 2, it would almost certainly be a singleton, although as you point out, with a singleton he would probably have led something else. But if he leads any other C, then there are more doubleton holdings consistent with the lead. I think, therefore, that the decision ( clubs 5-1 or HK offside) becomes a little more difficult, but I still agree with your answer.