Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

Common sense is calculation applied to life.

Henri Amiel

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


In today’s deal declarer did well to get an inferential count on today’s hand, but failed to draw the correct conclusions from his hypothesis.

Against four spades West cashed three rounds of diamonds, East discarding an encouraging heart 10 on the third. West shifted to the heart two, and declarer won the ace and drew trump in two rounds. Then he tried to work out the distribution of the defensive hands.

He could count West for five diamonds and all the honors in that suit. West had supported East’s hearts at his second turn to bid, so was likely to have four of them; for with only three, he might well have made a support double or have passed one spade.

All of this added up to his holding nine cards in the red suits, plus a doubleton spade, which left room for just two clubs. This meant that East must hold four clubs.

And if East held four, South’s conclusion was that the queen was likely to sit with the length, regardless of West’s opening bid strength.

Accordingly he led a club to the jack, and finished two down. What South had failed to appreciate was that he needed four club tricks in order to discard a heart. That would not be possible whatever four clubs East had, if they included the queen, without a serious defensive error.

The correct thought process is that to obtain four club tricks declarer must rely on the club queen lying doubleton in West, and cash the ace then lead low to the king.

While you’d prefer to have six hearts to insist on playing the major facing a one notrump response, circumstances may alter cases. Here your solid heart holding suggests that facing almost any doubleton, hearts will play better than no-trump. Your hand may be virtually worthless at no-trump unless partner has the heart ace. And even facing a singleton honor, you’d like to play hearts, wouldn’t you?


♠ J 3
 K Q 10 4 3
 9 3
♣ 9 8 7 6
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
1 Pass 1 NT 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 ClimieMarch 16th, 2016 at 11:57 pm

Hi Bobby,

An interesting hand and a great example of what I used to call “semi-think”. A complete beginner might bash down the CAK. A better player would guess the clubs, although possibly spoiling things by playing CA then J blowing the good guess. A better player would mess up as described but a good player on form is needed to get things right except by blind chance.

On BWTA, though, isn’t this an old-fashioned triumph for playing 2C as clubs not new minor forcing?



Bobby WolffMarch 17th, 2016 at 10:17 pm

Hi Iain,

I certainly agree to your somewhat graphic definition of the stages of rites of passage while developing one’s game.

However, while it no doubt is true of the need to sacrifice naturalism in order to receive the bridge benefits of certain conventions, including checkback Stayman, I do not think a natural bid of 2 clubs even while playing natural, would be my standout choice.

Of course, my thinking leads to only pass or my actual one of 2 hearts, willing to play it opposite even two small, but hoping for better. Obviously, if partner had 4 decent clubs and only 2 hearts, clubs may play a trick better, but what if he didn’t? Maybe the 543 tripleton and the TD lets us switch mid-hand to gin rummy.