Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, March 28th, 2016

At first, dreams seem impossible, then improbable, and eventually inevitable.

Christopher Reeve

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


In today’s deal North had a straightforward overcall of one no-trump over West’s one spade call. When South transferred to hearts, North decided to suggest a non-minimum with heart fit by cue-bidding two spades. South wasted no time in driving to game, and the defenders naturally went after spades at once.

The key play came early, after West led king, ace and a third spade. Declarer had to follow suit on the first two tricks, but he had the chance to be hero or villain when East ruffed the third round of spades with the heart seven.

South found the correct play of discarding a diamond on this trick. No matter how the play of the hand might have gone, South was eventually going to surrender this diamond trick. Hence it cost nothing to discard this loser at this moment.

As you can see from the full deal, South was then able to finesse through West for the heart king, and could win the rest of the tricks without difficulty.

South would have lost his vulnerable game contract if he had made the mistake of over-ruffing at the third trick. Declarer would have had to use the heart jack for this purpose, which would have left him with insufficient trump spots to pick up West’s guarded king. West could cover with the king if South led the queen, to ensure his trump trick.

Since South would have been unable to avoid losing a diamond trick as well, he would have had to concede two spades, a trump and a diamond for down one.

In auctions of this sort, where partner has not overcalled, and you can lead from either shortness or a four-card suit, expert opinion is divided as to whether your chances are better of hitting a five-carder in partner by leading your long or short suit. Since you know that he has any entries for your side, I would try for the jackpot by leading a low heart.


♠ 10 8 3
 Q 7 5
 J 9 6 2
♣ 10 7 2
South West North East
  1 ♠ Pass 2 ♣
Pass 3 ♣ Pass 3 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


David WarheitApril 11th, 2016 at 9:53 am

I note that NS would make 4NT against any lead and would probably make 5NT. Do you think that there is any way NS can reach 3N instead of 4H (of course I mean at duplicate)? I know you will have fun answering my question, since your love for duplicate is so well known (just read your answer to the one question on yesterday’s column).

Iain ClimieApril 11th, 2016 at 10:45 am

Hi David, Bobby,

I suppose South could bid 3S suggesting soft values, a semi balanced hand and giving north a choice of games but it seems a bit contrived. If North had HAKxx though, it might well look like the same tricks in each denomination.



bobbywolffApril 11th, 2016 at 11:15 am

Hi David & Iain,

With me now attempting to add a scientific bent to my preferences exposes me to be labeled a hypocrite.

However, with all the petty nuances which seem to always concern themselves with overtricks seem to infest the nether world of exactness.

Obviously that exactness stems from the impossible dream of a bidding system relaying exact information rather than just in the “ballpark”.

And thus the reward of huge differences in matchpoints waiting around the corner for just being “lucky” somehow takes away some of the beauty to what I have come to think is a magnificent game that we are privileged to play.

Of course, my hypocrisy then manifests itself on the hands which then barely achieve the contract, making that scientific bent necessary to win decorations at IMPs and money at rubber bridge.

All I can say is that having to consider some of the details that both of you often mention on the way to winning, seems beyond anyone’s reach.

However if we could just restrict them to the contract trick in partscores, games and, of course slams, I would then carry the flag.

Thanks for, instead of the flag, carrying on the debate and somehow I do not feel necessarily correct in my assessment, perhaps meaning that I do not like to just guess in trying to be lucky and if we do not have to worry about overtricks, some of that tedium may (will) disappear.


Iain ClimieApril 11th, 2016 at 12:52 pm

Hi Bobby,

Would Butler scoring at pairs tournaments help, where there is far less emphasis on the odd overtrick or even 10 points? A brute to score up, of course, and not applicable for all sessions but much closer to real bridge.



Iain ClimieApril 11th, 2016 at 5:24 pm

Hi Bobby,

I’ve just found a TOCM possibility, albeit absurdly far-fetched. East started with xx K97 10x 10xxxxx. Now the only way to make the hand is to overruff at T3, cash the HA, the minor suit winners then endplay East to give a ruff & sluff. If that happens, East / West are entitled to accuse declarer of peeking.


bobbywolffApril 11th, 2016 at 6:06 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, while I have had some experience, while playing in Europe with the Butler form of scoring, which incorporates what I consider serious forms of real competition (not particularly related to overtricks) I always enjoyed that competition.

The only drawback is the possibility of trying to serve too many masters while attempting to do whatever possible to improve one’s own score. Keeping it relatively simple, an IMP advantage, might just be the ultimate example in arranging what may just also be the fairest test.

I do, as always, appreciate your keen mind which, and according to your example hand, will keep others from making categorical statements about what they think is best.

The playing of high-level bridge is only the attempt of finding a winning solution, not necessarily the one which will always work.

And you, as in America, call him the sergeant-at-arms who is expected to provide the discipline necessary in groups to carry on the discussions ever present without the fear of someone sidetracking away from the best solution.

You, with your analysis, will always set the standard for others to be wary before making (what they think) is a final statement which can always be successfully challenged.

ClarksburgApril 11th, 2016 at 7:50 pm

I am trying to persuade local Clubs to run occasional IMP Pairs instead of Matchpoints.
I have, out of curiosity, re-scored a few Matchpoint games as if it was IMPs.
The rankings can change quite a bit, and one can readily see the reward for a well bid slam or vulnerable game, a big set etc.

Iain ClimieApril 11th, 2016 at 8:36 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

My limited experience of Butler scoring is that you take out the 2 extreme results and average the rest to get a datum score. I wouldn’t try it with many fewer than 7 tables, 6 at the least, but it is a good training ground for teams while still allowing lots of small pickups. Best of luck trying it – perhaps one night a month at a club which plays pairs at least 3 times a week. I recall Jeff Rubens describing teams as real bridge; this runs it much closer than pairs or even BAM.

Good luck,


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