Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 5th, 2016

Man seeks in society comfort, use and protection.

Francis Bacon

S North
None ♠ 8 7 4 3
 A Q 6 2
 K 8 6
♣ 7 2
West East
♠ Q 5 2
 K 10 8 7 3
♣ J 9 8 4
♠ A K J 10 9 6
 J 5
 7 4 3 2
♣ 10
♠ —
 9 4
 A Q J 10 9
♣ A K Q 6 5 3
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 2 ♠
3 3 ♠ Pass Pass
4 Pass 6 Pass
All pass      


Today’s deal from the Dyspeptics Club saw a more polite post mortem than usual, after South had reached six diamonds following a typically exuberant auction. He ruffed the opening spade lead, drew trump in four rounds, and relied on clubs to break. When they did not do so, he went down like a stone, and apologized to his partner with the line that everything was wrong. However he avoided fanning the flames by asserting that there was nothing he could do; instead he asked an abnormally pensive North what he might have done differently.

Somewhat mollified, North pointed out that South could have guarded against a four-one break in clubs. Best is to cash only one top club at the second trick. Then dummy is entered with a trump to lead the second club towards the South hand.

East cannot defeat the contract by ruffing, for then South will play low. With the clubs now established, declarer can draw trump and eventually take the heart finesse for his contract. East’s best course is to discard, hoping that South’s clubs are headed by A-K-J. Then South would win the club king and could ruff one club in dummy. However, since the suit would not yet be established, the contract would be defeated.

As the cards actually lie, East’s refusal to ruff might cost him an overtrick, but that is clearly an affordable investment. When East discards, South can win with the club king, ruff a low club with dummy’s high trump, and draw trump. The heart finesse would represent 13 tricks if declarer dares to take it.

Go to the back of the class anyone who decided to pass on the assumption that partner was trying to defend two diamonds doubled. He has shown three hearts and real extra values, so the clearest way to get your modest extras in shape and high cards across is to bid three hearts. A three club call would perhaps suggest your clubs and hearts were switched.


♠ Q 5 2
 K 10 8 7 3
♣ J 9 8 4
South West North East
  1 Dbl. Pass
1 2 Dbl. 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


jim2May 19th, 2016 at 12:02 pm

If I had been North, I doubt my second bid would have been “Pass.”

Michael BeyroutiMay 19th, 2016 at 1:21 pm

Jim2… that’s because you’re not a member of the Dyspeptics Club…
But I have difficulty understanding the paragraph before last. Why can’t East ruff the second club and press on with a spade? If declarer ruffs again he will lose trump control. I must be missing something.

Yasser HaiderMay 19th, 2016 at 1:36 pm

Hi Michael, declarer does not lose trump control because East has shortened his trumps to one fewer than declarer by ruffing and the latter can now ruff a spade without losing control.

jim2May 19th, 2016 at 1:41 pm

Yasser Haider –

You are faster than I am!

Michael BeyroutiMay 19th, 2016 at 2:02 pm

Oh! Now I see it. Thanks to both of you.

bobby wolffMay 19th, 2016 at 2:53 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, but even at the Dyspectics Club, some of the players do latch on to the GF nature of South’s 3 diamond rebid.

However, the next bidding installment from that famous venue will be a not so well timed passing of an intended game force, thereby allowing the opponents to steal a game hand away from their hated opponents.

In truth, assuming GF, is probably to pass, allowing partner to describe the nature of his very strong reverse. The alternative action is probably to double suggesting values and allowing partner to pass if indeed, his hand turned out to be a much more balanced hand, not including a 6-5 shape.

But while playing there, rules are not only meant to be broken, but at the same time, not showing a lick of common sense while doing so.

bobby wolffMay 19th, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Hi Michael, Yasser, and Jim2 again (with only a cameo appearance),

You guys worked it out with the defense (East) clearly not ruffing (the 2nd club led from dummy), thereby giving away his chance at defeating the slam in case South did not have AKQxxx.

At least to me, at some kind of comprehensive bridge school, this hand would symbolize the necessity for having enough numeracy while on defense to, while counting to 13, on almost all hands, to keep up with declarer’s entire hand as it unfolds trick by trick.

While starting to play bridge, that ability to think in those terms MUST be ingrained in all students as the single most important quality to possess. And if one starts out with it being difficult, until one grows to master it, his attempt at raising his game to expert potential is closer to nil and void than it is to success.

IOW, either learn to do it somewhat seamlessly or otherwise remain a journeyman in substance. And always realize that to do so is available to almost anyone who really tries to do it. After all it is only counting to 13 to most, but sometimes like climbing Mt. Everest to some.

And what better way to master arithmetic than to play bridge and learn simple important exercises which make “real life” so much more successful.

Yet in the USA no one has made the effort to get bridge in our primary schools by informing and proving to the government’s educational division, just how important it can be to our children’s future.

Please forgive my usual rant!

GinnyMay 19th, 2016 at 9:26 pm

Should this contract be played in 6 spades doubled by East? If West had a void in diamonds, does that make the sacrifice a better or worse bid?

What is the best line in 7 diamonds? Should 7D be considered over 6S?

While I strongly agree with the bridge in school desire, there is a centuries-old taboo on card playing to overcome. Right now, from a pupil learning point of view, I like Ken-Ken, which has arithmetic, simultaneous equations and logic, all build in to a game for middle-schoolers. A good place to look is the NY Times.

bobby wolffMay 19th, 2016 at 10:20 pm

Hi Ginny,

And welcome to AOB.

Yes, 6 spades is a good sacrifice over 6 diamonds, but only if 6 diamonds is carefully played and thus scored up.

While playing seven diamonds perhaps the best line is two rounds of diamonds followed by two rounds of clubs and if they break then draw trumps and hope the heart finesse is on side or else the singleton club defensive hand only has a doubleton diamond, enabling a club ruff and then back to hand to draw the last trump and again play for the necessary heart finesse to work.

Not a good contract, but we have all been in worse which survived. No, seven diamonds should never be risked over 6 spades but of course, until we play with transparent cards we will never be able to predict anywhere near 100% where all adverse cards are located.

Yes, some religions have called playing cards the “tickets to the devil”, therefore making them off limits to some families, but while, like so many other activities, the proof is in the playing and since there is enormous benefits in playing bridge, problem solving, everyday logic, numeracy, legal partnership communication, iron discipline, and fierce mind competition, all plus values, which to a thinking environment, could (should) in this day and age overcome negative religious beliefs.

Never heard of Ken-Ken but it sounds constructive. Bridge does have the advantage of also being a very social game, one which appeals to couples and already itself surviving many years of intelligent competition.

Thanks for your questions and your comments about teaching bridge and/or learning how to play Ken-Ken.