Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Give all thou canst: Heaven rejects the lore
Of nicely calculated less or more.

William Wordsworth

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

*Balanced game-force or hearts


Today’s deal sees a rather subtle point of spot-card reading, after North-South had done well, I thought, to get to their top spot.

North was playing the conventional style referred to as Kokish (or Birthright) where a direct rebid of two no-trump would have been non-forcing, suggesting 2224 or so. But he could show a very strong balanced hand by a twostep process after his two club opener. His precise sequence showed 28-30, and now South gambled that a six-card suit opposite might be all that was needed to make slam.

In six diamonds South received an unreadable heart spot lead, the four, which could have been from length or shortage. It would have been very easy to put all the eggs in one basket of playing for diamonds to split, by laying down the diamond ace. That way lies disaster, today. But declarer did better when he led a low trump from dummy at trick two.

West won the trick, and declarer’s first significant clue came when East pitched the spade six. West shifted to a spade, and now declarer had to decide how to get to hand to take the trump finesse. He guessed well when he decided West had heart length and spade shortage. Accordingly he won the spade ace, cashed the two top heart winners to pitch a spade, then ruffed a spade to hand. Once this stood up, the hand was over. South could draw trump with the aid of the finesse and pitch a club on dummy’s remaining spade winner.

You may only have a five-count but your hand looks to have enough extra shape in terms of club fit and spade length to be worth a shot at game. Spades rates to be easier to make than clubs, even if you have a 4-4 fit, so I would simply jump to four spades now. In this auction, unless playing Wolff signoff, all continuations are game-forcing, by the way.


♠ Q 10 6 4 3 2
 10 5 4
♣ Q J 9 5
South West North East
    1 ♣ Pass
1 ♠ Pass 2 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


jim2June 9th, 2016 at 11:52 am

Okay, show of hands. How many of us would have been clever enough to discard the 5C?

(jim2 keeping his own mitts down)

jim2June 9th, 2016 at 1:35 pm

Or the 5H?

(jim2 STILL keeping his hands down)

slarJune 9th, 2016 at 1:40 pm

I have no idea what to pitch or even how to decide what to pitch. Most of my partners play upside down count and attitude. Since I don’t really care which suit is led, I would probably pitch the S6.

bobby wolffJune 9th, 2016 at 4:14 pm

Hi Jim2 & Slar,

Aye, there’s the rub!

And when many good players think about rating others, (usually among the finest), IMO they should break ties (or almost) by which world class players go out of their way to make everything they do, from declaring, defending, through deceptive bidding (if able, while deciding his partner will not be adversely affected) by false cue bids and such, like general reads, IOW, (totally in control).

This practice would surely be obviously present when that momentous dummy was tabled, since what could partner possibly have even before declarer leads a small diamond off of dummy to hand, wherein he could not determine himself what to do or not to do? Absolutely no hand could be constructed (unless some bridge genius can prove me wrong) where partner could ever have a doubt as to what to hold.

Therefore deception, starting as early as possible should be started at trick one and by both defenders, giving a reverse signal (in this case, probably pertaining to count or perhaps, attitude).

Of course, the declarer must be wary of this and not pay much attention, but that is when, and at a very high level, will psychology, rather than routine, rule the day. Most hands do not lend themselves to this feature, but this exceptional one, above all others, does.

At least to me, knowing the above, but only after experiencing it at the table will the bright younger player with unlimited natural ability begin to put the pieces together which, in time, will no doubt, make him a world beater.

At least to me the above will be worth more wins than even an excess of natural numerate talent.

And at a lower, more comprehensive level of play is why, an aspiring player, must seek out the highest degree of players to challenge, else he, too, will never achieve his due.

Judy Kay-WolffJune 10th, 2016 at 12:45 am

It is interesting to note that not one person made reference to ‘banging down the ace of trump’ although it is an obvious ‘no win play’ if the trumps all sat with West. My curiosity concerns the opinion of the readers as to how many duplicate players would not even consider taking the safety play to protect against KQX on side. I am not talking about the high level strata .. but specifically the rank and file who consider the local clubs as their bridge mecca.