Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few.

Wendell Phillips

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

*Jacoby transfer to hearts


Today’s deal saw a contract of four hearts where success or failure revolved around holding the diamond losers to two. Admittedly, the defenders can lead a spade and take a diamond ruff at once to defeat the game. However, after a top club lead, declarer was in with a chance, though the play is more complex than you might imagine. Follow it through to the very end – and cover up the East and West cards if you want to give yourself a proper challenge.

Let’s say you win the club queen lead and draw trump, as West discards two clubs. When you play a spade to the king, East wins and presses on with spades. You win the queen and cash your remaining club winner, ruff a spade, and have reduced to a five-card ending with four diamonds and a trump in each hand. You lead a low diamond from dummy to the 10 and king and…

BZZZ! Thank you for playing, and here is a beautiful parting gift. In this position West wins the ace and leads back a low diamond. Now, whether you play low or the jack, you are doomed as the cards lie. If you put in the seven and cross to hand in hearts, LHO can pitch the diamond nine and take the last two tricks with a club and diamond winner. You needed to lead the diamond seven to the 10 and king. Now if you guess to play low from dummy on the diamond return, you will make your game, since you can overtake dummy’s four and lead a third diamond.

Your partner’s decision to pull your redouble suggests a weak shapely hand. It may not have been what you wanted to hear, but trust your partner and simply bid two spades now. You have shown your range and you can let your partner decide if he wants to look for game on his own.


♠ K Q
 K J 10 5 3
 Q 7 4 2
♣ 7 5
South West North East
    1 ♠ Dbl.
Rdbl. Pass 2 ♣ 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 30th, 2016 at 11:29 am

Might an alternative be to play low to the JD in the first place?

That is, use the honor with the higher spot cards first?

Iain ClimieJune 30th, 2016 at 11:56 am

Hi Jim2, Bobby,

Intriguing hand although TOCM would then deal East DQ9 alone when a diamond to the King would have worked provided that declarer ducked the next diamond – when TOCM could have given West DAQ10 alone. Looking at the diamond suit alone, I think most chances involve D3-2 and at least one honour right (i.e. DA with East or DQ with West or both). There will be relatively few cases where D4-1 gives a makeable result, although West would probably have led a singleton diamond so it makes sense to play for the extra chances with D4-1 involving East being short.

On BWTA, is there not a risk of missing a 5-3 heart fit (or even a 5-2 heart fit playing better than a 5-2 spade fit when the opponents get a forcing game going by repeated diamond leads? If South bids 2H and North bids 2S we can always give up (the DQ is surely then wasted) but I’m a little reluctant to give up just yet, at least at teams.



jim2June 30th, 2016 at 1:01 pm

I suspect there is a statistically optimal line, perhaps a computer program or app is already out there. I just know that hand-cranking it would probably make my head hurt, so I was not going to do it!

Iain ClimieJune 30th, 2016 at 1:12 pm

We could just laboriously write out all the combinations and see which ones worked, based on either playing small to the Jack first or playing the D7 to the King and ducking the next one or covering West’s 10 or 9 on the 2nd round. There are 2 cases of 5-0 (one each way) which are unmanageable, so 10 cases of 4-1 and 20 cases of 3-2 to look at (I think, based on 5*4 / 2 = 10 for the possible doubletons, as the order of the cards doesn’t matter, then double that to cover then being with either East or West) if anyone is bored out there; if you aren’t at the start, you will be later.

At the table, I’m playing small to the King (hopefull the 7, but probably not in reality) then back towards the Jack and agonised squirming if West plays the D10 or 9 smoothly in front of the Jack; I’d probably cover the 10 but not the 9 as a player with DQ10 left might assume I would always play the Jack.

Bobby WolffJune 30th, 2016 at 3:19 pm

Hi Jim2 & Iain,

Together your discussion, at least to me, covers the principle bases and at the very least, presents a realistic appraisal of the choices available, only proven or not by a higher authority (namely a properly programmed computer).

However to Iain, regarding his suggestion concerning the BWTA of the possibility of stopping off at 2 hearts, just in case that partner has 3 hearts, in order to get to a superior part score, or even more likely game instead of settling for a mundane 2 spades with a doubleton KQ, which figures to be the last positive bid made on this hand, unless partner has indeed either extra strength (15+) or wilder distribution (6 spades).

Iain, since East, your RHO opponent made a TO dbl of North’s 1 spade opening he will have at least 3 hearts and likely 4 for his bid, and that together with more unaccounted for diamonds out there than hearts makes it more likely that partner, having already announced a distributional (usually minimum by definition) hand, perhaps 5-5 in the black suits, leaving only 3 vacant spaces in his hand, then more likely to be diamonds than hearts (IOW an extremely low likelihood of partner being 5-3-0-5).

In addition, about South then instead bidding 2 hearts, he, at least to me, should have either 6+ good enough hearts, playable opposite a singleton, therefore denying partner an opportunity to even consider then rebidding his only 5 spades he likely possesses (that sequence sensibly lends itself to be non-forcing).

And, of course, the doubleton spade KQ not being just cream cheese, but rather somewhat powerful, also influences that choice.

Summing up, yes you could be nailing a heart game right before our eyes, should partner have 5-3-0-5 or even 5-2-1-5 (how about 5-4-0-4) on a fairy tale moment?

However, upon awaking from our dream sequence we are then left with the reality of what figures to happen, and that, after all, is, at least what I consider, to be the thought du jour of almost any and every bridge hand which comes along.

Your dream is certainly worth noting but just too extravagant for indulging.

The above reminds me of a wordy caveat my captain, long ago and far away, once made to me (and the rest of my losing team) when we lost at a later stage of some important tournament of that day. “Let us go out and have a celebratory dinner anyway, and don’t worry about losing, since this has happened to me thousands of times before”.

slarJune 30th, 2016 at 5:31 pm

How do you feel about opening with freaky hands? Are you, roughly speaking, a 20+2 person? I would not pull the redouble without a subminimum hand because the opponents could be in real trouble. (I’ve seen some pathetic takeout doubles…)

I think I would expect partner be at least 5-5 in the black suits and have three prime cards to make this BWTA bid. Without prime cards, I’d rather see an offbeat 2S or 4S.

bobbywolffJune 30th, 2016 at 6:42 pm

Hi Slar,

First, I am not now, but probably never have been a follower of artificial numbers in determining valuation, but rather one, likely through experience, to at least attempt to globalize overall hand evaluations with both good and not so features. Here, of course, the quality of those spades stand out, but the rest of the picture, particularly no fitting club honor such as the queen or even the jack, plus the negativity of wasting the quality of my trump in establishing the long clubs makes me put pause to optimism. Another negative factor is the likelihood of partner having a singleton heart leaves me just hoping to score up my 8 tricks, unless partner has, according to his hand, a different and optimistic approach to what he is looking at.

Yes, partner should have an above average playing offensive hand, although minimum values and questionable defense, but that is for him to act on, with me just describing my hand the best I can.

Again those three prime cards to which you speak may or may not be held, but whether they are or not the issue will always be, how our two hands fit and, of course how the defense defends along with the location of the key cards, a difficult combination to predict.

You, and too many others, showing great promise to scurry up the ladder to success, must understand that playing good bridge is the proverbial marathon and not a sprint, but by putting together useful consistency in performance, especially valuation as the bidding materializes, will be tied directly, of course, along with your partner solving the same problems, to your relative results.

My guess is that you have the right tools to work with, but until you prove such, you’ll only be said to have potential, meaning not there yet, until the scalps, one way or the other, become visible on your wall.

Iain ClimieJune 30th, 2016 at 6:48 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for that – thorough and convincing and a welcome diversion from the medical procedure I had between my 2nd post and now. Trust me, you really don’t want to know!


bobbywolffJune 30th, 2016 at 9:29 pm

Hi Iain,

Since you are very much a human and besides which, male, that medical procedure was not a spay, which to me was often pronounced like spade, so the mystery will continue and correctly so, since it is no one’s business.

However, I hope it was not painful nor a sense of concern, since our very bridge site is dependent on both your wisdom and never underestimate, your great sense of humor.

Let’s just pretend that you had your throw-in card removed resulting in just getting yourself, end played.

Peter PengJune 30th, 2016 at 9:30 pm

hi Bobby

I have been having a contention at my club.

NV versus V, I am dealer, sitting West and passed.

North bid 1C, East passed, South bid 1H, I passed again, and North bid 1NT.

East passed and South corrected to 2C.

At this point I come in with 2S. I have long spades, only 4 HCP, in Hearts and Diamonds,

My partner had about 13 HCP, including J10 of Spades, and got excited.

He bid 2NT. Opps passed, I corrected to 3S, because I have no entries to my spades.

Partner got excited again and bid 3NT.

Went down a bunch, and later complained that I had a bust hand.

Could he figured out that I had a bust hand, long spades? And passed 2S?

To me, opps showed about 20 HCP, and partner, having a good hand, could have figured I was bidding on length, no points.

How can I explain my bid?

Iain ClimieJune 30th, 2016 at 9:32 pm

Thanks for the kind comment and the process was uncomfortable, embarrassing but will hopefully confirm an earlier blood test suggesting no worries but they wanted to double check. The end played comment is inadvertently very funny, though!


bobbywolffJune 30th, 2016 at 10:19 pm

Hi Peter,

Welcome to the trials and tribulations aspect of learning our game.

In other cards games, most of which are individually played and not partnership efforts, every player is on his own hoping to play the game well enough to win by both making better decisions than their opponents and, at the same time, not worrying about dealing with partners.

However, bridge is the ultimate partnership game wherein played at a table two against two, but bidding in code language according to the official rules.

Your partner and likely others who frequent your games do not understand the logic which you are using to get the most out of you and your partner’s combined cards.

In your example, you used simple life logic to come in the bidding when you did, after the opponents have subsided allowing you to understand that you had a suit, spades (and looking at it as your 13 cards) while your partner is going to have about 3 times the number of high cards you have, if only for the numerical certainty that without which the opponents would have been bidding much higher.

Simple to you, simple to me, but not simple to the great number of otherwise intelligent people out there who just do not understand such thoughts. They are used to acting on what is in front of their noses and leave the logic to others.

Well they need to live life as you see it, at least in bridge playing and what they need to do. However, it is not an easy task to teach others who, although having quite functional brains, just do not reason in the same way. It is probably too great a task to attempt to teach them yourself, but try and convince them to take lessons and they too will learn to love this fascinating game which you have taken up and expect to become quite good, before you are finished learning.

Good luck and keep your fierce determination going full speed ahead.

Jeff MillardJuly 1st, 2016 at 9:35 am

Hi Bobby,
It’s been, like, forever since I last wrote — and that was by snail mail. On your “Bid with the Aces” above, I would let my partner’s redouble stand unless I wanted to investigate the possibility of slam. In that case I (north) would bid 2 Clubs with this hand — Spades: A J 10 9 8 5, Hearts: Q 7, and Clubs: A K J 10 3, leaving east with a bonafide double hand of Spades: 4 3, Hearts: A 8 6 4, Diamonds: A K J 9, and Clubs: Q 4 2. Poor west has the following yarborough — Spades: 7 6 2, Hearts: 9 2, Diamonds: 10 8 6 5 3, Clubs 9 8 6. This deal makes 6 spades with any lead. What do you think? (oh, I’m not sure what you mean by “Mail” and “Website” below. I hope I got it right)

Bobby WolffJuly 2nd, 2016 at 6:08 pm

Hi Jeff,

You need to remedy, since life is too short, this extremely long time between posts.

Yes, I agree with your desire to investigate the possibility of slam as quickly as possible, with only one caveat to honor: Please jump to 3 clubs, not two, to differentiate between your example hand and s. A109875, h. Q7, diamonds: void and c. A10432 to which I would also respond, but with two clubs. In other words, the exact same distribution, but considerably less value.

Yes, the jump takes away from our side an extra round of bidding (two level), but is necessary for our bidding language to inform partner of the difference in value (BTW my examples are the extremes which sometimes requires deft judgment to be used when a middle ground appears).

It is good to hear directly from you again and hope that life is treating you well.

Jeff MillardJuly 3rd, 2016 at 7:45 am

Very well indeed — thanks, Bobby. And I will take you up on your offer to write more often. You have fun too!!!

SPSSJuly 4th, 2016 at 6:19 am

A and was out of red cards. He could not safely give a ruff-sluff in clubs, or else declarer could pitch a spade and eventually ruff out the spades for a heart discard. In fact, he took the