Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

It’s always about timing. If it’s too soon, no one understands. If it’s too late, everyone’s forgotten.

Anna Wintour

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


This deal occurred in the 2015 Spingold tournament, but I have modified the spot-cards to make the point more elegantly.

West kicks off with the spade six against five clubs, so you have avoided the killing heart lead. You win the spade in hand, and start out on clubs. Both opponents follow to the first trump, but West pitches an encouraging heart on the second trump. Plan the play.

Without drawing any more trump, you must cash two more spades (surely East is not ruffing in yet). As it happens, West began with the doubleton 6-4, so you can take your heart discard on the spades without drawing the last trump. You now get to play diamonds to best advantage by leading twice, rather than once, from dummy.

West is surely 2=8=2=1 or 2=7=3=1. If the latter, considering that East probably has the heart king, West is a heavy favorite to have the diamond ace (rather than the diamond Q-J-x, or he might well have led that suit).

If West does have the diamond ace, your choices in diamonds are initially to lead low to the seven, or low to the 10. In other words, East’s critical holdings are Q-J-x, Q-9-x and J-9-x. Since there are twice as many holdings with one honor as two, you must lead a diamond to the seven. If it loses to an honor, West will surely try to cash the heart ace. Ruff, cross to the club queen and lead a diamond to the 10. When that forces the ace, you can claim the rest.

The days of 16-18 notrumps are no longer with us. You are too good for a 15-17 no-trump, despite your awkward bunching of honors; does that mean you should open one diamond? I guess so…but I truly have a hankering to open one club here. After all if we have a spade fit I’d like to find short diamonds, opposite not long diamonds, and I want partner to appreciate club length if he is in doubt.


♠ A K J 3
 J 7
 8 6 5 4
♣ A K Q
South West North East

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


Keith FlemingAugust 17th, 2016 at 1:43 pm

Great description and analysis Bobby Wolf. Thanks, as always, for an excellent column.

Jane AAugust 17th, 2016 at 2:07 pm

Thanks goes to Bobby, as always, and as he already pointed out, five clubs should not make, but four hearts can’t be made either. Why not pass four hearts doubled and take the plus. Taking four tricks is a lot easier than taking eleven since south can’t bid four spades. Looks like west loses a club, two spades and a diamond. Guess it depends on how you and partner play regarding a double of an opening four heart bid. North should double but does south have to bid with his hand. With the opponents being vul, maybe you can get them two for a big plus. Hope springs eternal.

Timing is everything, but the opening lead can make or break a contract for sure. This time declarer should be ever so grateful.

bobbywolffAugust 17th, 2016 at 2:56 pm

Hi Keith,

Thanks Keith for the very kind words.

However, here’s hoping you are not just taking a look, and are planning on returning. You will undoubtedly enjoy (not to mention mixing it up with), our ever present resident
reveling revels, if only for their bridge individualism.

In any event, good bridge luck to you.

jim2August 17th, 2016 at 3:31 pm

I had this hand at the Lower Slobbovian Mud Cup in 2014. I had no idea that that was where the Spingold got their hands!

Anyway, I was playing with Alphonse Moyse, IV and could not resist bidding 4S.

West underled in hearts (slower bidding let East get in a raise) to get a diamond shift. East won the KH and fired a diamond through my gizzard.

Making four.

At another table they tapped declarer at Trick 2, who then crossed with a club to lead a diamond, covered, covered, and won by West. Loath to yield a ruff-sluff (expecting declarer to have begun with four spades), West got out with a trump. Making four.

At still another table, North ended up at 4S. East played the KH to look at dummy, and shifted to diamonds. Making four.

A club opening lead is tough, but probably hard to find with a trump doubleton.

Jane AAugust 17th, 2016 at 3:50 pm

Good bid, Jim. I like it. Maybe all of us should be so brave! I admit it is temping but hard to ignore a six card suit. Who wants to play five of a minor anyway!

bobbywolffAugust 17th, 2016 at 4:01 pm

Hi Jane A,

No one can significantly doubt your judgment, but only instead discuss some details.

1, When your subject appears on the table, fairly often and maybe averaging one hand of this type for every afternoon neighborhood duplicate (one out of 26), makes it a critical area to guess correctly, if one expects to do consistently well.

2. The above example could be well chosen, since both the declarer play and defense make the results of both 4 hearts EW and 5 clubs NS very close propositions, resulting in either 4 hearts doubled making or down 1 and 5 clubs, though undoubled, the same.

3. Of course, just to say every bridge hand is different, with so much variance in result, including once the double is taken out, instead of left in, the bidding is not yet necessarily over, would be still understating the action, but all of the experienced players present, interested, and on the site, are aware of that.

4. To get specific (which only is meant to mean, the same 26 cards held by each direction EW and NS) with attention to at least fairly normal action by the positive bidders, West (4 heart opening vulnerable), North (doubler, not vulnerable), and, of course the decision maker, South.

5. To me the factors are briefly the following, keeping in mind the play favors the declarer (after the opening lead, sees all of his assets, against only half of his and half of the opponents, with a blind opening lead, not always the slam dunk of an AKQ, although and of course, not, even then, always the perfect choice for the best result).

5. The declarer has another built in advantage in that he chose his action in believe of having reasonable chances of success, but a doubler is more of a varied entry into the bidding with many random holdings only based on his knowledge and experience of his choice of (in this case double) as a restricted hope, rather than anything close to a certainty for success, with still many unknown surprises likely to be in the mix.

6. Having related all of that poppycock above, lets cut to the chase of what is primarily involved in the decision. It becomes a question of numbers and both results possible (4 hearts doubled EW Vul and 5 clubs undoubled NS NVul to determine). Depending on the six card diamond holding EW, at least on this hand will trumpet what should have been done. If EW can manage no losses (AQJ with West and two entries to East) they will score up their ten tricks, while 5 clubs may or may not go down, based on a subjective choice of that blind lead by either defender to which we earlier referred.

Those numbers favor taking out the double, although we all know that one swallow does not a summer make.

However, despite that and, at least to me, although believe it or not, I am more conservative at the table than most would believe, only meaning that rather than take out to an eleven trick contract in a minor suit, I, may be inclined to stick it out, echoing your judgment, rather than fly to others which I know not of.

However the immediate above should indicate that because of the larger amounts favoring being the declarer, favor the five club bid, not the more comfortable (at the time of decision), relatively timid, pass.

Aren’t you glad this discussion is over and thanks for seeing it through?

bobbywolffAugust 17th, 2016 at 4:14 pm

Hi Jim2,

While I was working hard, trying to narrow down the significant decision of passing the double or taking it out to the anti Sonny Moyse position of nine trumps rather than seven, you were busy trivializing how easy that seven card major suit game really is.

It, of course, both angers and embarrasses me that no doubt my prize winning breakdown of how to scientifically decide what to do in these situations which will make many of our posters major bridge winning tournament players, fades into almost nothing compared to your simple explanation (with proof to back it up) as to what to do.

Fie on you for doing so, but in retrospect, please keep those stories coming. They will be much more practical than what I have to offer.

jim2August 17th, 2016 at 5:39 pm

Dear World Champion Host!

I blame my partner! I had no choice!

bobbywolffAugust 17th, 2016 at 6:50 pm

Hi Jim2,

Now I understand. Since Alphonse Moyse IV was your partner, it became illegal not to play the 4-3 major suit fit in preference to just a mundane 3NT or longer combined trump suit.

And if the doubler only had 3 of the unbid major the responder would have 4 but, of course, also versa vice.

Right on and I, no doubt, do not need to wish you good bridge luck, since you two obviously do not leave things to chance.

BTW, do you happen to have Boye’s email since I feel compelled to let him in on your (and your partners) shall we say, system.

However the good news for you is that the Lower Slobbovian Regional and especially the competition for the Mud Cup features both legal cheating and free dates with Lena in order for her to personally exhibit her charms.

jim2August 17th, 2016 at 7:54 pm

Last I heard from him was that he was off to meet a “renowned local beauty.” Could that have been her?!

bobbywolffAugust 17th, 2016 at 8:06 pm

Hi Jim2,

Certainly could have been, since her sexy photos have been published for many years and, of course, rival the bikini clad beauties of today.

Reminds me of the late and great Nat King Cole, along with his beautiful and late star crossed daughter’s renditions of “Unforgetable”

Iain ClimieAugust 17th, 2016 at 9:48 pm

Hi Bobby, Jim2,

Is this the same Lena for whom a Lower Slobbovian newspaper offered 1st prize – a date with the Lovely Lena, 2nd prize more than one such date, assuming you remembered to smile at her only via the polished surface of your shield on the first date?

To be fair and balanced, my wife probably feels something similar about me, especially given my ability to snore, hog the duvet on cold nights and mutter loudly in my sleep. I am very indebted to her tolerance over the last 28 years!


bobbywolffAugust 17th, 2016 at 11:12 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, the very same Lena to which I believe Al Capp reached out and put her home country, Lower Slobbovia on the fictional map.

Just in case you youngsters reading (under 50 crowd) haven’t heard of her before I’ll give you her other two names, middle name, the, and last name Hyena and before you go to bed tonight try and get her picture to take with you. You’ll never regret it, that is unless you have had trouble distinguishing pretty
from not so.

And Iain, the fact that your wonderful and beautiful wife has stuck with you for so long must prove at least something very positive which you obviously, but unknowingly, possess.

slarAugust 18th, 2016 at 11:00 pm

BWTA is interesting today as well. Once you think of the continuations, 1C stands out. After 1S you have an easy jump to 4S and partner knows where you live in case he plans on getting frisky. After 1D or 1H you can safely bid 1S which is semi-forcing. (If partner passes 1S then you don’t want to be in 2NT anyway.) After 1NT and 2C, a jump to 3NT looks right.

This all gets murkier if you open 1D. The continuations are roughly the same but you don’t want to hear any kind of raise of diamonds. You could end up in 5D off three top tricks. Heaven help you if you don’t have an alternative to 4NT for Blackwood.

bobbywolffAugust 19th, 2016 at 1:01 am

Hi Slar,

As a bridge theorist, yes it becomes a worry as to the percentage opening bid, 1 club or 1 diamond, however in order to decide that question, much experience does help.

If the 4th diamond was a club, this hand would be some better since that fourth club instead of diamond might easily be a full trick.

As a defender one club is superior, obviously because of the lead advantage. As a bidder and after then rebidding spades, partner should expect at least 4 clubs and misjudge what to do at a high level (possible slam).

Even with all those thoughts all one can do is make a choice. Of course one diamond works better as a lead inhibitor should our hand become declarer at NT (a distinct possibility).

Believe it or not, a long think will not help anyone make a choice, just do it and then try to finally arrive at the best contract.

I also do not necessarily agree that this hand should bid 4 spades over a 1 spade response. I would gamble 4 if I started with 4 clubs instead of not, but with the actual hand I would round it down to 3, because of the balanced nature (and, of course, with one less club).

All in a day’s work, but not worth being concerned with. My guess is that a computer simulation would substantiate my judgment, but that remains to be seen.

Bridge and its bidding and play never ceases to please me, but in order to get that feeling one has to experience both success and failure and understand how those two adversaries can remain so close to each other in either of them occurring.

And finally my guess is that when one opens either 1 diamond or 1 club that there would be no better than at most a 3 or 4% chance that the final contract will be 5 of that suit.

And if you understand everything that I’ve said, please repeat it back to me and I’ll listen.