Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, August 22nd, 2016

The universe is so vast and so ageless that the life of one man can only be justified by the measure of his sacrifice.

Vivian Rosewarne

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


Against four spades West leads out the diamond king and ace. You ruff, then cash the ace and king of trumps. However, East discards a diamond on the second round of trump. How will you play from this point?

In abstract, the best way to go after clubs is to finesse twice, which will yield an extra trick from the A-J-10 so long as East holds at least one of the missing honors. However, if you score the three heart honors separately you will have only one entry to dummy to take two club finesses, which may not suffice for your purposes. Curiously, though, if you make three tricks in clubs, you only need two in hearts. The way to maximize your chances is to sacrifice one trick in hearts to gain a second entry to dummy. There is one more point: since you don’t want West to ruff the second round of clubs, you should concede a trump to West’s queen at trick five.

Obviously, West will exit with a third round of diamonds. You ruff this in hand, play the heart king to the ace and lead a low club to the 10. West will win and play yet another diamond. After ruffing this, you will cross again to dummy, this time with the heart queen. You will lead the club jack next, running it if East follows with a low card.

This plan will always give you three club tricks whenever East has a club honor. No other approach offers the same overall chance of success.

Dummy rates to be very strong with five plus hearts, while declarer will have six diamonds and a very weak hand. You seem to be better off leading clubs through dummy rather than spades. Even though you might be able to arrange a spade ruff for your partner, you might be giving up a natural spade trick in the process. So I would lead a low club.


♠ Q 10 6 4 3
 10 4
 A 8 3
♣ J 8 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Pass
1 ♠ Dbl. Pass 2
Pass 2 Pass 3
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


jim2September 5th, 2016 at 11:38 am

On BWTA, how can West be “very strong” when that hand passed as dealer?

GinnySeptember 5th, 2016 at 12:01 pm

Hi Bobby,

How do we play clubs for the best chance if we swap East’s 3 of clubs with South’s 10 or 9 (two different questions)? Can we cater to a potential 4-1 E-W club split still?

After taking the spade queen, can West see the potential issue coming in clubs? Is playing a heart (rather than the 3rd diamond) a better chance to generate a 4th trick for the defense?

Jane ASeptember 5th, 2016 at 12:37 pm

I had the same thought as Jim. I imagined west to hold the red suits but not enough to open. Shape can certainly make a hand stronger but I thought when west bid hearts he was just allowing east to escape to hearts if he held three. Right side the contract and play the partial in a major? As south, I might also bid two spades over east’s two diamond call to show partner I have five, but I suspect our host won’t agree with that! Holding the diamond ace helps but maybe not enough. North may be passing to see what happens.

Bobby WolffSeptember 5th, 2016 at 2:15 pm

Hi Jim2,

No doubt the choice of word “very” was not a preferred one, however sometimes, although not necessarily meant this time, as you would agree, alll bidding adjectives, especially about bidding, are always in relation to his previous bids.

Here, obviously the fact that after passing and then choosing a takeout double, followed by taking out his partner’s suit, might show a void in clubs to make up for his previous pass but now show a maximum type hand, e.g. possibly either a 4-5-4-0 or maybe, even more likely, a 4-6-3-0 allowing his partner since holding a singleton heart to retreat to a longer combined diamond fit.

Possibly all confusing, and should have been mentioned in the description, but to me it might still suggest a club lead in order to make the overall play more complicated for the declarer.

Besides I need some “wiggle” room for the above description.

Iain ClimieSeptember 5th, 2016 at 2:15 pm

Hi Folks,

I reckon the gremlins have struck with that initial pass from West but would the lead be the same in both cases? Could TOCM have a related disease in the publishing world, though?



Bobby WolffSeptember 5th, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Hi Ginny,

Of course, the difference between East having the ten or the nine of clubs to go with his honor makes a big difference. Ir East has the H-9-x then the jack of clubs from dummy followed by a good guess when leading the second club (especially if East covers the jack) will get the job done (losing only one club trick).

If East has the 10 to go with his honor, then a whole new line of play should be described, but nothing like the simpler one on this hand. Also, in that case our chances would be far less likely to be successful.

Bobby WolffSeptember 5th, 2016 at 2:35 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt, the leading group discussions always present at Gremlin conventions would mention how wonderful it is for them to practice their trade with bridge columns.

However, for them to be as successful, they do need cooperation from either the publisher or the columnist (and his organization) for setting him up to ply his expertise.

To make matters worse perhaps I should claim that TOCM should be TOWI (theory of writing idiocy, instead of theory of card migration) in order to be more accurate.

To be sure, writing about bridge takes attention to details to a special extreme, with failure lurking with every syllable. The philosophy of which, while actually playing, represents the more difficult part of simply losing rather than the different crime of instead sometimes seriously confusing the reader.

jim2September 5th, 2016 at 3:06 pm

I simply do not understand the BWTA this time.

First, let’s look at HCPs. If I assume this deck has 40 HCPs in it, where are they? South has 7, West could not open, North opens 1C and then passes three times, and East could not come in over North’s non-preemptive 1C yet bids and rebids diamonds. Frankly, the bidding makes no sense in HCP terms.

Second, let’s look at the bidding. North could not raise spades and could not find a rebid in three subsequent rounds of bidding. West could not open, did not overcall, doubled suggesting cards in all non-spade suits, and then did not pass or raise East’s diamond bid, and instead bid hearts. So, does West have a heart-club 2-suiter? That also makes no sense given the rest of the bidding and the South hand.

Third, let’s look at shapes and suits. If West is 4-6-3-0, with 33 HCPs in the non-South hands and the tepid bidding by North and East, how in the blazes could West not have an opening bid with a void to go along with whatever HCPs are in that hand?

Starting with spades, add to the West shape South’s 5-2-3-3, and one can see that both North and East either have spade shortness (doubletons) or shorter to go with their HCPs, but bid almost nothing.

Moving to hearts, if West is 4-6-3-0 and South is 5-2-3-3, either North or East is short in hearts. If North, then how could North not have a rebid and East a heart raise? If East is short, how could East not have a 1D overcall?

Moving to diamonds, there are 7 diamonds missing if West is 4-6-3-0. If East has 6 of them, how could North not have a rebid with a singleton diamond?

Looking now at clubs, if West is 4-6-3-0 and South is 5-2-3-3, there are 10 clubs missing! How can North not have either a spade raise or a club rebid? If North is 1-4-4-4, then East must be 3-1-3-6 and could hardly bid and rebid diamonds with three! Make North 2-4-3-4 and East still is only 2-1-4-6, hardly consistent with the bidding, especially since North could not bid 1N over the double, nor redouble. With either of those hands, why would East not bid 3C over 2D if forced to bid SOMEthing?

Bobby WolffSeptember 5th, 2016 at 3:54 pm

Hi Jim2,

What if the hands around the table are:
North: s. KJ, h. AQxx, d. xxx, c. Axxx, East: s.xx
h. x, d. QJ109xx, c. KQxx, South. s. Q10xxx, h. 10x, d. Axx, c. Jxx, leaving West with s. Axxx, h. KJ98xx, d. K, c. xx.

West didn’t open 2 hearts since he had a good hand for spades, North opened a normal 1 club, East didn’t overcall nor preempt diamonds because of possible anti lead direction and possibly wrong vulnerability, South bids normally, but now West wanted to show a maximum pass instead of just overcalling 2 hearts, why,? I don’t know but others might.

Through the years, and even at fairly high levels of play, every table could use a psychiatrist, not to help the players, but rather to attempt to understand other so-called efficient players who are merely playing a game they likely do not have enough talent for, but rather prefer to blaze their own names loud and clear.

Please forgive, but understand what just may be out there haunting even bridge, as we speak, at World Championships right now in Poland.

And to think positively, some of these players are likely having more fun than the others who are actually busting their guts to, of all things, trying to win the tournament.

And finally do you realize that those aforementioned world players do not really care what we think of their bridge games?

jim2September 5th, 2016 at 4:10 pm

I suppose anything is possible, and you are a World Champion expert and I am not.

Nonetheless, with your new construction, East has a near-classic diamond overcall, West a more-than-near classic 2H overcall, and North a near-perfect 1N rebid (presumably did not like his/her club spots).

(BTW, since East has the 10C, 3D will be cold with a club lead, while almost any other lead beats it.)

Bobby WolffSeptember 5th, 2016 at 4:18 pm

Hi Jane A,

Sorry for saving your down the middle post for last, but you gave a realistic description of what sane bridge players may have for their bids.

I do not think you have quite enough to venture a 2 spade rebid and only echoes what I think that if partner had 3 spades for you he should have supported you immediately even with a minimum opener, unless possibly with both that minimum and a 3-3-3-4 distribution.

Bobby WolffSeptember 5th, 2016 at 4:26 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes, what you say is all true, or if not, almost.

But sometimes when the cultures collide in worldwide bridge, different strokes for different folks. The same thing happens at bridge clubs in this country in the local clubs, but it is difficult, beyond belief, to put your thinking cap on and even begin to judge what another less well known player is thinking.

Assuming what we are talking about is worthwhile, then it follows that bridge being the sensational and challenging game that it is, wouldn’t it be magnificent, beyond belief to eventually wind up where most of Europe and all of China will, teaching the extreme logic which the top level of our game provides to young developing players who, with whatever field they eventually choose to pursue, that everyday eternal logic will always be part of them?

Iain ClimieSeptember 5th, 2016 at 8:39 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for the reminder about the World Championships in Poland – well worth a look, especially the strong pair who (an early bulletin noted) played in 7D in a 2-2 fit. There’s hope for us all!