Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Even Homer nods.


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


At the Dyspeptics Club it might be grudgingly accepted by South and West that their partners might be technically superior players, but they would never gratify them by admitting that to their face.

However on today’s deal South struck a blow to establish his bona fides by a neat line of play, which gave the defense a chance to go wrong.

In theory West found the way to hold declarer to eight tricks in three notrump, and continuing with another high diamond. This appeared to limit declarer to three club tricks, unless East had the singleton or doubleton club king.

But South found a way to present the defenders with a losing option when he won the second diamond, and ran the club queen, then the nine. Next he crossed to the club ace as West discarded the spade nine, before exiting in diamonds.

Now West embarrassed his partner by cashing all the diamonds, reducing everyone to five cards. What was East to keep? He had come down to three cards in each major, and had to decide which suit to unguard. Seduced by his partner’s earlier high spade discard, he pitched a spade, and South scored the last five tricks with three spades and two hearts.

Was East’s play a mistake? Yes I think so, since West would surely have discarded a small heart from an original holding of three or four small cards or even from jack-third of hearts. His failure to pitch a heart suggested he was holding on to jack-fourth of hearts.

This may be only a seven-count, but the combination of the fifth trump and the side ace is just enough to raise to three clubs. This is partly because your hand falls, barely, into invitational territory, but also because it makes it far harder for the opponents to get their act together and compete in a red suit.


♠ 7 5
 6 5 4
 A 8 7
♣ Q J 9 8 7
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♠ Pass
1 NT 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


David WarheitSeptember 8th, 2016 at 11:48 am

After winning the 3d D, W should continue with the D4 and then the D5. This surely should mean that he has something in the lower of the 2 relevant suits (S & H).

Patrick CheuSeptember 8th, 2016 at 12:16 pm

Hi Bobby, Some partnerships play that when a discard of 9(+)=suit preference for that suit,West has a slight problem? regards~Patrick.

bobbywolffSeptember 8th, 2016 at 1:23 pm

Hi David,
Yes and yes. True, West should take the time and trouble to help (as much as he can) his partner's plight in deciding what suit to keep guarded. However, when at times, often when defending, a thoughtful defender (how West handled the ordering of his diamond cashing) could (should) have intelligently informed East of what to keep.
However, I guess it is possible that West could have built a safety net around his partner by not cashing his last good diamond and just gotten out with his queen of spades, knowing his partner had almost exactly what that line of play by declarer had indicated.
This hand, at least to both you and me (I'm taking your hoped for implied consent and liberty of invading your thoughts) can only have approximately the exact holding left, for a good declarer to have conceived this line of play.
At least, so it says here, but of course, becoming involved with "moving parts" which are often present with complicated hands, such as this, may have surprises, but when they do not, the defensive partner who has a chance to do so, will be forever appreciated by his partner, with nothing short of undying love, although to be so enraptured to do so, at this hand's death, might be considered bad sportsmanship (but not by me).
Why? Simply because the beauty of such an ending is what our game is all about and would represent bridge at its finest, both from declarer's huge effort, but still failing due to the extreme thoughtfulness of one of the defenders who decided not to leave it up to chance that his partner duly noticed his playing the four before what turned out to be the unnecessary five.
Finally, can anyone still doubt the overwhelming beauty of what our game often represents?
I do know that declarer can hold the AK10 of spades and try and endplay East, but if so he should be up to jettisoning his high heart(s), on the theory that declarer would have taken the heart finesse if he had AKJ.

bobbywolffSeptember 8th, 2016 at 1:36 pm

Hi Patrick,

No doubt, that sorrowfully not enough players in the year 2016 would understand the necessity of sometimes not being able to have in hand the right card to “signal” partner. However this hand expects more than that from this defense, and may serve as a “stepping stone” for that defensive partnership to keep close attention to both the bidding, but even more, the way this declarer has gone about playing the hand.

Perhaps in the year 2116 when bridge will have been in worldwide schools for well over a century, our beloved game will have progressed to such a state that the defense, only by the way a declarer has gone about playing it, will supersede what the defense has to signal.

“Well, I can dream, can’t I”? The nightmare will be when and if the Western Hemisphere is left out of the bridge in schools thing.