Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

What makes a problem a problem is not that a large amount of search is required for its solution, but that a large amount would be required if a requisite level of intelligence were not applied.

Allen Newell

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



Last year we lost one of the nicest players in international bridge, Steen Moller of Denmark. At the 2012 Mind Sports Games in Lille, Steen gave the Daily Bulletin this defensive problem.

When you as West lead a top club against four spades, your partner plays the nine, using upside down signals. He either has the singleton nine, queen-nine doubleton, or three (or more) small cards. What now?

If you decide to try your luck with a red suit, and you guess well, you rate to beat the contract at once. If you guess wrong, though, declarer will surely discard at least one of dummy’s club losers. So should you cash your second club? No: that requires partner to produce two tricks, not one.

The bulletin decided that a spade shift might be best in theory and it certainly works in practice. Finding partner with the spade ace is as likely as any other ace. But if it is wrong, (if, for example, you switch the spade and heart aces) you may well get a second chance, since declarer would not be able to take the discards he needs. And that applies even if declarer also had the diamond jack.

A day later, the bulletin published a mea culpa. Steen had neglected to tell the bulletin that the winning play (not found in either room of his senior match) had been found by his current partner’s wife in the Women’s series! As they remarked, that would be the last time he got invited round to Dorthe Schaltz for dinner!

In competitive auctions, jumps to the five-level tend to be focused on one of two things: the need for either a control in the danger suit, or good trumps. Here there is no space, and my guess without detailed discussion would be that my partner might first cuebid four spades then bid five hearts with a spade control. So I’ll pass, despite my good trump.


♠ 6 2
 A K J 2
 A Q 5 2
♣ Q 10 3
South West North East
1 NT 3 ♠ 5 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 27th, 2016 at 3:37 pm

In the 2011 Mud Teams, my North team mate in the other room bid 6S and East reasoned that South was more likely to have a good club suit than heart suit, and so led the 9H.

At our table, North bid a simple 4S and my partner East decided to cash the AS “to get a look at dummy.”

Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2016 at 4:03 pm

Hi Jim2,

A few years back when I was just turning old and you were still a young buck, there used to be an often used and likely well calibrated bridge expression, “A peek is worth two finesses”.

However, while your partner was not one who peeked, he defended the ethical way, by laying down the spade ace (not that I recommend such an opening lead) in order to be able to switch to a club, therein defeating 4 spades.

At the same time 6 spades was bid and scored up by someone whose defender, being headstrong (again too often, sometimes me), just guessed what to do but failed, when he chose to lead a heart.

Avoiding those sorts of disasters make huge differences in results, but someone tell me how to avoid them, and I’ll recognize you as a great bridge genius.

Those now caught multiple bridge cheaters, and so many more who got away with it for so long, thought they had found what all of us are looking for, but now, make no mistake, they will live the rest of their life abound with clear and utter disgrace, and no one ever, should have one ounce of compassion, for any one of them.