Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Never apologize, mister, it’s a sign of weakness.

John Wayne

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


Someone once made the point to me that it isn’t the disasters one experiences at the table that lead to the partnership breakups, it is the post mortems. In a team game today’s deal produced an example of precisely how not to gain friends and influence people.

In one room, against four spades, West led the heart queen. When there is a singleton in dummy, many use third hand’s card as suit preference, rather than length-showing or attitude, though this is very much a matter for partnership agreement. When East contributed the nine under the queen, West continued with a low diamond. East rose with the ace and played back the two. Declarer played low, the king won, and it was all over for the defense.

In the other room East thought more deeply and realized that the first diamond lead must come from the East hand. So East overtook his partner’s heart queen at trick one and returned the diamond jack – surrounding North’s 10. It should not have mattered what South did; he was well on his way to losing three diamond tricks. However when East returned the jack, South covered with the queen without a care in the world. West put on the king, and then… switched to a club.

When they scored up the deal as a flat board, East, who had shown remarkable self-control till that point, asked his partner why he had shifted, and received the even more painful response that he didn’t think his partner was aware of the existence of that play.

You may not be able to justify this on high cards alone, but I would certainly feel very sympathetic to a jump to three spades rather than a simple call of two spades. Since you plan to compete to three spades if necessary, and you have a great hand on offence compared to defense, why not use up that extra round of bidding at once?


♠ K 10 8 7
 10 6 5
♣ A K Q 10 8
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 ♠ Dbl.

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


Iain ClimieOctober 11th, 2016 at 9:21 am

Hi Bobby,

Ouch but west’s comment was even more dumb than it looks. Unless East improbably has SAQ, where are the tricks coming from to best it and what has east got for his opening bid? Did the partnership survive, I wonder?



BobliptonOctober 11th, 2016 at 10:14 am

Ace of Spades, Iain. If I were unaware of surrounding plays, as west I, might conclude that the only hope for a set would be a club void…. until I decided that a singleton or even doubleton diamond was more likely, and return the suit willy-nilly. West seems to have imagined east as having

Ax AKxxxx Jxxxx –

and then stopped thinking, because the singleton or doubleton diamond — with South misguessing — is more likely, given that east could simply have played the 6 under West’s HQ. West’s error, and East’s simmering anger, lay not in positing a hand that might result in the partnership’s goal — a set — but in ceasing to think.


Iain ClimieOctober 11th, 2016 at 10:46 am

Hi Bob,

Good thoughts although I’m not selling out to 4S with the hand you quote so even then west has probably failed to trust east. Also why the DJ back from that? Very odd and south is unlikely to be 5-5 in S and D given how many play Michaels. I think we can agree that west is buying the beer on this one.


jim2October 11th, 2016 at 12:02 pm

On BWTA, 3S seems mostly a transfer bid to 4H.

So, when East bids 4H and it gets passed back around to South, what is the recommended bid?

Iain ClimieOctober 11th, 2016 at 1:55 pm

Hi Jim2,

Doesn’t it depend on partner’s clubs? If short we should defend, if we have a double black suit fit we should bid 4S. Unless he’s of the I couldn’t bid, I only had a 6 count brigade, I think he wants to defend – perhaps 2C, 1S and a trump promotion e.g. He might have AJxxx J10x xxx xx or similar. With (say) CJxxx in there and a similar hand(probably one diamond) he should push on.


bobbywolffOctober 11th, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Hi Iain & Bob,

Feeling philosophical, it should be said, life is learning to crawl before one walks, being a passenger before one learns to drive, experiencing love (or at least what one may think) before attempting marriage, an employee before becoming an employer, etc.

In bridge, after attempting to play seriously for a while, this surrounding play, if much becomes expected, needs to come as second nature, so that, while being East (or indeed West) on this hand, East should effortlessly be able to overtake partner’s heart lead with his king and lead the jack of diamonds back immediately. Furthermore West should (from the cards he sees and the bidding he has heard) be a very large percentage sure the layout includes the AJ9 of diamonds in gold ole partner’s hand, but if not the nine, then the eight, and although the patient (bridge set) will then die, the right effort was expended to achieve defensive success, Q.E.D.

Vividly I remember 1955 (61 years ago) at Bridge Week in LA, California at the Ambassador hotel I was gifted an event with Eddie Kantar, (he was always a great guy with a very strong natural bent for the game), almost my exact age, but much advanced in quality when he switched to the queen of diamonds with the Kxx in dummy and me sitting with only 4 small. Declarer rose with the king and then knocked out my ace of trump. For nothing better to do I returned a diamond and found Eddie with the original AQ10 (and declarer originally three, Jxx) who had found the winning diamond shift effortlessly and with no fanfare, but to me it was a revelation, never seen before by my eyes.

I still remember the wondrous feeling which enveloped me, and from that moment on, playing bridge offered the special thrill which, believe it or not, it still does.

Whether one calls it “live and learn”, or “learn and live” is no never mind, thank you Eddie, but to him it was only a “day at the office”.

bobbywolffOctober 11th, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Hi Jim2,

Aha, a discussing experience which centers itself with what needs to be iron bridge discipline.

Once overbidding to three spades (instead of a conservative two) one has passed the captain’s mantle to partner, and he, South, must now allow partner, North, to make all future decisions on this hand. If, as you fear, (likely your TOCM TM kicking in) LHO now bidding 4 hearts, whatever partner decides, you must respect and therefore not overrule.

Remember he will, after West’s intervention, suspect that you have good spades and likely long strong clubs to justify your spade jump and he, depending on his short or long clubs and of course the length and strength of his spades is in much better position to now decide what to do than you, who have already now announced your strong offensive potential with spades as trump.

The above is an inviolable principle in high-level bridge, of course, never to be violated, unless of course you were setting up the opponents, holding a 5-1-0-7 hand and hoping to get doubled or some other weird holding. But please, without that almost never occurrence, please snap to and join the ranks (if you haven’t already and, no doubt, that certainly includes you) someone who respects 100% bidding routines.

Without that necessary discipline a bridge partnership, no matter how talented those players are, have a much lower achievable ceiling than they could possibly imagine.

One notice of disclaimer should always be included (like the prescription medicine commercials presently on TV) is if partner is a real beginner or otherwise just not with it, then anything goes, but if that is the case, I shouldn’t ever offer an opinion.

Good luck!

Aren’t you glad you asked?

jim2October 11th, 2016 at 4:39 pm

TY Dear Host, and I quite agree, which is why I might well simply bid 4S now, esp white on red …


bobbywolffOctober 11th, 2016 at 5:32 pm

Hi Jim2,

OK, you clever rascal. Sure an overbid, but well disciplined and best of all, an argument winner.

What you lose being infected with TOCM, you make up for with stealth.

PeterOctober 11th, 2016 at 11:23 pm

hi folks

I think the issue of captaincy recognition is one of the more difficult for a team to resolve.

I had situations in which partner opened 3C and I, having AQx of C and certain two winners in the other suits, bid 3NT, as I could see 7 sure tricks in Clubs and 2, possibly 3 tricks outside of Clubs.

Lo and behold, partner bid 4C, making, but we lost the hand.

When I said that I was captain, he replied that he had 8 clubs, and had not opened 4C, as he should have.

bobbywolffOctober 12th, 2016 at 2:48 am

Hi Peter,

Yes, when one person seems to have all the answers he probably does, but likely all wrong.

Inform him, that you were going to compliment him for opening only 3 clubs, instead of 4, paving the way to bid and make 3NT, but for some reason, changed your mind.

Likely, but not surely, he will get the point.