Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.

Dag Hammarskjold

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


At the Dyspeptics Club East has often disparagingly referred to his task on defense as being like Hercules fighting Cerberus, the three-headed dog. Except in this case he considers the third opposing head to be that of his partner.

After East-West had competed accurately to five hearts, then let North play five spades, one can hardly blame West for leading a top heart rather than a club. East thoughtfully overtook with his ace and shifted to a club to South’s jack and West’s king.

South had little option but to win the ace, draw the trump, then ruff his heart in hand and exit with a club. As it turned out, West could have won the club nine, but he saw no reason to waste such a valuable commodity, and so East was forced to take the trick.

When he exited with a diamond, declarer played low. Now West went from penny-wise to pound-foolish, wasting his jack and letting declarer bring in the diamonds for no loser. Contract made.

No stranger to the world of hostile post-mortems, South expansively informed the world how lucky he had been. Perhaps he was hoping to get a rise out of East – but that player remained curiously silent. Can you see why?

While West’s defense was clearly inferior, if East had counted out the hand he would have given declarer a ruff-sluff after winning the second club, and taken his partner off the hook. Declarer can ruff the third club in either hand, but he will still be left with a diamond loser whatever he does.

An easy one? If playing two over one, you may not have high-card extras, but what you have is suitable for slam. Cuebid your club ace with a call of four clubs, and hope partner can take control. This doesn’t promise real extras, it just suggests a hand prepared to cooperate for slam. If partner was merely inviting game, bid it.


♠ A K 10 8 7 5
 10 6
 Q 9 7
♣ A 6
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 2 Pass
2 ♠ Pass 3 ♠ 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


Iain ClimieOctober 18th, 2016 at 11:59 am

Hi Bobby,

East messed up (after west’s earlier mistake) but could you guarantee that West wouldn’t have exited with the DJ “to clarify things”? South’s results are better than deserved with west at the table but spare a thought for North – he must feel like Sisyphus without even getting the exercise.



jim2October 18th, 2016 at 12:15 pm

On BWTA, I agree with 4C and the stated reasoning, but I’d like to add something.

Assuming 2/1, N-S are in a game-forcing auction due to North’s initial response. South’s rebid suggested a six-card suit and no clear extras — basically it was a limit bid. The key bid is North’s below-game raise, instead of a simple 4S bid. North is saying slam is still possible with some South minimums.

Thus, the 3S bid essentially invited South to make a below-game slam invitation, generally to show an ace (or some other strength concentration or control, depending on partnership agreements) or perhaps some secondary heart fit.

bobbywolffOctober 18th, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Hi Iain,

While the hand was of course, a fictitious product of the Dyspeptic Club, the old standby, counting, (in this case defensive) will tell both defenders at the critical juncture, trick 5, when declarer led his losing club for EW to ponder and then act.

Both knew or should have that Declarer had exactly 4 diamonds but if not 3 diamonds and another club. In either case it is nothing short of bridge suicide for diamonds to even thought to be led. Obviously if South had the AK of diamonds, why was he not claiming?

But even if he was taunting by not, that is not how one should think while at the table. All the defense needs to do is lead another club and then wait for the setting trick. East had done his part by overtaking partner’s king of hearts lead and lead a club (without which declarer would have set up the 4th diamond in his hand for the crucial club discard).

At least to me, for any partnership that now breaks the diamond suit, eventually that pair may become bridge world beaters, but as of now they are only novices.

Yes harsh, but for me to not say so, may be good manners, but IMO a HORRIBLE bridge teacher.

No doubt your tongue-in-cheek comment about West, after winning his 9 of clubs now triumphantly leading the jack of diamonds is as bad as it gets, but sadly will be happening at many tables (perhaps most) wherever this hand or its almost duplication will be played in the future.

Count, count and count again. And if there is a little time left before having to play, count still again. Without which, as an illustration, a baseball players batting average goes from perhaps an acceptable .270 (depending on his position and expectations) down to nothing more than .000!!!

As you will no doubt agree, it is never too late for all others to learn and start smelling the roses.

bobbywolffOctober 18th, 2016 at 2:06 pm

Hi Jim2,

Right you are and for legitimate reasons. However, South could instead hold:

s. AK10xx
h. x
d. QJxx
c. QJx

and now rebid 3NT which would be timely if partner held and then passed:

s. QJx
h. AKQJx
d. 10x
c. 10xx

No doubt, those afflicted with TOCM TM would not be playing 2 over 1 and then of course, need to jump to 4 spades, down two, with both two diamonds to lose and three clubs via a 5-2 split.

However, only raising to 3 spades, may allow for the alternate contract of 3NT, but more often than not, as you say, a likely spade slam try. However, with my above example would over a 4 club cue bid, only return to an in tempo 4 spade which, of course should then be passed.

Patrick CheuOctober 18th, 2016 at 8:55 pm

Hi Bobby,At pairs playing Acol,Dealer E,NS vul,East opens 1D,South 7 AKQJ8 A84 A752 doubles West 1N North 2S E pass and I bid 4H on the basis that pard bids 2S voluntarily..-1(could be worst).North QJ9862 97 J7 T98,East AKT5 T53 KQ952 3,West 43 642 T63 KQJ64.Pard suggested that I should overcall 1H rather than X and he seems to think that 2S is justifiable over my X…your opinion would be most welcome. regards~Patrick.

BobliptonOctober 18th, 2016 at 10:51 pm

Patrick, I think you both overbid. I agree with with your initial double; your hand is too strong to overcall 1H with this hand. However, I don’t think that your partner has enough to bid 2 Spades, which promises more and harder values. Because you might be about to make a strong call, such as a long club suit or an ambiguous 2D (typically showing a hand strong enough to make a raise, but with only 3 Spades), 1 Spade is sufficient. If the opponents raise the level, he can show his long spades later.

Finally, although his 2 Spades call sounds encouraging,, your hand has not noticeably improved. Your second call should be to bid hearts as cheaply as possible, permitting partner to make the decision. A double folloed by a jump in hearts should show a hand interested in slam. Given your hand, you expect that partner might hold five cover cards. I won’t say it’s impossible, but it’s not likely, given that at least some of those values are going to be in spades. Give partner a hand such as KQJxx x Qxx Qxxx, which is toppy for his call, given east’s opening and your hand. You should always have 2NT in mind when playing pairs.

I think it was Eric Kokish who remarked that even at IMPs there are a lot of drawn hands — both pairs down 300 as they go skying after imagining perfect hands for partner. Even putting aside the question of whether your partner’s hand was overbid, there is a basic doctrine when adjudicating hands: just because the opponents have done something wrong is no reason for your make the same sort of errors. That should apply to disputes with partner, as well the players to your left and right.


You each overbid your hands grossly. Instead of trying to place the blame on one or the other, why not concentrate on

bobbywolffOctober 19th, 2016 at 3:04 am

Hi Patrick,

Welcome to the occasional bridge trap which awaits every bridge traveler, especially if he plays often.

Yes, I approve of your TO double, although having only a singleton spade is a definite risk. To only overcall 1 heart just is not worth the gamble since partner can jiust have five clubs to the KQxxx and slam is likely cold in either of the rounded suits. Then to even mention the possibility of holding 6 clubs and almost nothing and wind up listening to 3 passes following your 1 heart choice and it becomes worse.

Furthermore, I would certainly bid 2 spades with your partner’s hand after his RHO bid 1NT (a bid I would not make, but instead opt for 2 clubs, sort of competing, but more directly suggesting a club lead in case LHO becomes declarer).

The next subject is what to be thinking once the bidding gets back to you with partner’s 2 spades now being a reality. Surely West’s 1NT has made reality come to life, since there is no reason to suspect he doesn’t have a balanced hand with at least 6 hcps, proving without a reasonable doubt that your partner has long poor to medium spades and almost nothing else. Also the 1NT response plus the opening bidder merely passing (also suggesting a sort of balanced hand does not bid well for your terrific hand to carry the day for your side.

Of course, if by some quirk, partner had at least 3 hearts you may be able to steal a game, but that looks doubtful. There is a slight chance that partner may have the king of clubs or even the KJ, (with his spades 10 sixth or somesuch) allowing either 4 hearts, 3NT, or even 5 clubs to succeed but sometimes those hopes only turn to nightmares.

Perhaps only a 3 heart bid should be made, and if partner rebids 3 spades, just pass and hope he makes it.

The above is my version of what and how world class players think while they are then considering the whole auction, certainly including the often, wily opponents.

Sorry for your result, but it is difficult to really assess blame to either you nor your partner.

Jiust bridge mister!

bobbywolffOctober 19th, 2016 at 3:09 am

H Bob,

Thanks for your response and for your views, although I do not tend to agree, I may wind up doing what you suggest. However your reasons are different than mine and I think that you are being much too hard on Patrick and his partner.

Sometimes bridge lends itself to these kinds of aberrations, so that holding one’s losses during difficult times is also the creed of the really top players.

No doubt, having to double1 diamond (with a singleton spade) in order not to get passed out in 1 heart is tenuous at best, but not to bid spades with QJ9xxx of spades after partner has made a TO double of 1 diamond is just not to be considered.

Patrick CheuOctober 19th, 2016 at 6:20 am

Hi Bobby,Your advice greatly appreciated here and our game has greatly improved 🙂 though the above hand seems to contradict this..Ha.Good Health and Best Wishes to Judy and You.Best regards~Patrick.

Patrick CheuOctober 19th, 2016 at 6:25 am

Hi Bob,Thanks for your views on the subject matter.

bobbywolffOctober 19th, 2016 at 5:41 pm

Finally, again Iain (with thanks),

After needing to do research on Sisyphus, I agree that bridge sometimes lends itself, or, at least, feels like having to push a huge rock (boulder) up a mountain and, at least sometimes, for no apparent cause or gain.

The positive which comes is not only my heart felt agreement, but the education this Greek mythology created.

Live and learn, learn and live, what better formula to follow in order to feel worthy enough to interact. I feel truly blessed to have such worthwhile “real” friends.

We owe it to each other to keep it going and if any way to do so is better than all the constant discussions concerning our wondrous game, I, for one, would not know what it might be.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 21st, 2016 at 4:38 am

Hi Patrick,

I never saw your message to me via Bobby till tonight. Back at ‘ya!!! Stay well and keep learning and improving. There is no end to what I have digested during our thirteen years of marriage (coming up in December). Bridge is so all-encompassing and each day you realize how much more there is to learn. It is never ending .. but it is worth all the stumbling blocks and hurdles we encounter. WHAT A GAME!