Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

The man who said ‘I’d rather be lucky than good’ saw deeply into life. People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck.

Woody Allen

S North
None ♠ 8 6 4 2
 A K 7
 7 4
♣ 10 6 5 3
West East
♠ Q 10 7
 Q 6 4 3
 A Q 6
♣ J 8 2
♠ J 9 5 3
 9 8 5 2
♣ K Q 9 7 4
♠ A K
 J 10 9 8 5 2
 K J 10 3
♣ A
South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass
4 All pass    


Today’s deal is an example of how the play at teams or rubber bridge might differ significantly from what you would do at pairs.

As South you declare four hearts, and take the club queen with the ace. At first glance you have decent chances to make slam – you need some breaks in the red suits, but is that too much to ask? At worst, it appears that you might have two diamond and one heart loser.

So at pairs the best line is clear. If you try to enter dummy with a trump to take the diamond finesse, the bad trump break comes to light…too late! West will play another heart after taking the diamond queen. Then he can play a third heart, preventing any diamond ruff in dummy. You will lose three diamonds and a heart and go down – but console yourself that you have made the best play at matchpoints, and went down only because of two poorly placed cards and a horrid break.

Correct play at teams, though, is to play a diamond honor from your hand – probably the diamond 10 is the best card – without playing any trump at all. Even if the defense returns a trump after winning the diamond queen, they can’t stop you from ruffing one diamond in dummy, and losing only two diamonds and a trump. This is a safety play to retain trump control and falls under the general heading of “If you want to ruff something don’t play trump”.

Despite the fact that you know there is a trump stack in hearts against your LHO, you have no reason to assume you can defeat two hearts. If you wish to compete further, and I would, this is a perfect hand on which to bid two no-trump, suggesting this sort of pattern in the minors. Since you didn’t bid no-trump at your previous turn, this must be the equivalent of an unusual no-trump.


♠ J 9 5 3
 9 8 5 2
♣ K Q 9 7 4
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Dbl. Pass
2 ♣ 2 Pass 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 ClimieDecember 20th, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Hi Bobby,

I think the quote today may be pointing to Napoleon’s supposed comment about a general. Something like “I don’t care if he’s good, is he lucky?”

On today’s hand, though, I suspect I’d have fallen from grace at IMPs even though the 10% chance if a 4-0 break either way is worth the insurance premium. Too many bad pairs h
abits over the last few years.

All the best for the festive season to Judy, yourself and all the contributors to the column but a special word on TOCM. If a cure were ever found, we’d all miss Jim2’s hilarious contributions on the topic, although his others are good too. He needs to pass it on to another victim who will write in and give him a break; still, I would say that from a nice safe venue 3000 miles or so from the USA’s East coast.



jim2December 20th, 2016 at 1:25 pm


Iain ClimieDecember 20th, 2016 at 3:18 pm

There again, air travel and computer viruses can bridge long distances. Help!

bobby wolffDecember 20th, 2016 at 4:03 pm

Hi Iain and the significance of Jim2’s smiley,

Yes, merely the idea of competition can bridge the gap (please excuse the terminology) between playing a contract extra safe, but disdaining that unlikely fear in order to secure an extra trick.

But, what if East had the AQ of diamonds but West had a singleton in his led suit with the hearts Qx on side but enabling the defense to get four total tricks instead of the only one they were entitled to, in effect changing a slam which would make into a down game.

David must have overslept, otherwise his keen bridge mind would have beaten me to the draw and I would have died an ignominious bridge death by shame since he would have already pointed that out many hours ago.

However, I did get a break since my gremlins had written up a spade lead, not the club lead my column should have listed in the opening lead title, but your innovative conversation, plus Jim’s smiley, changed the subject to laughter rather than grim (or should I repeat), gremlin reality.

My friends, including every one of them, are always there when I need them, indeed making
me and my significant co-workers, very lucky people.

Iain ClimieDecember 20th, 2016 at 4:36 pm

Hi Bobby,

Wouldn’t the danger scenario need spades 6-1 (or clubs 7-1, but surely there would have been a bid) and the DAQ in such a way that two ruffs could occur? This is all getting very far-fetched relative to the 10% 4-0 threat.


Iain (aka the cavalry if I don’t fall off).

David WarheitDecember 20th, 2016 at 10:04 pm

Iain is exactly right, that’s why I have been fast asle

bobby wolffDecember 21st, 2016 at 11:58 am

Hi Iain,

It only appears to me that no such bad breaks (6-1 spade break or 7-1 club break) will be required to defeat 4 hearts on this hand, if an early heart by declarer is attempted.

Instead, that early trump play will lionize West to continue hearts to prevent the 4th diamond loser by way of 3 diamonds and 1 trump trick.

However, once David (Rip Van Winkle) wakes up he may want to contradi

However, I am personally not in to far fetched safety plays, (which sometimes turn into unsafety plays), but my jury is still out on this one.