Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

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

One minute alone with him is all I ask; one minute alone with him while you are running for the priest and the doctor.

Sean O’Casey

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


In today’s game the fate of the contract went from ‘healthy’ to ‘moribund’ at trick one, and the contract sank without trace at trick three.

South might have upgraded his hand into a one diamond opener, planning to rebid two no-trump over a major-suit response. The quick tricks in diamonds make that a sensible evaluation. But his side got to game anyway; all he had to do was bring it home.

After West led the spade queen, declarer played by rote, rather than addressing the real problem of the deal, when he ducked in both hands. Now forced to win the second spade in dummy, he started on diamonds, and when the 4-1 break came to light there came to light, he had no fallback play available. The clubs could be set up, but not cashed.

South should have worked out that if diamonds were breaking 3-2 now, they would still be breaking 3-2 later on in the deal. It was therefore right to go after clubs before diamonds, playing king, ace and a third club. If they broke 3-3 or the queen or jack fell doubleton, then the contract could be brought home.

This line requires a re-entry to the North hand, hence South needed to keep the spade ace intact and win trick one with the king. Then declarer can go after clubs directly, and the fall of the queen makes life easy. Even if one player had the club suit doubly guarded, South would still come home if diamonds broke.

There are three sensible choices: you might overcall one no-trump, or one diamond, or double, planning to bid one no-trump at your next turn. For simplicity’s sake I think the no-trump overcall has my vote. If for no other reason, the opponents frequently do not lead clubs when that is their best lead. This call also allows partner to transfer, and for your side to find major suit fits only when you want to.


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

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


Bruce karlsonDecember 27th, 2016 at 12:07 pm

Regarding the opening bid: I generally follow your advice and open a solid 17 one of a suit preliminary to a reverse. I might hesitate here as I want to be sure that any NT contract is played by me so the lead is not so threatening to my exposed kings. Is that over analysis?

bobby wolffDecember 27th, 2016 at 3:23 pm

Hi Bruce,

By your comment of over analysis you have taught yourself an important lesson of bridge truths.

Yes, of ccurse, there would be some hands where one of the three suits, other than diamonds, would be best led up to, but:

1. Unless partner responds exactly1NT you most likely will be declarer anyway and even if that bid is chosen his hand may easily be the right declarer, (depending on his specific holding).

2. Bridge is nowhere near the exact science some may think it is, therefore success is usually achieved by making do, eg. taking the minuses with the pluses and then choosing.

3. The South hand is just too strong for 1NT (especially with that powerful 5 card diamond suit) and while playing the normal 15-17 1NT opening. I would much prefer to upgrade a decent looking 14 points (exchange the king of diamonds for a small one) to serve as the extra point than I would take a significant risk of partner having a balanced eight count and passing rather than raising (a choice he should normally make if and when I open 1NT).

4. The caveat to learn is that it is every bit as dangerous to underbid as it is to slightly stretch since winning bridge has often been accurately described (in my view) as a bidder’s game;.

Learn and live, live and learn, is a good theme to embrace while moving up the stairway to good bridge and the above concept ranks near the top in importance.

Finally the reverse you mention should be a 2NT rebid over 1 of a major by partner which is normally just called a jump rebid in NT rather than a reverse which should normally be 5-4 in the two suits named.

Happy holidays!

A V Ramana RaoDecember 27th, 2016 at 6:14 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Actually, declarer put the contract on floor with the play at first trick asyou have rightly mentioned. What he should have realized is that he is home if either minor breaks or a doubleton honor in clubs with either opponent. ( combined Probability being much higher) It does not matter really after which minor he goes after after winning the first trick in hand. The important thing is that he cannot duck the lead which can become fifth defensive trick.
And I take this opportunity to Wish You A Happy New Year
Best Regards

A V Ramana RaoDecember 27th, 2016 at 6:22 pm

I should have added that in case he tries diamonds first and find it breaks 5-0, he can revert to clubs immediatelyand Hope for the distribution to be favorable. However if the clubs too break adversely, then perhaps the contract could never be made but we have tried at least

bobby wolffDecember 27th, 2016 at 6:40 pm


To be in the top 1% of bridge players in the entire world, my guess is that all one needs to do is make sure one does not go set in an otherwise laydown contract and this hand, although subject to careless error, belongs in that category.

If I am anywhere close to being correct with that analysis, the step of crawling before walking in life comes to mind, then so many of us seem to turn away from being that good at our marvelous game, by not making enough effort to think it through.

In retrospect it is probably more difficult for most players, (my long time experience seems to confirm that) to achieve the above than it is to then rise to one of the very best.

While not knowing the reasons I only wonder if that is also true in many other ventures in life and if so, it is truly a waste of grey matter to which most humans are blessed.

Bridge at all levels, especially the top, is based on sheer logic, yes, associated with numbers, but no higher mathematical knowledge is required, only the want to and concentration to understand what is involved and then and only then, to put it to best use.

And to you AVRR, a very healthy and happy New Year to you and yours, who is always showing his great enthusiasm for our off-the-charts competitive game.

Thɑnkks for sharing such a good opinion, article is good, thats why i have read it completely