Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 12th, 2017

This shows how much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.

Benjamin Disraeli

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


Eighty years ago the Culbertson organization was the dominant one in bridge, and because it published the Bridge World it would frequently distribute deals played by Eli or his wife Josephine. However, they miscalculated when they complimented Josephine Culbertson for her play on this hand.

The auction posed South a real problem at her second turn; it might easily have been right to get partner to declare no-trump, but South bit the bullet and opted for the nine-trick game her way up.

Against three no-trump West obediently led his partner’s suit. Josephine Culbertson reportedly called for dummy’s jack and ducked East’s spade king. Now the defenders could lead a second spade, but West had no spade to play when in with the diamond king.

No mention was made of the fact that East had missed the correct defense of ducking the first round of spades. Now when West takes the diamond king and plays back a spade, declarer is toast.

Equally, it may be slightly less obvious, but declarer should have played low from dummy and from hand on the first spade — relying on split diamond honors. Then, no defense beats three no-trump. This idea of ducking the first spade applies equally well if the same contract is reached by North on either a low spade lead to the eight, or the 10 passed round to North. Ducking works equally well in this case too – but is no easier to spot.

Even though your queens are in the suits where partner rates to be short, and so may not be pulling their full weight, you are not ashamed of your hand. So it feels right to give false preference to two hearts, and keep the auction open in case partner is about to show extras. Were the heart king the jack, I might consider passing two clubs.


♠ Q J 4
 K 7
 Q 10 8 5 2
♣ 8 6 4
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
1 NT Pass 2 ♣ 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2January 26th, 2017 at 2:06 am

n BWTA, could you please comment on bidding two diamonds?

slarJanuary 26th, 2017 at 4:49 am

Wouldn’t 2D suggest 6 cards? It is basically a drop-dead bid.

bobby wolffJanuary 26th, 2017 at 5:54 am

Hi Jim2 & Slar,

While either passing 2 clubs or as the BWTA suggests, give a false preference to 2 hearts, it is dollars to doughnuts that there will be a combined trump total of 7. Of course, upon playing a common version of 5 card majors with a forcing 1NT response it will be possible to have 8 combined hearts (opener having 6 or as few as 3 clubs with the bidder only having 3 while holding a 5-2-3-3 or 5-3-2-3 minimum opening (12-14).

While chancing a run-out to 2 diamonds it might work, but partner may have a singleton diamond (perhaps about 15-20% of the time) opposite (3-5-1-4).

Everything considered, for me to bid 2 diamond and holding only 5, I would need at least 5 to the KQJ9x, although with only 1 heart and 3 clubs any 6 card diamond suit should be considered, but some, holding 3 clubs would choose to pass (good players).

To call 2 diamonds a drop-dead bid is a little extreme since with 2-6-1-4 I, as I think others would return to 2 hearts expecting a singleton heart. Of course if I held Axx, xx, KJ10xxx, xx I would bid 2 diamonds after first responding 1NT but would not mind at all if partner returned to hearts while holding 6 of them or even Axx, KQJ10x, x, KJ10x.

For educational purposes (bridge book) when propaganda is in the mix, the author will probably suggest bidding 2 diamonds with A10x, x, KQ109xx, Jxx. However I would rebid 2NT instead with the idea of always running toward the daylight of a potential game with second choice a jump to 3 diamonds, risking down 1 against partner now converting to 3NT with the right fit and sometimes without even breathing hard allowing you to score it up.
s. Qx, h. A109xx, d. Ax, c. Axxx.

You pay your money, you take your choice!

Iain ClimieJanuary 26th, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Hi Bobby,

The play hand is effectively SKxx opposite SAxx when the right play is easy; funny what blind spots we can all have when the positions are basically the same. By the way, is the website now being updated at a different time? It seems to change late evening UK time now instead of at 9.00 or 10.00 am clocks change twice a year over here).


bobby wolffJanuary 26th, 2017 at 4:42 pm

Hi Iain,

If you will excuse the reference, you revived the effort by Lisa Doolittle, Henry Higgins marvelous creation of becoming a valuable well-spoken, ladylike person, from “My Fair Lady”.

When she repeated “The rain in Spain stays mostly on the plain”, (leaving behind her heretofore Cockney accent) he exclaimed for all to hear, “She’s got it, by George she’s got it”.

And thus today’s hand appears as you said, the same as Axx opposite Kxx, a real duck instead of a phantom, if and when the defense chooses to take advantage.

Alas, the playing and defending of bridge often indulges itself in such camouflage, sometimes requiring both experience and understanding to “get” it.

To you, and also prophetic, it comes like water off a duck’s back, proving only that in order to swiftly climb a player’s bridge ladder to success it may become important to “quack” (croak it, but not to be one).

Yes, the website, because of it logistically being out of whack time wise on this side of the pond is now getting tomorrow’s hand several hours earlier than before. Good news and bad, longer time for new readers to analyze, but shorter time for us to cover our hoped for never misdeeds. Unrealistic but sadly, true.

Thanks always for your combination accurate and always well presented and often humorous comments. (We also change our clocks twice a year).

Bill CubleyJanuary 26th, 2017 at 8:23 pm


I often say I play the Doolittle System as done by Mr. Doolittle, Eliza’s father. With a little bit of luck.

bobby wolffJanuary 26th, 2017 at 10:45 pm

Hi Bill,

“But whatever, please get me to the church on time”. “But why, chances are you’ll just do little once you get there”. “Not true, since I have had that glorious feeling when I have often walked on the street where you live”.

Perhaps then, with a little bit of luck both the rain in Spain will stay mostly on the plane, and I’ll find out “why can’t a woman be more like a man”, in addition to learning “Why can’t the English…..”

Indeed, wouldn’t it be loverly if we could have danced all night”.

With apologies to Rex Harrison, Audrey Hepburn, Alan J. Lerner, Frederick Loew, and
George Bernard Shaw (Pygmalion).

David WarheitJanuary 27th, 2017 at 2:30 am

The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain. They don’t have planes in Spain.

jim2January 27th, 2017 at 1:31 pm

David –

You mansplaining?


bobby wolffJanuary 27th, 2017 at 7:15 pm

Yes, sorry and for punishment I’ll join either Gene Kelly or Desi Arnaz in splaining in the rain or rein or perhaps reign.