Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 27th, 2017

Wherefore thou be wise, Cleave ever to the sunnier side of doubt.

Lord Tennyson

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


The textbooks don’t tend to spell out how to cope with a balanced 31-count. In an unopposed auction the use of the Kokish relay (using a two heart rebid after opening two clubs as a puppet to two spades, to show various balanced hands or unbalanced hands with hearts) may help you. Details are available at

But on today’s deal South couldn’t try out this gadget, because West opened three clubs. With no idea whether to go high or low, South put on his rose-colored glasses and found the delicate slam-try of six no-trump.

After the passive lead of the diamond seven, dummy’s spade king provided declarer with a sporting chance. There were 11 top winners, with the club finesse likely to be a broken reed after West’s pre-emptive opening. Similarly, the chances of finding either major suit breaking seemed slim.

South tried these possibilities in order. Neither major suit behaved, and when the club finesse failed, he was out of chances. In the ending East knew to discard his useless spade, to win the last trick with his heart jack.

A curious line of play would, however, have led to success. Suppose that at trick two, declarer had advanced the club queen from his hand? By surrendering the inevitable club loser early, he keeps control of the clubs and rectifies the count for a squeeze. Four diamonds and the club ace will squeeze East in the majors to generate the 12th trick.

Facing an opening bid in any seat except fourth, you would be tempted to jump raise spades, trying to keep the opponents out. Here, partner is marked with a strong hand, so a simple raise to two spades may keep the opponents out, and might also prevent partner from getting too excited.


♠ K 7 5 2
 8 6 4
 10 8 5
♣ 7 3 2
South West North East
Pass 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieFebruary 10th, 2017 at 4:41 pm

HI Bobby,

South was unlucky to hold the CQ. With CA10 (or even AJ) on the CK lead, it is fairly easy to spot the duck. A curse upon high cards giving extra chances. After all, if West had (say) 4-1-1-7, he could have been endplayed with a spade to lead a club.



bobby wolffFebruary 10th, 2017 at 6:52 pm

Hi Iain,
Yes, in some ways, assuming you have played partnership gin rummy. one of the losing side players comment, "if I gin one more time we will get blitzed", sometimes applies to being dealt high cards, whose presence only delays or worse, prevents a declarer from making a hand, by either not guessing or maybe just misplaying the hand because of the excess of riches.
However, and little doubt, the leading of the queen of clubs from hand (from AQ doubleton) is just so cool, all good players will find that play. Not to mention that perhaps West was dealt only K1098654 to start.
When any declarer (especially one with showboat tendencies) is dealt a holding where both correctness and deceptiveness demands the same play, it becomes heaven on earth.

BobliptonFebruary 10th, 2017 at 7:35 pm

Bobby, if you really wanted to be mean, you could have swapped south’s S4 with east’s SJ. Well, maybe next time.


bobby wolffFebruary 11th, 2017 at 2:20 am

Hi Bob,

Good catch. However you will know you have arrived when, after making that switch, you will understand immediately that it mattered not as long as the very long club hand would be the suit to give up a trick, rectifying the count, in order to effect the squeeze.

In the next life I would love to be the dean (or only an important personage) in a bridge school or program with the role of mentoring prospects for talented bridge aspirants.

In 1991, in preparation for the 1991 Junior (upper age limit, 25 years) World Championship, held in Ann Arbor, Michigan we created bridge aptitude tests which demanded serious bridge thinking, mostly at high levels, and, at least at that time, the students involved, seem to love it.

The North American teams (Canada and USA I and II) finished 1st, 2nd and 4th, which was, to that point, the highest finish ever for both USA teams.

Mircea1February 11th, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Hi Bobby,

Any chance those bridge aptitude tests are still available?

bobby wolffFebruary 11th, 2017 at 6:37 pm

Hi Mircea1,

They were developed and then distributed at test sites around the whole ACBL. I remember sending some of them, perhaps 3 different tests, to members of the WBF sometime around early 1991 with the idea of replicating the idea.

It is doubtful that I can find a copy around my current house to which I moved to about September of 2005.

They were mostly essay type exams which asked the student, after a specific hand was shown to him or her, usually with the bidding and opening lead (unless the quiz was about either bidding or opening leads) what his first thoughts might be and to write down his procedure to follow in order to make his decision and, of course, why, and how his mind reacted to what the evidence had shown.

Twenty six years later (today) I have concluded that learning the right way to think and why is the most important factor in becoming good enough to compete at the top levels. However as far as the test results producing the top players of today, I am far from sure that the best students (and there were a few who scored almost perfect scores) went on to make the best bridge players.

In short, I didn’t do enough further research to offer any opinion which could be totally relied on, but of course I do have opinions, but no real proof. All I can say, without mentioning names, that one player who was no where near the top scoring (actually scoring below average) is probably the best player from that group).

That either means that the tests could be improved or maybe even bridge is so difficult to play anywhere near perfectly that other qualifying evidence rather than answering the questions correctly, would be the key to developing sensational players in the future.

One thing for sure is that the psychology necessary to compete fiercely is immensely important in winning

The ACBL in Horn Lake Mississippi may have some of those aptitude tests in their files, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on that.

Mircea1February 12th, 2017 at 4:22 am

A belated thanks for your reply Bobby

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