Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, January 22nd, 2018

To no man will we sell, or deny, or delay, right or justice.

Magna Carta

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


English expert Andrew Robson is not only a fine player, but he also runs a superb bridge club in London and has made a specialty of writing simple and informative bridge books. Over the next few months, I’ll be running a few deals from his latest themed collection, “Counting and Card Placement.” See

In today’s example, you reach four spades after opening one spade in fourth seat. West leads the diamond king and continues with the queen, followed by the jack to East’s ace, which you ruff. What now?

The odds narrowly favor playing for the drop in trumps. But “eight ever, nine never” is a big overstatement. If you knew who held the heart ace, it might influence your decision.

It is time for a discovery play, so at trick four, you lead a heart to dummy’s king. Your rationale is that playing on hearts may tell you how to play spades. If dummy’s king wins the trick, you can be sure West holds the ace — but you can play a second heart, just in case East is very smart, or very stupid.

Once West has revealed an ace in addition to his diamond sequence, East is heavily favored to hold the spade queen, or West would have 12 points and would likely have opened the bidding. So play spades by cashing the king and leading to your jack.

Note that if East turns up with the heart ace, you are still on a spade guess. But the discovery play cost nothing.

If you have to find your partner with length in diamonds or spades, the odds surely favor him holding diamonds, not spades. If he had spades, after all, he might have overcalled in that suit. Yes you need less in spades, but the odds favor the other approach.


♠ Q 7 2
 10 6 2
 J 4 3
♣ Q 9 3 2
South West North East
Pass 1 Pass 2 ♣
Pass 2 Pass 3 NT
All 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieFebruary 5th, 2018 at 10:57 am

Hi Bobby,
This isn't the first time we've seen this (above) so you might want to get the webmaster or similar to block the associated E-Mail if you can.
Nice instructive hand and I remember when Andrew Robson was about 19 or 20; he wasn't that strong then but it soon became apparent that he had the talent and application to go far. You said once in this column that his ethics were first class; I forwarded the column reference to him and he was absolutely delighted.
On BWTA, though, there are some players who will respond 1S with 4-5 or 4-6 in the black suits even when strong enough to bid 2C, while Flannery might be used on some hands with 4-5 in the majors while opener might have to bid 2H if stuck for another rebid. LHO won't have 4D (unless they're poor with 6H) to be fair but would such considerations nudge a little more towards a spade lead as the suit may well be 3-3-4-3 round the table.

Iain ClimieFebruary 5th, 2018 at 11:20 am

Sorry, should be LWTA. Also, RHO hasn’t bid 2S which may be a further inference, while partner may have not overcalled with either a weak spade suit or length in hearts. I think I might lead a diamond at the table, though.



Bobby WolffFebruary 5th, 2018 at 4:17 pm

Hi Iain,

First, thanks for the excellent suggestion of reporting the first irrelevant comment today (at least for readers), to our webmaster., which we will, of course, do. It is difficult, at least for naive me, to understand why, but whatever, it is certainly out of place.

Second, I appreciate your effort in informing Andrew of what I wrote about him. At least 10 years ago Judy and I were in London and visited his special bridge club. Indeed we were impressed with everything we saw, particularly after the game hand records (and excellent, well constructed analysis of each (pre-duplicated board) and his glowing (though exaggerated) references to our visit was sincerely appreciated and pleasing to our egos.

Finally (about time), as to your reference to today’s LWTA: If partner held either KJxxx or KQxxx and an outside ace he likely would chirp 1 spade, but probably not 2 diamonds if his distribution was a random 5-3-3-2, of course, with the vulnerability a factor (not ever given to conserve words) on the BWTA or LWTA.

It is only that factor to which we were basing our opening lead probability of success. Even if our examples included the ace instead of the king of our long suit.

A fairly unlikely combination, but still a decent chance of it (or close) occurring. At any rate, it could be a good excuse, reserved for partner, in case of being wrong.

PeteFebruary 5th, 2018 at 4:57 pm

Hi Bobby,
It seems to me that the discovery isn’t entirely ‘free’. If East has the heart ace, and then leads the diamond nine, declarer has to guess the location of the queen. Even if the queen is singleton or doubleton, he could easily go wrong. Given that, I wonder if the discovery play is superior to banging down the ace and king of trumps. East wouldn’t be likely to open third hand with Qx, Axxx, A9xx, xxx.

jim2February 5th, 2018 at 8:07 pm

Pete –

Good point! Note that many layouts where declarer was “always” destined to succeed now become guesses if East wins the AH and leads the 9D. One such example is, Q – xxx. Before the discovery play, no matter which finesse declarer was going to take (or play for the drop) the Q would have fallen. Now, declarer must ruff high.

(If declarer ruffs low and East has the heart Qx(x), it also sets up a potential Grosvenor Gambit!)

bobbywolffFebruary 5th, 2018 at 8:10 pm

Hi Pete,

Yes, you are eminently correct, strictly from a mathematical viewpoint. No doubt the danger of that scenario, with the ace of diamonds almost certainly to be located with East, since it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, etc. (encouraging initial follow to trick one).

Thus if East also has the ace of hearts, necessary to be faced with that decision, the decision then to trump the 4th diamond with the ace has to already be planned.

True, if done, there is a risk that East has the queen of spades, even a singleton to do your side in. However, now we have arrived at my point for posting.

Some players, especially high-level younger players, who never pass NV and in the 3rd position, even with Yarboroughs, especially when their opponents are vulnerable.

An older player (like me) do not actually subscribe to such a thing, but if I did, it certainly would become an alert, and I must admit, because of the scoring system (very little being changed since Contract Bridge was invented in 1927) that tactic certainly has much merit and years from now, if bridge is still alive in the USA, may be expected as 100% the percentage move.

IOW, all I am saying is that the specific opponents are not only important on today’s hand, but against top players critical to the discovery purpose and then of course, at least on this hand, worth the risk.

Yes I am saying that some partnerships would always open the bidding 3rd seat NV vs. V. with s. Q h. Axxx, d. Axxx, c. xxxx, with or wthout the Q of spades.

I am, in no way, your finding fault with opening the bidding that light (many players would), but my contention is that the knowledge of what is going on among the almost elite partnerships now (or to be) is worth much more than the risk of not knowing those habits, which is to their advantage until those experiences become common knowledge.

You are NOT wrong in what you have said, only slightly behind the times in what is going on in other rooster’s barnyards.

The next project perhaps should be an analysis of why do elite players think that way. Your move.

bobbywolffFebruary 5th, 2018 at 9:06 pm

Hi Jim2,

Our posts, as they often do, crossed in the mail.

However, and somewhat continuing on my major point. When opponents both pass throughout, and they are experienced as well as the declaring side reaching a fairly thin game (22-24) hcps many more times than not the defensive cards are pretty well split as is the distribution balanced or,, at the least, semi-balanced.

However against Roth-Stoners or relative beginners this consistency is not as prevalent.

IOWs 2-2 breaks occur more frequently than the percentage tables tell us, and the defensive high cards are likely at least close to being equally shared.

At least that is what my experience has suggested to me, true or not and I suspect has some mathematical correlation.

JRGFebruary 5th, 2018 at 9:35 pm

Hi Ian,

There probably is a way to block an individual email address. Unfortunately, this kind of SPAM rarely uses a the same address. The Spammers are generally using software to leave the comments and the email address used may not even exist.

What I have done, is to mark the comment as SPAM. If this is done consistently, then the SPAM filtering learns to recognize the garbage and filter it out.