Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 25th, 2018

I inherited Rome as brick and left it Marble.

Emperor Augustus

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


Today’s deal comes from a bridge magazine and was created more than 60 years ago. Put yourself in South’s seat and see if you can find a way to conjure up a 12th trick from the remarkably few straws that can be put together to make a brick.

You declare six no-trump on the lead of the club jack and can see at once that you have 12 easy tricks if diamonds break. Your best subsidiary chance comes at trick one: If East wastes his ace, you will have a finesse position in clubs to allow you to come home. But no, East thoughtfully plays low, and you win your club king. You then cash the diamond ace to get the bad news. Are you going to take your ball and go home?

The winning line requires a misdefense, but when you see it, you might ask yourself if you would have fallen for it. You cross to a spade in dummy and advance the heart jack. When East covers — wouldn’t you? — you win, unblock your last heart winner and run the spades.

You reduce to a four-card ending where West needs to keep his heart 10 and three diamonds, or concede at once. You exit with a heart, and West must win, only to be endplayed into giving you the three diamond tricks you need for your slam.

Because covering the heart jack with the king is probably right if declarer began with three hearts, it is hard to criticize East too much for failing to find the winning defense of ducking the heart jack.

You may be able to construct hands where four spades plays better than three no-trump, but most of those hands are ones where your partner might have raised spades, with three-card support and an open suit. In practice, you will belong in game here most of the time, and the right game will be three no-trump to protect partner’s tenaces on opening lead. So go ahead and bid three no-trump right now.


♠ A K Q J 10
 J 9 4
 6 5 2
♣ 4 3
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♣ Pass
1 ♠ Pass 1 NT 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 8th, 2018 at 1:30 pm

Hi Bobby,

Can I ask your advice on a hand from the other night? Pairs, Game All, you hold AKQJ AQJ8x Qxx K and RHO passes. What would be your choice playing a standard system and would it be different if (as we were) playing Benjaminised Acol where 2C shows a strong 2 in any suit, 2D is game forcing.

On the dog front (see yesterday) our 3 month old Gordon Setter puppy made several discoveries yesterday after quite a hard frost. We have a fair sized garden with a pond so firstly he found that he could walk on what was once water; secondly, the novelty came to a sudden crashing, cold, wet end; thirdly, he can swim, although the pond isn’t that deep. Towels and heating are good too.



A V Ramana RaoFebruary 8th, 2018 at 3:22 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Unaware of , east got mortified twice in this deal. First by bidding , he eliminated the guess for the position of club A and secondly by covering heart J. Both moves by East appear innocuous but as the play unfolds prove to be catastrophic. Perhaps had he not bid, west in all the probability might have led a spade ( suit bid by dummy) And now declarer has no play for the contract as he lacks third entry to dummy. You may please reflect whether east’s overcall is justified in vulnerable position. Nevertheless , we need to admire south who found the innovative play for landing the contract.
And Regarding yesterday’s hand- Yes , I happened to have read the book “Adventures in card play” . He popularized themes like entryshifting squeeze and non material finesse among many other. His inputs and Hugh Kelsey’s narration provide for an exciting ,fascinating and compelling reading which is a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable experience

Iain ClimieFebruary 8th, 2018 at 3:47 pm

HI again,

6S is boringly easy as it turns out, though, isn’t it? Also 150 for honours at rubber bridge or (interestingly) in the Hubert Phillips Bowl over here. This is a teams competition for mixed sex teams (I think at least one man and one woman must be playing at any point) which uses aggregate scoring including honours. Something of a throwback, I have to say, but people seem to enjoy it.

AVRR is spot on about the book, although sadly I no longer have a copy.



bobbywolffFebruary 8th, 2018 at 4:51 pm

Hi Iain,

No doubt dogs are also human’s best friends,
since almost always, are more loving, loyal, as well as often providing life’s dearest moments with their well intended, but sometimes humorous tales (and/or tails). Your family made a great choice by introducing your Golden Setter to your beautiful and practical garden to which he, after his initial awakening, will have unlimited access to what seemingly most animals always will continue to thrive.

Segueing to your opening bridge choice when holding 22 hcps, since I still believe it is correct to pass one bids, when holding a near bust (zero to 4 or 5 hcps and no redeeming distribution) I believe a 2 club artificial opening (such as your example), while playing Benjaminized Acol or Standard American. However, over the then oft used 2 diamond response (showing something small in value, though random) instead of the preferred (at least, by me) 2 heart artificial showing a bust (0-3), whether a simple 2 hearts or an offbeat 2NT would be rebid, the choice being up to the player himself (mine, by a hair, would be 2NT, suggesting balance rather than distributional) and allowing a pass (rolling the dice) but, at least somewhat, clearing the air. To rebid 2 hearts would then mean bidding 3 spades next, which, while being a solid citizen is also simply exaggerating your trick taking ability, assuming no 8 card major suit fit.

However, if you prefer that second route my guess is that you would be with the majority, rather than me, not a bad place to have company.

Finally, your hand does lend itself well to a forcing club opening which will use the extra bidding room to likely get to the right strain in spite of partner having nothing, therefore popular with many top players as being the lesser evil in deciding on overall system.

Yes, 6 spades is boringly easy, except against a heart lead when declarer will have to decide at trick one to measure the king of hearts being right as against an against the percentage, 4-0 diamond break and if done (perhaps in theory the right opening lead), then the battle is definitely joined.

And by the by, those long ago events, to which still covered my life’s time frame were most enjoyable, possibly becoming so, because of the more elegance present (more formal dress and manners) by most participants.

However, like most old fogeys, my memory possibly lingers on fantasy, rather than reality.

Iain ClimieFebruary 8th, 2018 at 5:06 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks but the aftermath of my chosen 2C (showing a string 2 in an unspecified suit). 2D form partner (negative or maybe relaying with a better hand) 2H from me, 2N from partner (2nd negative, allegedly showing real dross). I now thought 3S would be too committal so bid 3D – maybe he can bid 3H or 3S. Not exactly.

Pard had 10xxx x KJ10xxxx J and got over-excited, launching into RKC BW and there we were in 6D off 2 aces. they didn’t lead either (but a spade) so he tried HAQ dumping his club via the ruffing finesse (maybe he should try to ruff down the HK against moderate oppo and hope DA is singleton and with HKxx) but it lost. I sympathise with 2N but if we play in 3N instead of 5D or 4S it has no chance even on a small club lead away from the Ace. If I open 1H (it is, after all a rubbish 22 count with that CK and loose DQ – DKQx would be different), pard might dredge up 1S, I bid 4C, he bids 4S and we’re fine. Or he could have bid 3D over 2H or 5D over 3D but dragging out the “cosh” was maybe a bit hopeful.

It wasn’t even a bottom though, although it maybe deserved to be.



bobbywolffFebruary 8th, 2018 at 6:11 pm


First on today’s hand, I, too, would definitely overcall (2 clubs) on this hand. Since bridge (as we have often defined it as a bidder’s game) lends itself to bidding rather than not, since:

1. By bidding, sometimes we find a great fit and with unusual distribution including a void, more tricks than expected can be produced and since it is very early in the beginning of this hand, the opener may have a minimum, which he did, but South had such a good hand he had a perfect right to bid the excellent 6NT slam. IOW so little is known at such an early point in the bidding that, based on percentage and, no doubt, optimism, a positive outlook likely works best.

2. It is an underrated feature of overcalling, when by doing so, we suggest to partner what the right start on defense is likely to be, although sometimes (as on this hand) helps declarer more than it benefits the defense.

3. And not so much on this hand, it often does take away some space for those worthy opponents to find their right final contract. True it may help them in the play, (this hand), but it also helps the defense some, and in the long run I think it has more plus than minus. Even on this hand, suppose East would not have bid and South would have arrived at 6 diamonds, but with West not brilliantly leading a club, but instead a heart. When declarer inserts the nine and East covers with the king (it turns out wrong, but how could East tell?), Then after getting the horrendous diamond break he can still recover by being able to throw all his clubs away on the jack of hearts and two good spades while West has to harmlessly follow before he can defeat them.

In regard to Hugh Kelsey’s marvelous contributions to high-level bridge, he came along, believe it or not, long after I started to take up bridge, in the early 1940’s, and was then an avid reader from worldwide authors, but, at that time, Kelsey had not hit the bridge scene. After then and starting late in the 1940’s, I started playing more and reading less, punishing me for what I must have missed from his great writing.

Both give and take are usually the case in almost everyone’s life and, no doubt, I would have been a better player had I have had his guidance.

In any event, and to be sure, we, no matter in what stage we are at bridge will continue to improve the more time we spend both reading and playing our great game.

I, for one, always appreciate hearing from you and, of course, exchanging views.

bobbywolffFebruary 8th, 2018 at 6:29 pm

Hi Iain,

Somehow your bridge adventures seem to always present headlines, more often than not favorable to your partnership, but even when sad you have the great facility of truthfully discussing them in a very open manner.

By doing so you prove to the world what a confident person you are and one who everyone would like to emulate since all of us who often compete, suffer both victories and defeat, but most certainly prefer to think (and discuss) the triumphantly ending ones.

beneficios do somatodrolFebruary 12th, 2018 at 11:06 am

Desta maneira, epidemia muscular do teu organismo é acelerado.