Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, January 29th, 2018

Honest bread is very well — it’s the butter that makes the temptation.

Douglas Jerrold

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

*Transfer to spades


Andrew Robson’s latest book, “Counting and Card Placement,” deals with many critical aspects of card play. As Robson says, tallying your quick and slow losers can be essential in determining the best line of play. For example, plan the play in four spades here, on the lead of the diamond queen.

While you have four spade, two heart, two diamond and two club winners, the problem is that you may also have four losers. (Effectively, you will take the tenth and last of your winners at trick 14!)

Say you win the first diamond and lead a spade. The opponents will win the ace and lead a second diamond. You will win the ace and draw trump to lead a heart. But the opponents can win and cash their third-round diamond winner, plus the club ace, for down one.

Agreed, you have to lose the three aces, but you can do something about that pesky slow diamond loser. It can be discarded on a heart, but you must set up the discard quickly — leading a trump loses a vital tempo. Instead, you must lead the heart at trick two.

There is a final wrinkle. If you win the diamond king at trick one to lead to the diamond queen, the defenders can duck, win the second heart and lead a second diamond. You will then have no way back to hand to cash the third heart and eliminate the diamond loser. Instead, win trick one with the diamond ace, then set up hearts, with the diamond re-entry to hand still in place.

It feels right to lead spades rather than clubs. (The club lead is by no means safe, while the worst a spade can do is lead a suit that declarer could not play for himself.) If you are going to attack spades, the right card is the nine, since you have raised spades and already shown three cards in the suit. Had you not raised, you would lead low.


♠ 9 6 3
 K 3 2
 K 4
♣ J 9 7 4 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♠ Dbl.
2 ♠ Pass Pass 3
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 12th, 2018 at 1:02 pm

HI Bobby,

Just another follow-up to yesterday’s comments on the benefits of playing bridge:

Getting company is one of (if not the) biggest factors to living longer and happier. Find a good friendly club and it’ll make a huge difference.

Nice seemingly simple hand today, but still with the chance of messing it up. At the end of most sessions, it isn’t the occasional chance of a brilliant play or bid I regret. Instead it is the foul ups on getting the straightforward stuff right.



Bruce karlsonFebruary 12th, 2018 at 1:42 pm

I have read that an expert never goes down on an easy hand; the most rudimentary analysis of today’s hand puts it in the easy category. There are 4 possible losers on the D lead. Ergo, any action to prevent that should be in the mix. If one simply counts the losers and “plays” the hand before playing from dummy, this hand plays itself. More than half the room would be off one in an average club. I cling to the hope that I would not be among them.

Iain ClimieFebruary 12th, 2018 at 3:58 pm

Hi Bruce,

There is a cynical definition of an expert, which my old boss used to like. “An ex is a has been and a spurt is a drip under pressure.” There again he was gloriously eccentric (or mad as a box of frogs, as one TV interviewer put it in a program called Real Rescues). He was flying a light aircraft when the engine cut out. he tried to glide it down to a field but couldn’t quite clear the roof on a house; the impact caused the plane to go into someone’s glass house and he wound up with life-threatening injuries – which he’d largely recovered from and laughed off when I next saw him. He couldn’t wait to get back up there. I only found out how badly he’d been hurt when I looked up details of the crash (at Netley Bay some years ago).

His approach to bridge was similarly reckless, mind you, but some of his attitude to life is worth adopting. He personified “If it doesn’t kill you, it probably makes you stronger.”


Bobby WolffFebruary 12th, 2018 at 4:33 pm

Hi Iain,

What you are emphasizing appears to be very much alive, kicking, and above all, sad.

And what’s more I have a front row seat in what you say. My past had much action in the form of traveling, playing bridge in important competition, administering necessary bridge (and a few other) enterprises and endless hit and run relationships.

However, today, Judy and I have stopped traveling, play duplicate bridge twice a week (Tuesday and Friday) and also a few local annual tournaments, go to casinos during the week for low cost entertainment and dinner with of course, at least attempting to keep in touch with our families (children, other family and friends),

Even with all the previous positive excitement of both of our former lives (and Judy’s previous life was, in many ways, even more active than mine), we agree that it is now, which is in so many ways, the most fun part of our lives.

Less pressure, less harrowing, fewer down moments, all leading to less despair and consternation.

We, like so many others, and because of our varied lives, have experienced both thick and thin, but as a cherished person once proved to me, “happiness is the absence of pain” and I agree wholeheartedly, not to mention, No Trump.

Loneliness can be horrible, and because of your timely prompt, we can all see that it is slowly and across the chart, growing in scope.

You, and your family, seem to be likewise situated to us and by your posts, both Judy and I think that you, too, are enjoying what life has brought.

Now if perhaps all of us can live to be 100 (and still feel “the absence of pain”)!

Bobby WolffFebruary 12th, 2018 at 4:45 pm

Hi Bruce,

You are so right (at least IMO) as to what is important in bridge. Yes, because of learned discipline, top players will almost NEVER go down in any contract that definitely should be made and if there is only one quality that differentiates that fact, you nailed it.

Finally, the odds are, since you are acutely aware of the above, my guess is that you would not fall victim.

From that point, and with time and attention, you will grow even better, assuming you agree that it is time well spent and therefore worth the task.

Good luck and thanks for recounting what some of us have felt and seen for many years.