Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, February 8th, 2018

One sees great things from the valley, only small things from the peak.

G.K. Chesterton

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


When West leads a spade against four hearts, East comes in with the ace, while declarer follows with the queen. East must decide on his defense at trick two without knowing whether his partner has the spade king.

In view of the strong dummy, East can see that the least West will have to produce to give the defense a chance to beat the game is a trump trick plus at least one more winner from spades and clubs. Without two top cards, the defense surely has no chance to succeed, whether partner has a diamond winner or not.

In theory, a prompt attack on the diamonds might knock out the ace and queen before declarer can clear both the trumps and clubs. But what does that give declarer in the way of an opening bid? At most a nine-count if partner has a high heart, club and diamond!

But the ace of clubs and a high trump in the West hand would enable the defense to defeat game by means of a club ruff — assuming that South has any three small clubs. This hope requires far less to come to fruition, since it does not involve placing a third high card in the West hand such as the diamond king. East should therefore switch to a club at trick two, which West will win to return the suit. Then when West gets in again with the king of hearts, he can lead a third club, and East can ruff to set the game.

A quick reality check for those who think they have extra values, so should therefore bid on for fear of missing game: Your partner heard you ask him to bid hearts if he could. He did so, and indicated he was not interested in game. You have poor shape, only three hearts, and about a queen more than a minimum double. How likely is your side to make game? Not at all, I’d say. Pass and hope to go plus.


♠ J 7
 Q J 2
 A Q 9
♣ K Q J 7 6
South West North East
      1 ♠
Dbl. 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Bill CubleyFebruary 22nd, 2018 at 4:51 pm


A recent amusing auction I was part of in the Hilton Head Regional.

1C 2NT [moi] P 1S, surprised me too

1NT also surprises me 2NT after consulting the Director but I was fairly certain I could do this. The Director actually took LHO’s bidding card and put it in front of me. 😉

Iain ClimieFebruary 22nd, 2018 at 5:19 pm

Hi Bobby,

Would the defence be different at pairs? Give declarer Qx AK10xx xxx Axx and you’ll never hear the last of it if you play a club back. Have you any recommendations on lead style here as 10 from 109x(x) and K109x can obviously go wrong. I used to play 2nd honour (but 9 from 109xx) which isn’t perfect either but would work on the hand above.

Hi Bill,

Any alerts in there, just to stir things up even more? Who’d be a TD, I must say. Not as bad as football (soccer) refereeing but a thankless job despite the odd hilarity like a player doubling their own partner’s bid. In pass out position when partner’s gone lemming I’ve been sorely tempted on occasion, mind you.



bobbywolffFebruary 22nd, 2018 at 6:05 pm

Hi Bill,

With your action at the Hilton Head Regional it became time for you to send your partner an invitation to the bridge game he thought he was playing, rather than the sexy lady at the table you were traveling to next round.

However, other than a suspected insufficient bid from your partner and a very strange 1S to boot, neither suit nor level appear anything close to normal, which if I were the TD, I may render that hand now unplayable and make score adjustments which seemed equitable.

However, perhaps you meant some other happening occurred, leading me to suspect that you may have seen the same upcoming lady as your partner.

bobbywolffFebruary 22nd, 2018 at 6:45 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, while your example declarer’s hand was indeed a possibility, since South rebid 2NT without stoppers in either unbid suit, making either 2 spades or 3 clubs IMO, a much more popular choice, it does seem correct to play partner for what he did hold instead of the other.

However it may be different, if behind in an IMP match, it may then be good strategy to “change it up” and just hope that perhaps a down the list choice will create a positive swing on defense, while still hoping to arrive at a normal contract. I, of course, am speaking of bidding 2NT with the hand you fear.

However, while now having you on the internet phone (so to speak), and still talking about this specific type hand but changing the EW hands to East holding the Ax of hearts and West instead xxx a fairly often ethical problem might easily develop.

In my above example, the only logical way to defeat 4 hearts would be for West to duck the first club shift, allowing East to win the first trump and then when in with his trump ace, lead his other club, allowing partner to glean the setting trick with the upcoming third round club ruff.

There have been numerous occasions where this type of defense may occur, and if only done ethically by EW should they be entitled to keep their down 1. If East wins the spade and immediately switches to a club, then West, by that table action, will usually play him for a singleton club and win the first club, not achieving the desired result, but if East studies, say 15+ seconds and then switches, West is far more likely to GUESS what to do.

The only intelligent stricture to follow would be to ethically keep East from quickly returning the club, so when he does (not at warp speed) but rather in 10+ seconds or so, return the club, not trying to cheat their opponents, but, of course, forcing West to make the key decision of either winning the first club or not, either possibly getting it right or not.

This specific situation has come up twice in World Championships where in both cases a lighting return in one case and a much slower return in the other case, both were read correctly by partner (defense) to the dismay of our beautiful game which demands active ethics at all times.

However, since our bridge jurisprudence does not seem to rely on precedent, both results were taken away, but since no precedent is ever recorded and then handed to the committee chairman, no one can predict what the decision will be the next time that situation occurs, making our great game not nearly as consistent and thus, as fair as it can be.

Just trying to vent on another aspect of this hand, but because of the defensive entry being in the right hand (plus the right trump holding) that subject would never come up.

At least to me, the above is worth mentioning, not only for its interest, but rather for its gravity. BTW, if somehow we do manage to archive these situations, this expose, at least IMO, should be included.

ClarksburgFebruary 22nd, 2018 at 8:28 pm

Speaking of “archiving” I have some preliminary ideas about how to make this all work.
It picks up on Mircea’s notion of an “e-book”.
It would make extensive use of the blog archive as it is now, and as it will develop further over the near future.
It would require a small amount of work by each of the willing active “Regulars” here. It would avoid making work for Bobby , but would provide an opportunity for him to teach what he wants to teach and say what he wants to say.
I have initiated e-mail connection with our quarterback, Mircea, awaiting reply.

Mircea1February 22nd, 2018 at 9:30 pm

Hi Clarksburg and Team,

Another idea, which can be developed in parallel with the e-book is a website where we can have the content publicly available and organized by specific topics, and also searchable. Just a thought.

I haven’t received any e-mail yet. My address again: mg at kwcomputerconcepts dot com

bobbywolffFebruary 22nd, 2018 at 10:08 pm

Hi Clarksburg & Mircea1,

At least from my perspective, the two of you should, at least start out to be, the leaders of the pack.

I have sent my email to Mircea, together with at least my attempt to at least suggest some higher level methods of first discussion and then examples of the application of bridge anecdotes directed toward sophisticated bidding and play.

However, the above will sort of be a go as you please progression with no written notes or archives as to when, what and if, they will appear. For examples, merely refer to the last few comments over the last days, wherein I’ve tried to delve.

Mircea1February 22nd, 2018 at 10:23 pm

Hi Bobby,

Got your mail but cannot reply to it. You service provider is blocking my address, for no reason (I checked). Have e-mailed to remove the block, hopefully it gets resolved. Still waiting for Clarksburg’s initial e-mail

bobbywolffFebruary 22nd, 2018 at 10:30 pm

Hi Mircea1,

These types of glitches become very frustrating.

I’ll wait to hear from you, before either Judy or I try and see why they are preventing others from emailing me.

Sorry for this, but I guess it best to show some patience.