Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, February 9th, 2018

Science is a first-rate piece of furniture for a man’s upper chamber, if he has common sense on the ground floor.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

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


Cenk Tuncok gave the daily bulletin at the NEC tournament some analysis on this deal. It is a defensive problem, so look at just the West and North cards, and see if you can work out what to do.

South has opened a strong no-trump, and you have decided to let discretion be the better part of valor because of the vulnerability. When you lead the heart king against three no-trump (requesting the unblock of an honor or otherwise a count signal), partner contributes the two and declarer the jack. The position seems very straightforward, so why am I posing it to you as a problem? It looks obvious to continue with a heart — though whether you play a high or low one doesn’t seem critical.

But what if you play upsidedown count and attitude? Now partner’s two and declarer’s jack appear to be incompatible; someone has mis-sorted their hand or is playing a very deep — or clueless — game.

If playing standard signals, I do not see how you can do anything but continue hearts, and that would be fatal. As you can see, declarer has the doubleton spade ace and very little hope for a ninth trick unless you continue hearts. However, if you do fall into his trap, he can win his ace and play back a third heart to build the heart eight into his game-going trick.

Should you work this out if partner’s heart two is inconsistent with three small? I think you should — and especially from now on if the declarer is Cenk Tuncok!

This hand is worth an immediate three-spade bid, not just because of the fifth spade, but also because of the honor location and the singleton heart. You want to encourage partner to bid on over the opponents’ likely call of four hearts. If four hearts is passed around to you, you will have an interesting decision, though. I’d favor bidding on, however undisciplined that might appear.


♠ K J 6 4 2
 K 10 5 4
♣ 8 7 5
South West North East
  1 Dbl. 2

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 23rd, 2018 at 9:35 am

HI Bobby,

I think West should smell a rat here. If South has HAJ alone is he really going to duck and hope the suit is 6-2 with West having no entry or is he going to take the Ace and hope that East has (say) H10xx, the suit is 4-4 or that West tries to get East in. Playing normal signals East would play the H2 from 852 but, playing reverse attitude, it would probably be the 8 but definitely not the 2.

All easy away from the table, of course. At the table I’m sure I’d have had another top heart on the baize as soon as I could!



Iain ClimieFebruary 23rd, 2018 at 2:38 pm

Hi again,

Also, on BWTA, how much of a case is there for applying maximum pressure straight off with 4S. Of course this could be a phantom but partner appears to have 2 or 3 hearts so either has extra values or excuses prepared if he has doubled on something like AQxx xxx KJx KJx which appears to be a modern trend. I accept there are plenty of hands where 4S is just wrong seeing 52 cards but that doesn’t guarantee opponents won’t take the push or even fail to double.



bobbywolffFebruary 23rd, 2018 at 2:46 pm

Hi Iain,

Some declarer or defender ruses, or even brilliant imaginative bids, while competing in very challenging higher level bridge, are just too original to overcome, and this one by Cenk Tencok deserves that accolade.

Sure, depending on the meaning of partnership legal signalling, it possibly can be suspected and thus denied. However and realistically, Cenk’s play no doubt, hit a magic cord and deserves consideration for the declarer play of a lifetime, not just a measurable shorter time.

Remember he didn’t just falsecard the eight, but rather a very unusual jack, virtually stripping the opening leader of the necessity of any further analysis, although, as we can all say in unison and in hindsight, sure, maybe it should not have.

It became a case of looking like a duck, walking like a duck, quacking like a duck, but, in fact, not being a duck, but rather and forever more an original and perhaps never before, double bath coup, accomplished by the play of only one card.

Let’s name it a Donald, up to now, the most famous duck, although fictional, ever, created many years ago, by Walt Disney.

Can bridge be an over the top game, or what?

bobbywolffFebruary 23rd, 2018 at 3:36 pm

Hi again Iain,

Your sometimes probing with bridge strategy, this time in somewhat unusual initial overbdding, can be described, best often said by the late and great Edgar Kaplan, either daring (if it works) or foolhearty (if it does not).

To me, it depends on just who exactly are your opponents. If they are a good partnership with at unfavorable vulnerability (your side yes, their side no) but somewhat new to the scene, slightly naive, but very respectful to your partnership, then, again my judgment, your play can work in spades, (please excuse the reference), since those thoughts by them will cause them to likely take a phantom save over your, of course, unmakeable 4 spade contract.

To repeat an oft repeated quality by my beliefs, the very best players, have an uncanny knack, for knowing just when and against who, to use such strategy, a talent which also often carries over to the business world and makes them also hugely successful in whatever they do.

However to do the above bridge magic right, one has to also have an astute enough partner who, by having been there before, not unauthorized information, develops a “feel” for when you are probably setting those worthy opponents up, thus not, in reality, raining on your bridge ruse, by, and in this case, bidding on, especially in competition, and thus too much.

In other words, no special partnership bridge undisclosed information, but just the run of the mill competitive adventure.

Also, as an afterthought, such a jump to 4 spades can be a loss without being doubled, by just being too high, but since your partnership has the master suit, perhaps you can make the same number of spades that they can hearts (at the two or three level).

Thanks for the opportunity you created for us to exchange the pros and cons of such attempts at oneupsmanship.

Conclusion: “Creative but several dangerous moving parts”. Living by the sword, not the dove.

Call that quality experience

Linda TrentFebruary 23rd, 2018 at 8:38 pm

Just discovered this great site!
I would like to ask Bobby (a real friend) a bridge question but can’t figure out how to do so?

Is it via a comment here? Do I need to sign up on the site?


Linda TrentFebruary 23rd, 2018 at 8:39 pm

Just discovered this great site!
I would like to ask Bobby (a real friend) a bridge question but can’t figure out how to do so?

Is it via a comment here? Do I need to sign up on the site?


Got a response I have already asked this question. I have not afaik – Help?

Linda TrentFebruary 23rd, 2018 at 8:41 pm

Sorry for asking twice. Not good at finding info on a new (to me site)

Iain ClimieFebruary 23rd, 2018 at 9:58 pm

HI Bobby,

Many thanks for the thorough replies.

Hi Linda,

Just post as you did above and you’ll get a reply; no sign up needed. Bobby is also kind enough to answer general questions and “last night I held X, what should I have done?”, not just those related to the column. He is an absolute gentleman in that respect (and any others I can think of).



bobbywolffFebruary 24th, 2018 at 5:45 pm

Hi Linda,

Welcome to our site and hope you enjoy it. With your experience of being very active in the ACBL in just about every way possible, including length of time served as an important administrator, good bridge player and so many vital roles, plus your husband, Brian, no doubt you can add much, especially keeping me along the straight and narrow for attempting to tell it the way I see it and, at least, what I think it is.

No signing up, nor experience necessary with the AOB necessary, just ask away and then, at least sometimes hope you get the response you prefer. Of course, the specific days AOB hand, 2 weeks delayed from the seven day of the week column displayed by newspapers mostly in the USA, but some from around the world, is the supposed featured attraction and is often hashed and rehashed, but that, of course, leads outwardly to other just as interesting subjects, sometimes related to today and sometimes not.

All others always and officially join me in welcoming new victims, but, at least for now, pretend, if necessary, but please, genuinely feel like this is your new bridge home

You may even benefit, depending on your question, from bold and intelligent answers from all around the world and even perhaps their experiences, if pertinent.

In every way and even from many who have not yet appeared, please feel at home.

Sorry for the delay since yesterday, but sometimes it is unavoidable.