Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

All true believers shall break their eggs at the convenient end: and which is the convenient end, seems, to my humble opinion, to be left to every man’s conscience.

Jonathan Swift

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


Today’s deal comes from “The Language of Bridge” by Kit Woolsey. The author framed it as a defensive problem: I’m going to give you a slightly different take on the deal by asking you just to look at the East cards, not the West cards, as Woolsey posed.

After an abortive Stayman sequence, your partner leads a fourth-highest spade four. You win the spade jack as declarer plays the spade six. Under your spade queen, declarer plays the spade eight, partner the seven. What should you do, and why?

Clearly declarer started with precisely A-8-6 of spades, since he denied a four-card major. If your partner had started with ace-king-fifth of spades, he would have overtaken the queen and cashed out the spades.

Also, if he had wanted spades continued, he would have seized control by overtaking the second spade and leading a third spade. When he didn’t do this, he must have wanted to leave you on lead to do something else.

Since we know West began with K-10-7-4-2, he had three small spades to choose from at trick two. Playing the seven, the middle spade out of these three spots, should call for the middle suit, diamonds. Your partner must have three decent diamonds and be hoping you can lead the suit, and that you have the 10 or that declarer has only two diamonds.

If you shift to a diamond now, then when you get back on lead with the club king, another diamond play will give the defense five tricks.

You have enough to force to game, but it seems premature to drive to four hearts, since you might miss slam or end up playing a 4-3 fit when three no-trump is a better game. Start with a two-diamond cue-bid and see if partner produces a heart suit or a diamond stopper.


♠ 9 5
 A 5 3 2
 A 8 6 4
♣ A 6 4
South West North East
  1 Dbl. 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 ClimieApril 3rd, 2018 at 1:35 pm

HI Bobby,

You need some trust in West though to defend like this. If he’d played the S2 at T2 and you’d switched to a club on the basis he had Q109(x), we all know players who would say “I was just trying to show you I had 5 spades…..” or “isn’t another spade better?” and the switch does more harm than good.

The lesson from Kit is still valid provided partner is smart and awake enough.



BobliptonApril 3rd, 2018 at 1:49 pm

“I was showing you that Ihad the diamond Ace so you could get back to my hand, partner.”


Bobby WolffApril 3rd, 2018 at 2:45 pm

Hi Iain,

Your right on analysis fills the air and will justifiably create rapt attention and thus individual views.

1. Kit’s hand and presentation paves the way for the cutting edge of what constitutes highest level bridge.

2. However, if this became a debate on what could be called either “an advanced course in bridge ethics” or “what could or should result in a committee’s interpretation of the NS response to this EW defense.”, it would also need to be explored.

3. Without fanfare, while cutting to the chase on #2 (above) West, with his choice of spade spot at trick 2, merely emphasized to his partner (with, and of course) the startling undeniable inference from the specific bidding, the need to consider what appears to be the legal message from West.

That message will likely be, a suit switch to one minor or the other (yes, it also could be hearts, although the four of them, instead of three, which are in dummy may be noted, but certainly not conclusive), with the ten (of spades), not the seven, requesting diamonds, but the seven, being clearly clubs.

This subject, although somewhat futuristic, is, and of course, already fully on the table for all very high level bridge partnerships, but AFAIK there is yet to be a committee convened to possibly iron out the ethics involved in determining what, if any, unauthorized information was passed between EW to suggest which suit to switch other than the totally legal playing of the specific spade at trick two by West.

My guess would be that on this hand, when West follows with the spade 10, it asks for a heart, while the spade seven asks for a diamond, leaving the spade deuce for a club, except realistically it could merely ask East to look at his hand and if he did not have the king of clubs himself, but rather no other “relevant high cards” merely continue spades but if East holds the club king (as here) then follow partner’s suit preference switch to a red suit.

All of us owe a debt of gratitude to Kit for scratching the surface of what bridge could grow into, during the next century, but right here in River City and on this site, we also owe the same respect to Iain for merely broaching the continuation of what this hand could represent and just how great our already thought beautiful game can become.

Of course, without bridge in Zone 2’s schools soon all of the above, will likely wind up with only a what if, thought.

Bobby WolffApril 3rd, 2018 at 3:02 pm

Hi Bob,

Yes, many defenders (here, East) may fall victim to such an alternate meaning, but, depending on first the bidding and then the legal suit signals, together with what East holds in his hand today, should, most of the time, show in NEON what West was trying to communicate, basically improving the substance of our many level faceted game (similar to our lower level club tennis and golf), likely not effecting enjoyment for any level, but only creating a greater desire among the natural talents which emerge at so many of our sports (and I use that word because I do think bridge is), even now, including the future of bridge, something that other great games (such as chess) just do not possess.

The key words are probably partnership cooperation in bridge instead of just lone wolf competition in head to head battles.

Iain ClimieApril 3rd, 2018 at 3:29 pm

Hi again,

I think Bob Lipton is teasing slightly (check dummy) although I do remember one hand where my LHO at T4 suddenly sat bolt upright after I’d led from dummy to my DA and said “But I’ve got that! Oh….” He had the HA in with the diamonds….. We should have worried about UI at this point but the table had collapsed laughing.

Swift’s satirical comment on the reason for the war between Lilliputians and their neighbours is another bonus today.


Bobby WolffApril 3rd, 2018 at 4:04 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, It was probably satirical along the lines of your special experience.

However, it is realistic as a generality about the various ceilings any one player may view as to what inferential could mean.

Facing the truth squarely and no doubt: Since our game is played at so many different levels together with no such things as accurate as handicaps and status (evident in golf, chess, tennis and bowling) or as quoted in realistic ratings in bridge which are, at least at this moment in time, in no way accurately posted anywhere, (please no one mention master points), since, with a few exceptions, which are seemingly hidden for almost no one to inspect, as opposed to the exaggerated listings in every imaginable spectator sport (mostly physical) with accents to the nostalgic past, present and future, it becomes practically impossible to predict a relatively new voice which appears and both his or her intellectual knowledge and ability to fully understand just how multi faceted our great game actually extends.

The above is not a complaint, only a handicap in communicating on the level, with various degrees of intellectual knowledge. Perhaps with time, that situation may be overcome, but until it is, we need to walk on thin ice if we want to avoid what some may think is sometimes very rude and as far as laughing at oneself in the form of humor, that practice becomes very complex as well as possibly even destructive.

Bobby WolffApril 3rd, 2018 at 4:33 pm

Hi again Iain,

And as to hearing from Jonathan Swift, you definitely described the long and short of it unless, because of my past travels, you think of me as gullible.

Shantanu RastogiApril 4th, 2018 at 1:13 pm

Hello Mr Wolff

Sorry for late response.

If I am not missing something east precisely needs to play diamond 10 to defeat the contract a low diamond won’t help as South won’t cover and would just duck 9 or Jack by West.

Best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Bobby WolffApril 4th, 2018 at 7:36 pm

Hi Shantanu,

You are as right as you can be, and if and when your keen mind then thoroughly concentrated on our beautiful game, you would then secure a getting better and better approach to defense.

On this specific hand and in improving your defense it would then soon become apparent that while playing against an equally good declarer that when holding Kxx instead of 10xx, it still may work if you switched to a low one (from the king) and convinced even an excellent declarer that you wouldn’t do so from the king into the ace and thus not play the queen, but instead duck from hand and then again from dummy when his LHO followed with the jack or whatever card necessary to force the ace. Then, with the automatic return (hopefully from partner) down would go declarer (even a good one) who underestimated his RHO.

Yes, you tend to love a game which will continue to bring you much joy, as you move up the elevator to more bridge success.

Thanks for writing, late or not!

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