Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, April 26th, 2018

I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one,
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one!

Gelett Burgess

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

*Weak in one minor or four spades with 8-11 HCP


Today’s deal comes from the Common Game, but I have changed a spot card to focus the point of the hand. It is from a pairs game played all over the U.S.

The auction was highly unusual, with North lying in the bushes at his second turn, apparently prepared to play three clubs facing a weak hand, then driving to slam in no-trump when South showed four spades and a maximum pass.

West did well to lead a diamond, and declarer won in hand to lead a heart to the king. When it held, he cashed the club ace and king; and when West showed out, South decided that West was very unlikely to be short in spades. He made the excellent decision to cross to hand with the spade queen and lead a second heart. This time, West won the heart ace and continued the accurate defense by returning a diamond. That meant declarer was reduced to just one reentry to hand, and thus had to commit himself in spades right now. All declarer knew was that West had six hearts and one club and had led high then low in diamonds. But since the spots in diamonds had suggested that West had a doubleton and East had five, declarer took his life in his own hands and advanced the spade nine, running it when West played low.

Had West covered the spade nine, declarer would have been able to cross to the club jack and take the marked finesse in spades to bring home the slam without any guesswork.

One of the old wives’ tales that still circulates from time to time is that a two-no-trump opener must have every suit properly guarded. The problem is that the only way to show a balanced 21-count is to open two no-trump. If you do anything else, you cannot accurately describe your hand at your second turn.


♠ A K 7 2
 K Q 3
 9 4
♣ A K Q 5
South West North East

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 ClimieMay 10th, 2018 at 11:29 am

HI Bobby,

As a follow-up to yesterday, if East did have 6C and led one to West’s A10 doubleton, hasn’t West still got a safe exit with a spade if holding DK or Q so the contract is still off.

A couple of points on today’s hand, though. Presumably North avoided 6S because of his fears about a heart ruff occurring at T2 although if South held a singleton heart and West refrained from playing the HA at T1 it could have rebounded. The second is the holding of a 4-card major on the side for a weak 2.

Many years ago (probably about 35 to 40) there was a tendency to avoid having such a side suit in case partner had (say) a decent 5-1-4-3 hand or similar opposite a hand like West’s. I presume that the pre-emptive advantages of weak 2s are now considered to outweigh such niceties, so presumably (like BWTA) this has now been relegated to an old wives’ tale.



jim2May 10th, 2018 at 12:44 pm

If West does not bid 2H, the BWTA answer suggests North will begin with 2N. N-S would then find their spade fit and South would know their combined HCP total to be 31 with no long suit to run and few chances for ruffs.

Would N-S reach slam? If so, would it not be 6S?

In 6S, it would appear East would be on lead.

Iain ClimieMay 10th, 2018 at 12:48 pm

Sorry, I’m missing a trick here re yesterday. If the card led makes West (holding A10) think the suit is 2-4-5-2 round the table, he has to duck. Even then, declarer wins in dummy, ruffs a spade himself, draws trumps and plays another club so West now has to lead a diamond away from Q or even K. So West has to take CA and hope if he started with Ax and isn’t sure whether South has one or two.

Agree about the suggested 3N bid, though.


bobbywolffMay 10th, 2018 at 3:36 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, definitely so for West, while holding his breath as to which, North or East held the heart nine and if East, hopefully not singleton, or for that matter any singleton heart at all.

And again yes, for what amounts to another misconception, not so terribly long ago, with strictures on preempts designed for low percentage situations which might cause a possible preemptor fear to do so for worry about his side missing superior contracts.

Nowadays (long time getting it right), being a tough opponent and taking bidding space away from them is now thought to be (rightfully IMO) not only superior, but instead a “slam dunk” to prefer.

Methinks the bridge teachers of yesterday, in order to be thought of as thorough, forgot that bridge should never be thought of as anywhere close to a perfect science (leave that quality to chess) but rather a steady stream of blocking worthy opponents communication (bidding space) as well as ploys (aka deception) a worthwhile (and necessary tool) unless one prefers to be knows as an “Unlucky Expert” made prominent by S.J. Simon of British bridge fame.

IOW, show me a straight laced player, who never deviates from norm and I’ll show you a less than frequent winner, no matter how perfect his bridge technique extends. Causing the opponents to not play as well as they usually do, seems like half the way to reaching the bridge Emerald City.

Finally, in what could have been my simple answer: I totally agree with you!

bobbywolffMay 10th, 2018 at 3:54 pm

Hi Jim2,

IMO, and without (for whatever reason) West not opening a WTB, N-S, with N opening with 2NT would reach 6 spades, over a 70% slam, considering no immediate ruff and a 3-2 trump break plus a few of the 4-1s to be easily hurdled. North, after announcing his 4 card spade holding and then having partner confirm the spade fit, should cooperate with him, if given an option to do so. (prime cards not 4-3-3-3 and, between them having the three top trump honors).

No doubt this hand does represent the luck element in bridge for both pairs since a huge percentage of the partnerships who do reach slam will go set, However, that luck will eventually be evened out over the long haul for all players who play for at least some time, except, of course, for those who are afflicted with TOCM TM. (a smiley belongs here).

PeteMay 10th, 2018 at 4:02 pm

I’m sort of out of it, but could someone please tell me what TOCM means. Thanks in advance.

bobbywolffMay 10th, 2018 at 4:08 pm

Hi Iain,

Your analysis reminds me of what happens to me all the time. When thinking and writing about multiple hands during usually a question and answer session, the hands run together and chaos often occurs.

With your comment, West can merely lead a spade, since dummy has no more trumps, therefore no ruff and sluff to worry about.

Welcome to the club of thinking and writing about our great game, not that you have not been a member for a long time, but misery shared toughens us all up, but not necessarily in having to be in an apologetic tone.

jim2May 10th, 2018 at 4:31 pm

Pete –

I confess it is an acronym I coined here years ago.

Theory of Card Migration ™

Look here at second answer:

bobbywolffMay 10th, 2018 at 4:33 pm

Hi Pete,

Since you belong in a relatively new addition to our bridge club, it is no wonder about your pertinent question.

TOCM stands for theory of card migration, meaning that (to Jim2 or other victims) whichever way he wants the suits to behave, if bidding much, to be favorable, but bidding little, to then misbehave, the opposite ALWAYS occurs, making futility his calling card.

To others of less resolve, that malady would cause most, total exclusion from the game, but to Jim2, with his determination and keen analysis and other worthwhile contributions, continue to make his participation invaluable.

Perhaps someday some cure may be discovered, but until then, although he is an accomplished and renowned expert, when desperately needing good bridge results, he and partner (for him, no doubt, hard to find) would be the player’s choice to come to their bridge table.

jim2May 10th, 2018 at 4:34 pm

TOCM ™ = Theory Of Card Migration

The simplest example might be the two-way finesse for a queen. Say you have AJ10 facing KXX. If you play the ace, the queen will be behind the king. If you cash the king, the queen will be behind the ace.

If you lead the jack, the queen will remain in quantum space (like Schrodinger’s Cat) until you play the king or let it ride. Once you play from the Board, the queen will migrate to the “wrong” hand.

PeteMay 10th, 2018 at 4:53 pm

Hi Jim2 and Bobby,
Thank you for the TOCM explanation. It reminds me a bit of whack-a-mole or even better the old three-card Monte scam.

Iain ClimieMay 10th, 2018 at 9:02 pm

Hi Bobby, Jim2 and Pete,

There is a similar concern to TOCM in everyday life based on a theory called “resistentialism”. Drop a piece of buttered toast onto tiles and it is 50-50 which way it lands. Do the same on expensive carpet and it is almost certain to be butter side down. Of course this could just be Murphy’s Law” or just good old paranoia (although that is the unjustified fear that the world is out to get you), but there should be a feeling of deja vu here.



jim2May 10th, 2018 at 9:19 pm

Well, the toast “knows” what it is about to land on, and so has already decided upon which side it will land.

As one advances a card and has yet to play from the third hand, the missing card remains in quantum space until the decision moment.

For example, when deciding on whether to play for 2-2 or 3-1, one plays one round than advances the second. The next opponent follows and the missing card exists in both hands and neither, all simultaneously. Then, when I play from the Board or Closed Hand, it migrates to the “wrong” defender’s hand.

You see, unlike the toast, the missing card does not KNOW which play I will make until that moment.

Iain ClimieMay 10th, 2018 at 9:25 pm

Hi Jim2,

You don’t have a cat you? And, if you do, does it ever look nervous at any mention of Schrodinger?


jim2May 10th, 2018 at 9:46 pm

bobbywolffMay 10th, 2018 at 9:59 pm

Hi Jim2,

Ah, but you may be underestimating the science of fate, together with the application of motive (often never known).

Rest assured that the eventual result is already
indelibly planned, always before the card is already called. How else can the law of averages vitally influence either a simple game of bridge, (World Championship or club) or the destiny involved with the difference between success (happiness) or failure (not) in life itself?

Choosing to travel one place or another to be introduced to one’s random mate, invest here, there, or nowhere, buying a losing lottery ticket or instead, the winner, as well as the simple fact of being conceived or not, needs to have some scientific basis to be relevant, and, for that matter, somewhat consistent with reality.

Is TOCM surely worse than ARNW (always right, never wrong)? Simply not, since many, if not all, would accept TOCM for playing bridge while negotiating in return for judgment, ARNW during a significant lifetime.

Iain ClimieMay 10th, 2018 at 10:13 pm

Hi Bobby,

’tis all a checker board of nights and days, where xestiny with men for pieces plays..

The Rubiyat of Omar Khayam.


Iain ClimieMay 10th, 2018 at 10:14 pm


jim2May 10th, 2018 at 11:27 pm

Nah, free will means one gets to choose.

TOCM ™ means that that free choice will always be wrong.

bobbywolffMay 12th, 2018 at 1:11 am

Hi Jim2,

Eternal damnation? Brutal. However when only at bridge, not nearly as bad, unless our beloved game is your forever love and even then, as you do, serve as a more than steady bridge adviser and superb teacher,, only not at the table, where you never have a chance.

jim2May 13th, 2018 at 12:37 pm

Not necessarily damnation. It’s more as if the Job of the Old Testament had taken up bridge.