Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 4th, 2018

Sole survivor, cursed with second sight
Haunted savior, cried into the night.

Eric Bloom

E North
None ♠ A 7
 Q 9 2
 K 5 4
♣ A Q 10 9 5
West East
♠ Q 9 8 6 3 2
 10 8 6 4
 A 10 7
♣ —
♠ 10 5 4
 A 3
 Q 8 6
♣ J 7 6 4 3
♠ K J
 K J 7 5
 J 9 3 2
♣ K 8 2
South West North East
1 2 ♠ 3 ♣ Pass
3 NT All pass    


One of the regular fundraising activities of the American Contract Bridge League is to produce simultaneous pairs events with a commentary. This allows people to compare their results at the table with what, in theory, is par on the board.

In today’s deal from a recent such event, North does not possess a classic opener. (Indeed, Ely Culbertson might be turning in his grave at the idea of opening a hand with no aces and a bare, balanced 12-count.) Having said that, with nobody vulnerable at pairs, it often pays to get in early and try to steal the contract. You’d expect West to bid spades over one diamond, and now North-South rate to reach three no-trump, probably by South, and most likely on a spade lead. (Of course if West leads hearts, declarer will come home with no problem.)

Since declarer does not have second sight, he will probably win the spade ace, cash the club ace, then play a club to the eight and take the club king. To keep himself in the game, West must pitch two diamonds and a spade; if he pitches a heart, declarer establishes a third heart trick without too much trouble.

But after this start, South will have a shrewd idea of West’s original distribution: to bring home his contract, South must lead a heart to the nine at trick five. As the commentary indicates, any declarer who reads the cards this well will truly deserve his top!

You showed 15-17 at your first turn. Then completing the transfer showed three trumps. In context, you have a minimum, plus soft cards in the opponents’ suit. You have absolutely no reason to think of bidding now. Partner is in control of the auction, and he wants to sell out. Respect his authority.


♠ A 7
 Q 9 2
 K 5 4
♣ A Q 10 9 5
South West North East
1 NT Pass 2 Dbl.
2 3 Pass 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 ClimieMay 18th, 2018 at 9:10 am

Hi Bobby,

I don’t know about Ely Culbertson but look at today’s grotty 12 count against yesterday’s moderate one. David will not be impressed and I must say I’d be tempted not to open it at certain positions and vulnerabilities, even in a country where 12-14 NT has been standard for years; there is now a move back towards 15-17 though. Funny how fashions go round in circles.

West’s failure to dump a heart does suggest that he hasn’t got (say) HAxx, xxx or 10xx while a lack of a Michaels cue-bid probably suggests 5-5 in the majors can be precluded. Even so, it might be best to try and get 1 heart through early on just in case EW play Michaels as Medium / Strong (probably not a good treatment) and West holds HAxxxx.



le_valet_de_piqueMay 18th, 2018 at 1:12 pm

To be clear: the issue here is overtricks, no? After the successful club finesse, even a less perspicacious declarer is likely to make 9 trick by playing on in heart.

le_valet_de_piqueMay 18th, 2018 at 1:17 pm


bobbywolffMay 18th, 2018 at 3:52 pm

Hi Iain,

First of all, apologies for gremlin strikes, 2nd paragraph, North rather than South having a very light opening bid.

Next and of course the theme of introducing this hand is the necessary card reading by declarer (having been cursed by the horrible spade duplication of Ax opposite KJ). When West holds tenaciously to not discarding a heart while throwing away a spade (potential future winner, it would usually infer he is protecting the ten of hearts, not necessarily the ace).

At least to me, when and if West then turns up with only 643 (or some such, even A63)) in hearts you can indelibly mark him down as a future great star in this game we play. Either that or possibly a rank beginner where all low cards seem alike.

Of course, the discussion about West being close to a Michaels cue bid is an entirely different view, keeping in mind and on this bidding, perhaps he would have chosen a heart lead, after spades were bid, since the opponents chose 3NT as their potential game of choice.

In any event, as I predict you will agree, all aspiring players need to keep working on their card reading (often opponents early discards) and, if done, card reading should start improving by bounds and leaps. Even hesitations by either lefty or righty, except by very shrewd top players, are very likely to mean something.

bobbywolffMay 18th, 2018 at 3:57 pm

Hi valet-de-pique,

More than just overtricks are involved since the contract trick (ninth) depends on not going off the rails with declarer’s play.

Keep in mind that in order to find out about the horrible club break, we have already sacrificed one trick and have only 4 total club tricks left.

Thanks for your interest.