Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, May 10th, 2018

I’m a games player by nature. Don’t get me wrong. Nothing that involves movement. Like leaving my chair.

Maureen Lipman

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

*Three keycards


One of my occasional correspondents is Maureen Hiron, who lives in Spain but writes a newspaper column for Ireland. She commented that she had first met this type of hand early in her bridge career, and her partner bawled her out for going down. When a similar situation arose a short while later, she knew what to do. As Hiron said, the good bridge player only makes the same mistake four times. By the fifth time, she has learned her lesson.

Barring bizarre distribution, the only thing that could go wrong in six hearts was the trumps breaking 4-1 or worse. If West holds the length, you are doomed; but if East has the critical holding, you may be able to survive as long as you take the appropriate precautions early.

Against the slam, West cashed the diamond ace and continued the suit. Hiron won in hand and noticed that if East did indeed hold jack-fourth in trumps, she would need to reduce her trump holding to parity with East, ending with the lead in dummy.

So at trick three, she took the spade ace then ruffed a spade, reducing South’s trump holding to five. Then came the heart ace and a heart to the king to find the bad news.

However, another spade ruff reduced the South trump holding to the same length as East’s. Hiron could then take her minor-suit winners, ending in dummy with the club ace, and she was happy to see East follow throughout. In the two-card ending, a spade from dummy caught East’s trump jack under South’s Q-10 of hearts.

This is a problem with no sensible answer. If you bid two diamonds, you will force the hand to game without any real confidence in a fit or source of tricks. You could raise either clubs or hearts to the three-level to invite game, which somewhat overstates your trump support in either case, or you could go very low by bidding only two hearts. If you twisted my arm, I would bid three hearts, but don’t expect me to like it.


♠ A 8 6 4 2
 K 5
 8 5 4
♣ A 7 5
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 ♠ 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


A.V.Ramana RaoMay 24th, 2018 at 10:40 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Just thinking loud.
Doctoring the hand for west to hold Spade K Q J and leading K perhaps would make the hand very instructive. Unless declarer wins spade A and ruffs a spade immediately , the contract cannot be made. ( even then, playing hearts A first followed by heart to K)
Hpoe you do not mind my musings

bobbywolffMay 24th, 2018 at 11:04 am


Of course, seemingly all routine bridge writers (and teachers) create circumstances (such as the doctoring of KQJ on lead) in order to give the declarer a fall back option to enable the extra chance which, in fact, brought home the bacon (slam) on the bad (but not terminal) trump break.

Bridge, possibly even more so than tennis and golf, has so many levels of play from rank beginner to world class expert making the teaching of the game even more difficult since physical sports are much more easily defined than is the cerebral game we, on this site, love.

Please AVRR, always feel free to speak your mind, ask questions, give answers, since by doing so, and with only the truth back and forth we will find, either immediately or eventually, the best way to progress with dressing up our great game in the best possible package.

If only the politics of world stability would cherish truth, rather than self-service, everyone alive would bear the fruit of a constantly improving life style, rather than the ravages to which we are now enslaved.

“Seek the truth and that truth shall make ye free” is one of my favorite remembrances and my yes, our column is definitely contrived to get across the theme of every hand we write about, using every trick we have in our repertoire to make it as clear as we can.

We do not always succeed and could do much better, but not because we do not try.

BTW, there are many readers of the column who would love for us to downgrade the difficult hands to baby analysis, but to do so, catering to beginners, just doesn’t get across our games continual and overwhelming beauty to which most would find, if they stayed with.

David WarheitMay 24th, 2018 at 11:06 am

AVRR: Assuming you mean that the only difference between West’s hand as you have it and the actual West hand is that the spade Q and say the spade 7 are switched, your West would have made a takeout double of South’s opening bid of 1H. If that’s not a huge wake-up call to South to adopt the winning line of play, I don’t know what would work. (In short, South shouldn’t need to mistake playing this hand four times to get the point.)

A.V.Ramana RaoMay 24th, 2018 at 11:17 am

Hi David
When one surgery is not enough , proceed with second. After giving Q of spades to west,Just switch A of diamonds to east hand exchanging any card to make the hand more appealing and instructive. ( Obviously there is no takeout double now)

A V Ramana RaoMay 24th, 2018 at 3:29 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff

If only the politics of world stability would cherish truth, rather than self-service, everyone alive would bear the fruit of a constantly improving life style, rather than the ravages to which we are now enslaved.”
With respect to above I would only add
If only every person thinks in a mature way like Bobby Wolff , the world would be a better place to live in

bobbywolffMay 24th, 2018 at 4:09 pm


First, thanks for your endearing words.

However, my life in bridge, especially the later years, has been filled with turmoil and disagreement as I fought (so far very unsuccessfully) for bridge in schools in America as well as banishment for high-level players and partnerships “red-handed”, caught cheating.

Not everyone, except perhaps the song writing team of Gilbert & Sullivan believed in “Let the Punishment Fit the Crime”, for what they think (or thought) was over zealous and just too severe.

Not everyone is on the same wave length, especially since a combination of filthy politics and what is good for #1 is what so many of us (no doubt including me, at least at times, but hopefully not both) is born with.

However those resulting scars certainly don’t sting and merely
reminds me of how difficult it is
to get a level playing field in whatever one dedicates his or her life to.

Believe it or not, the really sensational people I’ve met while along the way (this site is a great example), is worth the bad, perhaps reminding me, like did “The Wizard of OZ” that encountering and holding ones own against wicked witches and poisoned flowers is a very important, productive moment in most people’s lives.

We all (or almost), if we live long enough, will likely have the same chance.