Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, May 12th, 2018

They constantly try to escape
From the darkness outside and within
By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be

T.S. Eliot

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


The ACBL organizes simultaneous pairs every year to benefit various different activities, and last month they had a senior pairs, with duplicated hands all around the U.S., plus a book of commentary.

This deal tickled my fancy because I suspect that the play that would produce the best result possible for the East-West pairs on defense would escape most people, even with the sight of all four hands.

Let’s look at how the bidding might develop. When East pre-empts to two hearts over North’s one-club opener, South can double, then introduce spades, or bid and rebid spades, neither of which would be forcing, though the second route suggests a real invitation. However, both approaches should see South declare three spades.

Strangely, however, it is hard to defeat four spades after the South captures the heart queen lead. West must duck his diamond ace at trick two. If South wins the diamond king then runs the spade nine around to him, West must next take his diamond ace and shift to a club.

Now if declarer cashes both top clubs and leads a third, East ruffs in with the spade jack and West will be able to avoid any end-play easily enough. But if South instead ruffs the second club in hand and cashes the spade ace, West must unblock in trumps to avoid the throw-in! If he doesn’t, he will be forced to win the third spade and lead a minor, after which dummy’s winners will let declarer discard his heart losers.

In a game-forcing auction, every partnership must agree whether a jump to four spades here is minimum or indicates fitting cards in spades and diamonds; both treatments are playable, of course. In either event, a jump to four hearts by you should be shortage. If it shows extras, the hand might not be worth the call, but my instincts are that you should make it even with a minimum hand here.


♠ K Q 3
 A J 9 8 7
♣ 7 6 5 3
South West North East
    1 ♠ Pass
2 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


David WarheitMay 26th, 2018 at 9:16 am

Methinks there is a typo here. The spade 3 and 4 should be reversed. Now, after West carefully dumps the spade king, South leads his carefully preserved 3 to West’s 4, and West must now concede the rest of the tricks to dummy. But that was the theme of Wednesday’s hand! What a week!!

Iain ClimieMay 26th, 2018 at 9:51 am

Hi Bobby,

What happens if declarer sheds his diamond loser on 2 top clubs after west ducks the diamond, then plays a heart off table or even another club?



A.V.Ramana RaoMay 26th, 2018 at 11:08 am

Hi Mr. Wolff, David & lain
David: I think the column line is to highlight defense rather than declarer play. If 3 and 4 are interchanged as you mention, it is declarer who prevails , not defense
Iain : If the play goes as you describe, east can win the heart and continue with another heart which west will ruff with an honor ahead of dummy and return a club which east can ruff with J .South can ruff and lead Spade A and another but west can win and cash diamond A- If south ruffs this, he has to lose another heart
And dear Mr Wolff: This is wrt yesterday’s hand( sorry for the late comment as I could not see the blog in time yesterday). While west held the curse, I think the contract can be defeated on any lead except a heart. Perhaps NS went overboard with too less points and without a proper fit & perhaps this hand should be an object lesson in bidding rather than defense or play not to overbid

A.V.Ramana RaoMay 26th, 2018 at 11:32 am

Sorry lain- there is a flaw in my earlier analysis but east can beat declarer by simply returning a trump. If south plays small, west will win and return another trump . If south win and puts west on play, west will lead A of diamonds. If south ruffs this, he has to lose two more hearts else this is the setting trick. And if south plays A of spades and leads a heart, west can ruff with K/Q and return a club which east can ruff with J of spades. And if south leads a spade after winning with A, again west can cash second high trump an lead A of diamond
& coming to the flaw- it is interesting: South can overruff east with A of spades( else dummy ruffs and leads a club which south ruffs and leads another heart) and lead a heart. West is forced to ruff with remaining honor and south prevails

Iain ClimieMay 26th, 2018 at 11:50 am


Thanks for that, interesting. I’m moving my daughter from college to home at the moment so trying to squeeze huge amounts into a car. This is light relief (unlike the cricket score).


bobbywolffMay 26th, 2018 at 5:47 pm

Hi David, Iain, & AVRR,

Thanks to all three of you for creating room service to me for solving the riddle of this very complicated play and defense hand.

Yes, AVRR’s comment about wanting the defense to prevail, although it is doubtful that the ACBL intervened after, of course, being computer dealt, giving a smaller third spade to West than South possessed, but when this hand was first chosen by us, was to after much back & forth to favor the defense.

At the very least, the discussions above tend to prove what it takes to have a chance to make a very positive mark in bridge, attention to detail, numeracy in its many forms, and an uncompromising ability to concentrate fully on all 52 cards, although, never having to think anywhere near 52, but rather only whatever the necessary cards are, usually only no more than three or four, critical on any one hand.

Not surprisingly, at least to me, those same attributes will usually be necessary to make a big splash in life, whatever one chooses for his or her occupation. Add dedication to the above group and everyone should be good to go.

Again, thanks to all three of you for initiating the discussion (David) and then determining a likely correct analysis (AVRR) and finally Iain for having his question answered.

BTW, Iain, I hope the game score mentioned turned around or is my wish, simply not cricket.

Iain ClimieMay 26th, 2018 at 5:52 pm

Hi Bobby,

Situation improving as England are only a clear 2nd in a 2 horse race whereas earlier they seemed to be trying for 3rd.


bobbywolffMay 26th, 2018 at 7:08 pm

Hi Iain,

Your post reminded me of an incident in my bridge competitive life way back when I was a kid, well over what seems like, 100 years ago.

My adversary and I made a $1 bet on who would finish higher at a Regional event and when it was over, declared to him that partner and I had finished 10th. He then claimed his win by stating that he finished 8th.

It turned out he had finished 8th in section, not overall. Never got my $1 back (actually $2) but my then overall lifetime experience, rose way above, for the future, what that $2 actually cost me.

Iain ClimieMay 26th, 2018 at 7:19 pm

Hi Bobby,

A lesson to us all but at least a cheap one. As Bob Lipton said a few days ago, zuch care can be important when claiming, as not all pedants torpedo tbemselves like Mollo’s Secretary Bird.


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