Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Stealing, of course, is a crime. … But if you were very, very hungry, and you had no way of obtaining money, it would be excusable to grab (a) painting, take it to your house, and eat it.

Lemony Snicket

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


When this deal came up at the 2001 Cavendish teams event in Las Vegas, the daily bulletin remarked that Bruce Ferguson has made a career of trying to fool all of the people all of the time. The more outrageous things he does, the more people suspect him, so he has to keep trying ever more unusual tricks. But he still keeps reeling in the victims!

Consider this affair from the last match of the teams, where he caught another world champion and added yet one more notch to his belt.

If you play three no-trump as South, as did the vast majority of the field, you find the cards lying exceptionally well. With the diamond ace doubleton and spades and hearts apparently favorably located, it looks very hard to go down.

As West, Ferguson started the war of attrition by leading a deceptive heart four, playing fourth-highest leads. When you have a hand this strong, that can be a good move. When South ducked the first heart, Ferguson had won the first battle. Back came a second heart; South won, crossed to a top diamond and passed the club queen. Ferguson won and put the spade four on the table!

Declarer eyed this suspiciously and decided to duck. We can all see that this may not be technically supportable, but Ferguson had given him the chance to go wrong, and he took it. Now, when the club finesse lost, West had five winners. Ferguson left the table chortling, with yet another victim added to what is by now a rather long list.

Your partner has made a game try, and your hand is neither a clear acceptance nor rejection. A lot depends on whether your partner is short in hearts or in diamonds. Bid three diamonds to show this sort of diamond holding, and let your partner decide whether he wants to play game — and if so, which one.


♠ J 5 3
 9 8 3
 K Q 10 9 3
♣ Q 8
South West North East
    1 ♠ 2
2 ♠ Pass 3 ♣ 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 29th, 2018 at 11:30 am

Hi Bobby,

The classic case of the lead ploy from today is for a hand like AK942 Axx Qxx Jx to lead the S2 (4th) after 1N (P) 3N on the basis that partner has nothing but declarer will think it safe to force out the HA if he has (say) 3-3 spades rather than fish for the DQ and risk losing 3 spades a heart and diamond. Very satisfying on occasion especially when there is no chance of fooling partner.

I do wonder what the few pairs who weren’t in 3N were up to, though.



bobbywolffMay 29th, 2018 at 3:33 pm

Hi Iain,

Aye for your apt example. IMO, these side mind battles between knowledgeable adversaries is the sauce which creates the winner.

The combination of technique and guile in our beloved game
is a mighty combination which establishes success, not to mention long time memories.

Of course, and on occasion, the hoped for “no chance of fooling partner” backfires and yes your ruse worked, but on the wrong player.

No doubt the few NS players who languished in 1 or 2NT on your example or in today’s column, were glad to get a matchpoint or two, both, compliments of you and Bruce.

bobbywolffMay 29th, 2018 at 3:53 pm

Hi again Iain,

In trying to delve deeper into the “mind battle” competition, suppose with the above hand, West had the K10x of spades instead of also the queen instead of the ten. He might, whilc holding only 4 hearts and likely no king of clubs switch to his unsupported spade king, hoping partner has the queen, but not the nine, in order to guess his way to give a shrewd (or maybe not so) declarer a losing option rather than, when and if declarer will have no legitimate “losing” option, to instead create one for him to fail.

Such are the pitfalls of our off- the-charts-game, which sadly, because of whatever reason, are never fully enjoyed by many, who are certainly capable of participating in the exhilarating mind twisting.