Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, July 2nd, 2018

The fundamental principles and indispensable postulates of every genuinely productive science are not based on pure logic but rather on the metaphysical hypothesis — which no rules of logic can refute — that there exists an outer world which is entirely independent of ourselves.

Max Planck

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


It never does any harm to go over the basics from time to time. Today’s deal features points of interest in both the bidding and play.

First, let’s look at what actually happened at the table. South opened a strong no-trump and played there on a spade lead to the jack and king. (The king is the right card to encourage both defenders to continue the suit since West might think his partner had the queen.) Declarer played the diamond king; East won and naturally continued spades rather than finding the killing shift to clubs. Declarer won with the ace and advanced the diamond nine, letting it run when West pitched a heart. East won with his jack and shifted to clubs, holding declarer to eight tricks.

Now let’s look at the auction: As North, I would definitely transfer to diamonds (prepared to play my long suit) and keep the opponents out of the major suits. This may not always work, but it is the percentage action.

Against the no-trump contract, East goofed when he won the diamond ace on the first round of the suit. If he ducks, he retains control of the suit, holding declarer to just one trick in diamonds, rather than four. If East had ace-third, he would never have taken the first round of diamonds; his potential second winner in the suit should not have affected that decision.

In general, ducking an ace over the king-queen is often a good idea when you know declarer does not have a singleton — and maybe even when he does.

While you might engineer a trump promotion by leading hearts, that’s likely to set up discards for declarer. It is simpler and more logical to lead the diamond jack to try to set up tricks or force declarer to trump. If in doubt, assume that when you have been dealt a sequence, you should lead it, hoping that your problem will come at trick two, not trick one.


♠ 10 7 6 2
 9 6
 J 10 4
♣ 10 8 7 2
South West North East
  1 Pass 1 ♠
Pass 3 ♠ Pass 4 ♠
All 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 ClimieJuly 16th, 2018 at 11:35 am

Hi Bobby,

A simple hand but still showing the potential to mess up. Of course South might have had DK9 alone but how likely is it that East is letting the 7th trick through here by ducking the DK. Although I prefer to lead low from West’s spade holding, I can’t argue today with those who would lead the S8 as East’s life is now easier.

I may have said this before, but Mikhail Tal, the brilliant Latvian / Soviet chess player admitted to watching beginners’ TV chess programmes occasionally, just for fun and refreshment; he also said that occasionally they’d remind him of something which he could even let slip.



A V Ramana RaoJuly 16th, 2018 at 12:32 pm

Hi lain
East certainly goofed by playing diamond A on first round and Mikail Tal ( perhaps only friend of Bobby Fischer from the Russian contingent those days) known as the Magician from Riga also mentioned ” If you wait for luck to turn up, life becomes very boring ”

A V Ramana RaoJuly 16th, 2018 at 12:34 pm

Mikhail Tal not Mikail

Iain ClimieJuly 16th, 2018 at 1:53 pm


I once had the privilege of playing him at a simultaneous display in 1974. I came very badly 2nd! He also said “There are 2 kinds of sacrifices; correct ones and mine” and (when asked about his views on a campaign state vs. vodka) said “I’ll play for vodka”. A bit of a character.


A.V.Ramana RaoJuly 16th, 2018 at 2:42 pm

Hi lain
Very honestly, I envy you. I wish I had a chance too & what you mentioned is his favourite quote
And you may have heard about this : Reading Tal’s palm, Bobby Fischer predicted- The next World champion would be — Fischer ( As read from ” My 60 memorable games “by Fischer)
And I sincerely hope that I have permission from our host since we are digressing to chess from bridge

bobbywolffJuly 16th, 2018 at 2:51 pm

Hi Iain & AVRR,

Max Planck’s description of metaphysics and its application does not IMO apply to correct bridge thinking since the numeric component in bridge is so overwhelming, other outer world logic simply doesn’t apply.

Of course the often clever thinking of the world class bridge player is another story since his motive is always directed to convince unwitting opponents that black may be white.

In today’s hand, North should convert NT into diamonds and the sooner way of doing it (immediate preemptive 3 diamond bid) would be, as usual, the most effective manner.

With a club lead from East (the best choice) should cause North to win and play the top three spades, discarding his losing club while East ruffs. Then after ruffing the spade a club continuation is ruffed by declarer who draws trump while losing the diamond ace but then when it comes time for declarer to guess the location of the “key” ten of hearts should know that East having started with four of them compared to only three for West, making the odds 4-3 that East is more likely to have it, hence an eventual lead toward dummy with the intention of inserting the nine.

Contract made, +110 maximum result based on inner world logic not metaphysical.

Mr. Mikhail Tal surely seems like an entertaining “real” person worth knowing, suggesting chess is similar to bridge with its looming interesting characters from all over this troubled world.

Thanks to both of you for the highly enjoyable education.

bobbywolffJuly 16th, 2018 at 3:11 pm


Of course you have my permission to discuss chess or whatever else you and or others may choose.

No doubt our main topic concerns bridge and its wide ranging applications, but other subjects, particularly scintillating games like chess, contribute mightily to competitive thinking, which after all, is a major factor in all worthwhile challenges.

A V Ramana RaoJuly 16th, 2018 at 3:23 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Many thanks for your kind words.
And I was just wondering how to reach a diamond contract on the column hand- and it appears that a 3D preempt by north would do the job effectively as mentioned by you. But very honestly, I think that needs discipline since most of north players would be tempted to leave the hand in NT
And coming to Tal, he was known for his attacking play with improvised combinations taking opponents by surprise. He had huge fan following
Thanks & regards

Ken MooreJuly 16th, 2018 at 3:44 pm


That jack caused declarer to get his eyes off the main goal, blocking the diamond suit. I almost always hold up an ace behind a king or queen with any kind of suit behind it unless one, I need to make an immediates lead or two I might lose it – and sometimes even then.

bobbywolffJuly 16th, 2018 at 6:14 pm

Hi Ken,

Our game itself, in many ways, prevent preconceived notions on whether to win or duck.

There is always the timing to consider, sometimes the stealth as to which defender has the ace (or necessary winning card), as well as the possible final end position.

Suffice it to say, as often looking ahead to the likelihood of having to choose, plus the all important experience necessary to have before been there, done that.

Of course, more often than expected, sometimes we need to pare down to only a singleton, less than highest one still at large, in order to reap a just reward, and that always means being ready in advance, because of the necessary ethics rules, to practice to deceive, a big thrill of its own (but only when it works).

No one has ever said (at least to my knowledge) that all or even many of the difficult decisions especially in play, and usually on defense, are easy to execute. IOW do or die!

However, good luck with the always goal of the other side, sleeping in the street.

Joe1July 17th, 2018 at 12:13 am

Victor Mollo and the Hideous Hog played bridge in another dimension, where metaphysics and psychology ( psychopathy?) often ruled the day. That’s the beauty of the game, logic will only get you so far. Even in chess, unexpected gambits may break the rhythm of a plodding logician. Back to bridge, the interplay between partners is so often seemingly informed by Plank’s outer world. It’s the human element that helps make the game so endearing.

bobbywolffJuly 17th, 2018 at 1:27 am

Hi Joe1,

And to make matters more unpredictable, many think, because of the percentage tables, that
bridge, much more than other games, follows form, therefore less luck involved, more than other games.

However, just the opposite, since so much judgment is involved, where most of the time, instead of a small percentage, victory is snatched by a very perceptive declarer or defender, based on his opponents reputation or phony body language instead of raw mathematical logic.

While psychic bidding is rare and theoretical percentage is followed, does anyone know how often those two imposters, when not provided for, cause winners (best players) to lose, and losers (not as talented) to win.

While poker is not a card game, but only a game where cards are symbols and bridge is definitely a card game, at least to me, psychology plays about the same amount with winning in either game.

True, chess is truly a game where luck is non-existent allowing skill to predominate, but in bridge the combination of both luck and skill serves to add both excitement and, at least to me, a fairer way to determine the final result since the law of averages in luck, a casino’s bible, will always balance out, over a specific time.

SoniaJuly 21st, 2018 at 12:48 am

Paying with your mobile phone is as simple as that.