Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

Science has taught us how to put the atom to work. But to make it work for good instead of for evil lies in the domain dealing with the principles of human duty. We are now facing a problem more of ethics than physics.

Bernard Baruch

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


South’s distribution in the majors makes his hand untenable for a strong no-trump — at least to most of us. After North raises spades, South chooses to invite game with a call of two no-trump, suggesting his hand pattern pretty well, though he would prefer a tad more security in the heart suit. As it happens, North can happily accept the invitation to the spade game.

When West leads the heart king, South can see no losers in the black suits. He must surely lose two hearts, and he must do something with his third and fourth heart, as well as the diamond queen.

West leads out the heart king and queen as East follows high-low, suggesting his doubleton and asking West to continue with the suit. East is clearly hoping to create a trump trick for his side on a third heart.

At trick three, West leads the heart ace. If declarer ruffs low in dummy, he will be sending a boy to do a man’s job. To avoid this ugly fate, declarer ruffs the third heart with dummy’s spade king, then plays a trump to the ace.

When the nine appears, declarer might consider a later trump finesse, but he can almost ensure his contract without needing to make that play. He cashes a second top trump, then the diamond ace, and then takes three top clubs to pitch his diamond queen.

Now he ruffs a diamond back to hand and exits in hearts, reducing to a two-card ending where he has the J-8 of trumps poised over East’s 10-7 of spades.

Your partner has a minimum take-out double, and you have a hand with no clear direction, but your trumps are too weak to consider defending. I’d bid two no-trump, which is not to play (though if partner forgets, you won’t mind too much!), but suggests partner bid a minor. You surely have longer diamonds than clubs, or you would bid three clubs yourself.


♠ K 4 3
 5 3
 9 8 7 3 2
♣ A Q J
South West North East
Pass 1 ♠ Pass 1 NT
Pass 2 ♠ Dbl. 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 WarheitJuly 17th, 2018 at 9:37 am

That boy is not ugly at all. Ruff the third H low. East overruffs and shifts to a D. Win the A, cash one high S, ruff your 4th H with the K, draw trump, and run clubs, discarding DQ. This is better than the suggested line which would fail if W had a smaller S than the 9.

Iain ClimieJuly 17th, 2018 at 10:14 am

Hi Bobby, David,

With that North hand, I’d have trusted partner and bid 3NT relying on the extra values and partner’s “known” heart stop (he could have bid 3H probing) to avoid any nasty surprises in trumps, so what do I know? Nicely spotted by David, though. As the old joke goes, Be Alert – your country needs lerts.



bobbywolffJuly 17th, 2018 at 10:31 am

Hi David,

So simple, it is embarrassing, but so counter intuitive.

However, only our friend Jim2 would, after seeing what only you and he saw, pay a dear price while playing this hand correctly in an IMP match.

He made only 10 tricks in spades while his counterpoint ruffed with the king in dummy, found spades 3-2 and the king of diamonds onside, lost an IMP on that board, tied the match and lost in overtime.

When asked later why?, could only reply, “finally after all these years, on this one hand I get normal breaks and lose the match because of it”. “And to make everything worse, that stupid bridge columnist, after looking at the location of all 52 cards, couldn’t play it right, even after he carefully changed the distribution, attempting to match his theme.

“Poker, anyone”? “If not, I am going out in my garden and eat worms”.

bobbywolffJuly 17th, 2018 at 10:59 am

Hi Iain,

And to make matters worse and no doubt, West would have led his 4th highest heart.

If one has the patience to merely wait for the right time, he can gloat without being charged with same. Also, South would then, of course, explained to his partner that not to worry, 4 spades would also go set.

If those two events wouldn’t have been bad enough for poor South, his partner would probably have echoed, “Yes, no doubt you would”!

A V Ramana RaoJuly 17th, 2018 at 11:17 am

Hi David
Good One. Many would miss this on first glance- Counter intuitive- as our host mentioned

A V Ramana RaoJuly 17th, 2018 at 11:18 am

What happened to the s I typed in Regards?

bobbywolffJuly 17th, 2018 at 11:23 am


No never mind. You either discarded it or perhaps made an “S” out of yourself, not unlike what I did on today’s column hand.

bobbywolffJuly 17th, 2018 at 11:36 am

Hi again AVRR,

Not to mention me miss using the word “counterpoint” instead of “counterpart”.

Together we have proven that ugly things come in “twos”.

jim2July 17th, 2018 at 11:45 am

David Warheit –


A V Ramana RaoJuly 17th, 2018 at 12:07 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
Can I mention that sometimes even Good and beautiful things come in ” twos”. What matters ultimately is the attitude and sense of humour in which perhaps it is difficult to better you
( and I think I typed it correctly this time)

bobbywolffJuly 17th, 2018 at 3:59 pm

Hi dear AVRR,

Speaking of good and comparing it to evil, perhaps today’s bridge quote symbolizes the two extremes which could one day materially effect our troubled world. We, as representatives of the world’s many cultures, need to bridge that gap and perhaps forward going senses of humor (“making fun of oneself”) is likely the right place to start.

The motto of the World Bridge Federation is “Bridge for Peace” where all nations compete, even ones which are basically at war or close.

Surprisingly at those events China and Taiwan, Russia, their satellites, Turkey and the rest of Europe, Israel and the entire Middle East totally socialize and have great admiration and respect for each other. It is only their governments which show separation and disdain..

Perhaps more sites like ours should seek out commonality, which in turn could mightily promote friendship. Most of us may not be around to see it happen, but one day it might bridge the gap to a much happier and productive world.

Thanks for your always kind words and everyone’s great effort to both contribute and get it right.

Michael BeyroutiJuly 17th, 2018 at 4:31 pm

Sorry to be the one dissenting vote. I find the column line to be much more elegant than the line described by David W. David’s line is like inviting the opponent to commit a defensive error. If I were East, I wouldn’t overruff. Suppose East started with 4 diamonds and three clubs, I would have him discard a club instead of overuffing. Now, declarer with visions of an overtrick will come to hand with the spade ace and ruff the fourth heart with the dummy’s king. East discards a second club. Declarer comes to hand with a diamond to the ace and attempts to draw trump. Next, South plays the club king and a club to the ace and East ruffs and returns a diamond for the setting trick.

jim2July 17th, 2018 at 4:50 pm

Michael Beyrouti –

Per Our Host, the hand — unless otherwise stated in the column — is always presumed to be rubber bridge or teams.

If East does not over-ruff, there are 10 tricks.

A V Ramana RaoJuly 17th, 2018 at 4:52 pm

Hi Michael
Unless this is a pairs event , why should South go after overtrick ? And with the holding of East , it would be difficult to find a player who would refuse to overruff. He may not get any trick if he does not overruff for all he knows.
And definitely David deserves credit for finding the obscure line. Hope you ( and our host) agree

A V Ramana RaoJuly 17th, 2018 at 5:47 pm

Belated reflection . Where is the overtrick if East does not overruff?The natural inference is West is dealt with all missing trumps. So South comes to hand with club K ( he cannot afford trump to come to hand) and ruffs fourth heart. Now East must ruff else South prevails easily but that lets cat out of the bag and south has ten tricks

bobbywolffJuly 17th, 2018 at 6:23 pm

Hi Michael et al,

Yes, David’s line is safer (mainly because of the 9 of spades being part of 109xx with East) and thus more in keeping with playing the “real” game of bridge rather than funky duplicate with its death grip on overtricks.

However I would have expected Jim2 to expect East to have: s. singleton 6, 7, 9 or 10), h. xx, d. Kxxx, c. 10xxxxx. Of course Jim could still make the hand by finessing the diamond queen at trick 3.

The sad part of David’s much better line is the counter intuitive nature of not ruffing with the king, meaning that it will be likely to show a 1 IMP loss on this hand since I forgot to mention that yes, Jim2 this hand was not played at matchpoints, but rather during the Reisinger, a B-A-M event.

Also, I was born and bred in Texas, a state not to be trusted and why many residents still carry concealed weapons.

TedJuly 17th, 2018 at 6:39 pm

Since David (along with many follow on comments) has analyzed the column hand much more articulately and succinctly than what I would have managed, I’d like to turn some attention to the BWTA hand.

Knowing that RHO has at least 4 Diamonds sitting over any honors partner has, would discourage me from bidding 2NT. I’d try 3 Clubs hoping that my honors would make a double less likely and very much hoping that LHO is weak enough and holds enough Spades that he’ll bid again, or that opener will give late support on something like two Spades to the Ace.

The biggest “advantage” of 2NT, I think, is that partner would have to play this mess.

GinnyJuly 17th, 2018 at 10:48 pm

Back to the play hand, any value in ruffing the third heart with the king of trumps, play a trump back to hand and lead the 4th heart trick, ruffing in dummy low? Does this help with an unlikely 4-1 split with West having 4 trump?

bobbywolffJuly 18th, 2018 at 1:53 am

Hi Ted,

No doubt, partner’s double is unexpected, especially since we probably have more valuables than expected.

At least in the not so distant past, a 2NT bid by the responder was generally known as a scramble, meaning I need to know more about your hand (certainly possible that the doubler has 3 or even 4 diamonds with the 2 spade rebidder void in diamonds with 6 spades, but minimum values. Of course, partner’s most likely bid is 3 clubs, but, if so, at least I prefer exposing my three good clubs, more than I would, bidding them myself.

Not rocket science just fiercely competitive. Yes partner will now expect diamond length from me, and if so, he will get it. It is also possible he will pass 2NT and if he does we should have no trouble, at least IMO, of scoring up 8 tricks.

bobbywolffJuly 18th, 2018 at 4:12 am

Hi Ginny,

Without much fanfare, David’s line in comment #1 is clearly superior. There are several others which figure to be successful, but with the idea of making one’s contract there is no contest.

Yes your line is one of those to be considered, but no cigar as to which one is best.

Thanks for your joining in with your views. It is always appropriate as well, to hear from you,

jim2July 18th, 2018 at 11:11 am

BTW – I probably should have mentioned that Our Host made a sly joke in his July 17th, 2018 at 6:23 pm reply. Unless things have changed since last I played, B-A-M events do not use IMPs.

I was not going to comment until I realized he might think it had slipped past.

bobbywolffJuly 18th, 2018 at 12:41 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes B-A-M (Reisinger Team held at the Fall Bridge ACBL Nationals each year) is short for board a match scoring which emphasizes each individual hand as to which team outdid the other, whether my infinite hundreds of points or only by the minimum possible of 10. Therein the similarity to matchpoints becomes apparent with every trick scored a vital factor in either tying, losing, or the goal, winning, that board.

When competed among the best partnerships (formed as teams of four), it is indeed, at least IMO, the most challenging form of bridge, although lacking the amount of gain feature indigenous to IMPs and/or rubber bridge, but featuring exact bidding and high-level play and defense with every trick, contract, or overtricks and undertricks, nothing short of crucial.

Finally, to attempt to slip anything bridge past Jim2, is similar to trying to thread a wet noodle or guess what color the next chameleon will become. No doubt proving that TOCM TM has the same advantages as deaf and/or blind people, developing the ability to find alternate senses to offset handicaps.

Resulting in him being virtually non-pareil in all necessary and important phases of the highest level of both bridge judgment and, of course, analysis.

MarshaJuly 21st, 2018 at 8:27 pm

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