Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, July 4th, 2018

Never wrestle with a pig. You’ll both get dirty, but the pig will like it.

Irish proverb

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

*Pick a slam


In today’s deal, three different declarers all reached six no-trump rather than six diamonds. That contract looks best at both pairs and teams, since there are some additional chances in no-trump when diamonds do not behave.

The first declarer won the heart lead in dummy and played a diamond to the nine and queen. The defenders persisted in hearts, so declarer cashed a top diamond to find the bad news, then took the club ace and the heart winners. He pitched a club and diamond from dummy and ran the spades, squeezing West in the minor suits.

The second declarer won the heart jack and cashed the diamond ace and king. The bad break made him pause, but he eventually decided to cash the hearts, pitching a diamond and club from the table, then run the spades. West came down to two diamonds and the bare club king, but declarer had no option but to play a club to the ace. When the king came tumbling down, he had his 12th trick.

The third declarer played a diamond to the ace and ducked a diamond; this was technically best, since if the suit had split 4-1, he would have been home regardless of the rank of West’s singleton, as well as when East had a bare honor. As it was, when West won the diamond jack and returned a heart, declarer had transposed into the first declarer’s line. He took his club ace and heart winners, and ran the spades to force West to concede in the two-card ending.

Facing what you hope is a maximum pass, you should try to compete in a major suit. It looks sensible to try to make partner declarer to protect his tenaces, and you want to try to find a 4-4 major-suit fit. The easiest way here is to cue-bid two diamonds to get your partner to pick a major.


♠ K Q J 10
 10 7 5 2
 J 2
♣ Q 8 3
South West North East
  Pass Pass 1
Pass Pass Dbl. 1 NT

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 18th, 2018 at 10:57 am

The fourth declarer, when he got to his hand, led a small club towards dummy. West had the king, so there was his 12th trick. If East had had the king, declarer still had chances in diamonds or in a club-diamond squeeze. Yes, this play was inferior to what the other three declarers did, but just think of all the care and anxiety he was spared!

jim2July 18th, 2018 at 11:34 am

David Warheit –

You beat me to it.

What you described was actually happened to me in last year’s Mud Cup! North was a very tidy individual who liked to lay down the dummy in tightly ordered columns, and even used two hands when a card was called so as not to disturb them more than absolutely necessary.

I sat East, of course, and — as you can see — I had one of my usual hands.

North had mistook the 5D for the 5H and so had laid down that card between the JH and the 2H, where it luked stealthily.

The contract and opening lead had been just as in the column. All might have been well if declarer had played the deuce but, no, the JH was called and then declarer stared moodily at the Board for a bit.

Now, you must understand, this particular player was a fine person and kind to animals, but squeezes were only possible with loved ones and pets.

Simple math, however, was. So, leading up to the QC was far better than playing for a “3 – 3” diamond break.

Worse, my partner blamed me, saying I should have realized that if I had the 5H, the Board’s must have been an impostor!

jim2July 18th, 2018 at 11:35 am

“lurked” not “luked” — sigh

Iain ClimieJuly 18th, 2018 at 11:46 am

Hi David, Jim2, Iain

I sympathise which is why I often play AJ109x opposite xxxx as Ace first, even though I should take two finesses. If you take the first finesse, it loses and then you come back and get the remaining small card, it is agony time no matter what the %age tables and Rule of Restricted Choice say.

If they’re 4-0 (or KQx) onside I get griped at, but there you go.



Iain ClimieJuly 18th, 2018 at 11:47 am

Sorry, Bobby – talking to myself above! I need a holiday.

bobbywolffJuly 18th, 2018 at 1:43 pm

Hi David, Jim2 & Iain,

In the original formation of the Aces, beginning in the late 1960’s, we, at least early on, floundered around while attempting to find the very best way to get there from where we began.

We started off with emphasizing a bidding coach, who was adept at analyzing partnership bidding systems with their pluses and minus’ and although our three partnerships all had serious intentions they were all vastly different (forcing clubs to standard 4 and 5 card majors, with many and varied gadgets which ranged from mama-papa to complicated).

It wasn’t long before our bidding guru became inundated with challenging views, and (hateful arguments), all leading to general discord.

Finally, the inevitable occurred, exchanging our bidding genius to my former bridge partner a retired Lt. Colonel (age 39) who had retiired from Strategic Air Command. He was not either a bidding guru or an outstanding bridge player, but rather, as you might suspect a disciplinarian well versed in people problems and strong enough emotionally to deal favorably with head strong bridge players who, each in his own way, thought of himself as slumming when other members of the team had various opinions.

Result was eventual success as we came together because of Lt. Col. Joe Musumeci and his fierce determination. Now for my reason for this bridge history lesson: First rule of winning, do not take significantly inferior lines of play for any reason, least of all, lack of patience or knowledge to at least come very close to choosing the highest level percentage effort to succeed. Anything less would soon, if it wasn’t immediately, a reason for a handed pink slip on the spot.

With that thought began the reign of terror, which, like I guess most tedious experiments which begin, will soon turn into.

In any event it worked as everyone started coming together, not as far as agreement among the six players to what system, but only more or less, the same urgency for constant improvement with the intention of eliminating as much error as our beautiful game, bridge, will allow.

Cutting to the chase, it may be excused if the very best bid, declarer play or defense was not made, but only that the one chosen was in the rather small ball park of being very close to correct. In short the above cut like the sharpest knife significant mistakes, very common among even very good players but who were not emotionally disciplined to be totally consistent.

All the above is merely a response to the various posts above about what, back in those long ago days, what helped make whatever success we achieved, possible.

Sorry for the too long rant, but hopefully that experience may shed some light on, at least what I think, are the most important aspects of achieving some sort of success in bridge, or for that matter, most any and everything.

bobbywolffJuly 18th, 2018 at 1:51 pm

Hi Iain,

Sorry for my ignoring your plea. You are not allowed to take a holiday, at least an extended one (no more than a day or two). We need your constant very modest examples of impatience in order to feel better about ourselves for similar or the same only not admitting them at least, as freely.

As far as talking to yourself, why not since many of us, me certainly included, seem to thrive on “Can’t way to hear what I have to say”.

bobbywolffJuly 18th, 2018 at 1:56 pm

And I talk about impatience. “way” should be “wait”.

Iain ClimieJuly 18th, 2018 at 2:11 pm

HI Bobby,

Did you hear about “The bell” approach in London clubs in the 1950s and 60s? I think it was a BOLS Bridge tip, possibly from Tim Seres. It was largely based on play rather than bidding, but involved 4 good or expert players kibitzing 4 ordinary club players. If a mistake was perceived, the kibitzer for that player rang a bell. The other 3 experts then discussed whether it was a mistake (after the hand) and the offending player was fined a small amount. If the other 3 found the player had not messed up, the expert was fined (I think slightly more).

Rough on the ego apparently, but it did wonders for improving standards!



bobbywolffJuly 18th, 2018 at 3:18 pm

Hi Iain,

World improvement in education should be a priority especially in practical application involving incentives to suggest deeper concentration by the student.

The sometimes harshness of military basic training and/or fraternity hazing in college succeeds because of the pain and embarrassment of not. Bridge itself presents its own advantages of developing the discipline necessary for succeeding in a partnership game.

That is precisely why I am so in favor of bridge in schools since from a numerate standpoint nothing IMO could be more valuable than to understand numbers and their value, not to mention the sheer logic of bridge type thought, in so many aspects of life.

For the USA to be so unknowing, especially compared to China and 11 countries in Europe, will forever be a very sad factor during my time on earth. Politics is one thing, but downright stupidity is quite another.

ClarksburgJuly 18th, 2018 at 7:03 pm

The Bell approach! Wow! Thank you so much for tabling this!
I guarantee that if I can find enough willing participants (experts, relatively speaking; and eager-to-learn thick-skinned players) we will try this locally.
I run a bi-monthly “card-play-Pairs” game (preset contracts with auction provided) to base the competition completely on card play. How great it would be to have four of our strongest local Players volunteer to Table-hop around the game with their Bells.
I’m pumped!!

Iain ClimieJuly 19th, 2018 at 8:39 am

Hi Clarksburg,

Delighted to help and please keep us all posted on how things work out in practice.



bobbywolffJuly 19th, 2018 at 1:19 pm

Hi Iain & Clarksburg,

No one asked me, but I too see a significant upside, but not without a consistent plan from the bell ringers.

And to get there from here may require a little
adjusting as it develops so that those bell ringing judges get together as to when, why,
and how coordinated they will individually decide to interrupt.

Important features:

1. General sensitivity of the players

2. Bridge learning from all four players, no matter their own involvement, but instead necessary and timely specific tricks (if possible)
when as at a rifle range, the bell should be ringing.

3. Necessary and continuing senses of humor
(by all) to offset the awkwardness and embarrassment which is sure to occur.

4. Note taking to continually improve the process as well as to examine severity of mistakes and trends which may develop.

5. My guess is that similar to Mollo and Simon’s fictional characters there will develop certain type mistakes (wide spectrum) which
each player will need to especially work on.
EG (consistent bidding judgment, factoring conventions and their nuances, hand evaluation, up and down as the bidding progresses both for game and slam possibilities, choices of opening leads and why, deceptive possibilities which are ever present but often overlooked, sources of developing tricks, often crucial ones, similar to today’s hand (Thursday), and advantages and or disadvantages of being aggressive or, at times conservative).

6. Necessary concentration always present to ward off simple errors and although a simple admonition one which will likely be the most abused.

7. And finally table ethics, which although always critical, sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.

Perhaps the above is a bit overkill, but, at least to me, should be figuratively on the table, from the beginning.

However if during the above, 50% gets judged satisfactorily and in the early going, it then should get an A+ for all seven (4 players, 3 judges).

Obviously if the above is not what any or everyone else considers this project to be, please disregard completely and especially I, for one, would not disagree nor even begin to think unkindly about.

Finally, much may be gleaned from this well-thought out experiment.

clarksburgJuly 19th, 2018 at 3:49 pm

In the interim I have conceived a stripped-down approach, as a start, for my card-play Pairs game (Pre-set contracts; competition is all card-play).
Our website presents the hand records, makeable contracts, opening leads and a walk-through-the-hand guide to success (Declarer and Defenders).
The experts needn’t even be at the game; they would be asked to each comment, e.g. via post-mortem e-mail, on the line of play for a Board or two.
Just a first approximation for a start; evolve from there.

bobbywolffJuly 19th, 2018 at 4:13 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Starting out, already a marked practical and significant improvement, a post-tournament bell ringer, giving the needed time to properly judge what needs to be said and the way to say it.

In retrospect, totally necessary. Also needed to avoid what certainly would be, many impromptu miss judgments. THANKS!