Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, July 28th, 2018

There will always be a part, and always a very large part of every community, that have no care but for themselves, and whose care for themselves reaches little further than impatience of immediate pain, and eagerness for the nearest good.

Samuel Johnson

N North
None ♠ K J 7 4 3
 5 3
 A J 10 4
♣ J 10
West East
♠ Q 9 8 6
 Q 6 4
 K 9 7 2
♣ 6 2
♠ A 10 5 2
 J 9
 Q 6
♣ K Q 9 8 7
♠ —
 A K 10 8 7 2
 8 5 3
♣ A 5 4 3
South West North East
    1 ♠ Pass
2 Pass 2 ♠ Pass
4 All pass    


At the NABC in Toronto last July, John Rengstorff was partnering Geoff Brod in the finals of the Von Zedtwitz Life Master Pairs.

Against four hearts, Rengstorff led a third-and-fifth diamond seven to the jack, queen and three. (Yes, the lead of the two would have avoided all subsequent problems, but that was not this partnership’s leading method).

Brod now played the club king, ducked by declarer, then continued with the club queen instead of reverting to diamonds, though in retrospect the diamond play might have made declarer’s life more awkward. Declarer won the club ace and led a third club; Rengstorff ruffed with the six and made the key play of the diamond nine. Declarer finessed the diamond 10, playing the eight from his hand, then ran trumps to come down to a three-card ending as he led his last trump, with the diamond five and a losing club in hand. Dummy had the spade king and two diamonds, West also had two diamonds, and East had the spade ace and a master club.

On the last trump, Rengstorff and dummy each pitched their last spade. Rengstorff refrained from covering when declarer played the diamond five, so declarer had to concede the last trick to one defender or the other.

Declarer made not one but two slips at trick one. He might have played low from the board, but more to the point, he needed to unblock the diamond five! Then he would have had a diamond finesse at trick 12.

Just because East has shown spades doesn’t mean you cannot develop your hand straightforwardly by bidding your spade suit. Your partner knows you are a passed hand, so he won’t be playing you for a spectacular suit if you bid one spade. But this way, you get to show your values and suit lengths.


♠ K J 7 4 3
 5 3
 A J 10 4
♣ J 10
South West North East
Pass 1 ♣ 1 Dbl.

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


A V Ramana RaoAugust 11th, 2018 at 11:07 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
South could have prevailed by playing four from dummy at first trick. Perhaps may not be farfetched as with holding both K &Q West would not have led a low card and had declared inquired about the lead and learnt that it is third best, the inference would have been loud and clear.

A V Ramana RaoAugust 11th, 2018 at 11:12 am

I posted without reading last para fully

Iain ClimieAugust 11th, 2018 at 11:42 am

HI Bobby, AVRR,

Carelessness with small cards is frequent but rarely so expensive. An exception saw a partner of mine in 6H with a side suit of S7652 in hand opposite SAKQ43 on table. He led the S2 to the Aces (both following) but didn’t pay attention on the next spade, waking up with a horrified start – had both players followed (when he could return to hand with the S7 to unravel) or had RHO (who had opened 3C) dumped a club o the 2nd spade? He still had a loser on loser play available to dump the blocking spade assuming the spades were 3-1 but missed it.

Tis reminded me of why dummy is not allowed to say “No spades” on the 2nd top spades, as declarer gets UI. It was also a reminder that I should have bashed out 6S or maybe even 6N after 3C (X) P holding AKQxx KJ9 xx Kxx instead of pussy-footing about with 4C. Partner had xxxx A8xxx AKxx None and we wound up in 6H instead, although the trump lead through RHO’s HQx gave him a flying start.



bobbywolffAugust 11th, 2018 at 2:37 pm


Nothing wrong with you merely repeating the approximate lesson for today.

Many very good players have basically switched from the time honored 4th best to 3rd and 5th or, more generally 3rd and lowest. I believe its major claim to better is that partner will get a better feel for how many by the size of the lead, when feeling and looking like a middle card of normal suits to lead (sometimes depending on whether defending against suits or NT), almost always 3rd from 4, but when low is led significantly longer, at least 5.

However, the disadvantage of so doing does happen, as in today’s hand, however at this time in that evolution, most players, not being highly expert, have not yet switched their thinking to taking advantage, but when they do, my guess will be the time when 3rd and low go out with the morning milk.

However, I have not done enough thinking to be qualified to be anywhere near the last word on whether, in the long run, this rather significant change is here to stay, but for now, it appears to be similar to the Edsel, a long ago bust in the American car market.

Not that 3rd and low have taken the expert market by storm, but rather by only a slow mist. Also the change sometimes makes the opening lead appear to be top of nothing, sometimes, but certainly not always, an advantage to the declarer and/or defensive partner, but other times an unreadable enigma.

BTW for those now playing 3rd and low, if they really want to add confusion to 3rd and 4th seat players (friend and foe) just add MUD (middle, up down) to leading from 3 small which then will make that partnership feel like they have just landed in a very foreign country or even worse, an unexplored space planet, then known to be inhabited.

If that new treatment hasn’t confused you yet, this answer will, no doubt, be a good substitute for doing just that.

bobbywolffAugust 11th, 2018 at 2:57 pm

Hi Iain,

You appear, like many of us, to be speaking from much experience of blocking oneself, or more kindly put, being dummy, while your OX did the dirty work, of at least one trick by what could be defined as carelessness.

Long ago (in the 1930’s) a prolific cartoonist named Webster became quite well known while drawing for the great magazine called the New Yorker, when at that time our game was rising to magical heights (thanks to Culbertson and then Goren). I remember one of his finest was picturing a janitor sweeping up all the tricks which were dropped by the bridge players who were dressed to kill (evening dresses and tuxedos).

While I, believe it or not, was too young to appreciate it until a decade later when I became old enough to read past issues. Webster was greatly talented, especially having a knack for poking fun at NY society and how often just being depicted of playing the game, added to one’s social status.

It grew from there, but sadly is now headed for life support over here with, as of now, no relief, nor any real effort to turn that horrible, but very realistic impending tragedy, around.