Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

If a man looks sharply and attentively, he shall see Fortune; for though she is blind, she is not invisible.

Francis Bacon

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


Against three no-trump, West hits on the one lead that will create a problem for South, the spade eight. This looks very much like top of nothing, so South plays low from dummy to preserve his queen. After all, if West has the king, the queen will make a trick later.

South must develop clubs to make his contract, but he must also try to keep West out of the lead. Accordingly, declarer leads the club nine, intending to let it ride around to East. If West ducks, he knows South will let it run, so West covers, and declarer must go up with one of dummy’s top clubs, consistent with his plan of keeping West off play. When East unblocks his club jack — since he doesn’t want the lead — South is in trouble.

He returns to his hand in diamonds and leads the club two, again intending to let this card ride around to East. West covers this card for the same reason as before — his best play is the eight. Once again, declarer wins in dummy, and East follows with the seven.

When declarer cashes the third top club and East shows out, pitching a diamond, declarer plays the diamond ace and king, as East pitches a spade. Before playing on spades, South falls back on one further slim chance, namely playing three rounds of hearts. Bingo! East must win and lead away from the spade king to concede the ninth trick.

Had West won the third heart, declarer would still have come home if the spade king was onside.

Your extra values require you to reopen. One option is to bid three diamonds (which might lose hearts); the second is to make a second double. If you do double and your partner bids two no-trump, that will show two places to play, while his call of three clubs would show a single-suited hand. Of course, that doesn’t answer the question of whether you should then pass or correct to three diamonds.


♠ A 9
 A 5 4 3
 A K J 6 5
♣ 9 2
South West North East
    Pass 1 ♠
Dbl. 2 ♠ Pass 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


bobbywolffAugust 15th, 2018 at 1:37 pm

Hi all,

Before the first question (or analysis) appears, perhaps a few words of discussion (guidance) may help.

Some hands (and this is certainly one of them) lends themselves to quicker declarer play than usual, not necessarily trying to “fast play” the opponents, but rather to catch them off guard in being able to anywhere near, thoroughly analyze the defense and thus be a much tougher opponent.

Obviously the above suggestion will require declarer’s rapt attention, such as, at trick one, realizing that playing small from dummy and winning in hand with the ace is (or should be) automatic and done ASAP.

Next, after quickly realizing to go after clubs first (if concentrating also an easy decision) instead of playing the nine, a possible suspicious card to a wary 2nd seat defender, merely play the deuce instead. Then if West, just as quickly follows with the four, declarer while playing rubber bridge or IMPs has an easy duck, knowing East will win the trick, therefore enabling a 4-2 club break to guarantee the contract. If West instead plays the six, then judgment comes into play and my guess would be to take it (turns out wrong) and return to hand to play the nine, possibly then getting an unwary West (depending on his exact holding) to play low. However, any way one slices it, will not deny the psychology necessary to try and use the always declarer advantage (over the defense) by being able to look at his entire 26 assets from trick one, forward.

The above is mentioned by me only to alert to all who aspire to play this difficult game well, the necessity for concentration from the get go.

Difficult to cultivate that habit, but once learned, never forgotten, at least from players who either have an immediate love for the game, or possibly only trying to develop it.

On this hand, getting the opponents to not defend perfectly often relies on a “Wile E. Coyote” declarer, to effect that behavior.

However, declarer should be careful, for many reasons, not to emphasize so called fast play.
I am NOT suggesting playing cards with undue emphasis nor with a hurried and rapid atmosphere, but only, not for the declarer, to waste time when he should soon (almost immediately) turn his attention to the club suit and therefore continue the play ASAP.

Only rapt concentration to the task at hand will accomplish that goal and over the long run figures to make the difference of a large surplus of good results, solely due to playing ethically, but to great advantage. High-level bridge is not a game for slow wit.

bobbywolffAugust 15th, 2018 at 1:49 pm

Hi first responders,

Yes, I should have said, play the five of clubs in dummy on the four in case West has all six of them and the diamond queen comes in.

Sorry to interfere with any and everyone of those superior analysts ready to pounce.
“Confession is usually good for the soul”, but not so, for my developing necessary credibility.

Ken MooreAugust 15th, 2018 at 8:44 pm


On BWTA, I am an aggressive bidder. But I can count about 37-38 points between my hand and the assumed points in the opponents. In addition, they bid to the two level with, at most, 1 ace and 3 kings. I cannot see playing at the 3 level with, perhaps, a king or even a queen in dummy. This is doubly true if vulnerable.

bobbywolffAugust 15th, 2018 at 9:50 pm

Hi Ken,

Both your knowledge of numbers and your general application of what to expect from partner
rings true (at least to 99% of the world’s bridge players). However, regarding the BWTA, what about if partner had: s. Kxx, h. xxxxx, d, xxxx, c. x, all of a sudden with decent breaks in the red suits and, of course, with how that hand fits with partner your side will take somewhere between 9-11 tricks in hearts with your opponents only taking between 7-9 with spades as trump (as few as 7 only if your side does get a club ruff).

The sad part of my theme is that it is like telling our kids that there is no Santa Claus and if believing in Santa Claus is similar to depending on the authenticity of the point count, it become just as demoralizing.

True, South only has 16 hcps, but they are guilt edged points, a good 5 card suit to either bid now or retreat to later, and actual tricks, not quacks e.g. (queens and jacks).

Obviously my example is totally contrived, but if your hand instead was: s. Qxx, h. KJ9x, d. AQx, c. KQx instead of being one hcp superior it is, at least to me, perhaps 2 1/2 tricks inferior if left to fly alone.

There is no evil motive by me for espousing the above, since it is very true, at least with potential for success by bidding; but the critical step of not relying on hcps for anything other than straight NT bidding for combined balanced hands is perhaps the key to at least open a door which can take a potential bridge lover into the pure logic of how better to judge hands like South has in today’s BWTA, instead.

Therefore I would hasten to double again, of course, hoping for a red suit response, so that: 1. We may easily have a game, especially if partner bids 3 hearts….no I would not now raise 3 hearts bid by partner to 4, but rather hope partner, himself can now jump to 4 hearts particularly if he was dealt 5 hearts and possibly one key card.

Sorry to rock a comfortable boat for so many wannabe bridge players, but until that shows up (not just in spades), darkness as to the real game of bridge will prevail, until someone, all of a sudden, opens his eyes to how to evaluate the potential of specific cards and, of course, distribution and the togetherness of honors while at the same time evaluating when the opponents have a fit, like on today’s BWTA, and when they don’t. Simply because when they have a fit (them in spades) our side also also may have a fit.

Result: be conservative when the opponents do not appear to have much of a fit, since that does not bode well for your side either.

I could go on, but rather stop here and only in the future, speak when I am spoken to.

BTW, if partner responds to my 2nd double with 3 clubs, I would simply bid 3 diamonds. Yes, an overbid, but well worth it, since our side being in real trouble is vastly overrated, although, and of course, not impossible.

You have to give in order to get, and that risk, at least to me, is in bridge language, a proverbial slam dunk (no pun intended).

David WarheitAugust 15th, 2018 at 9:56 pm

Ken: OK. Partner has Sxxx, HKx, D10xxx, Cxxxx. We make at least 3D, maybe 4D. They make at most 2S.

Ken MooreAugust 15th, 2018 at 10:45 pm

The game of Bridge often comes down to playing the odds. It appears to me that there are more configurations that may fail than succeed. Where did the opponents get their 22-24 points? 13 from Ace and Kings, 6 (likely 8) from Queens and 1-2 from distribution. Does’t leave partner with Jacks and maybe 1 Queen?

BTW, I would bid on if this completed their rubber from their part score.

I really do not mean to argue – although I do not mind doing so, on occasion. But to bid on seems, to me, more hope than logic.

bobbywolffAugust 15th, 2018 at 11:44 pm

Hi Ken,

No doubt logic is pure, hope is chancy, basically making your assessment correct.

However, your basic assumptions, although no doubt agreed by, my guess 75%+, of the bridge players around the world have assumed that the value given to honor cards is, at the very least, close to authentic. However, in truth, hcps do not take tricks. Aces, certainly, Kings most of the time, but most are taken by trumps, both trump length and in the short trump hand by stealthily trumping in dummy before they are extracted from the opponents, making full use of their value.

The above only represents the positive side when a trump fit is established, and that is often done, but sometimes when no 8 card or longer (hopefully much longer), is found then each side is going to usually take pretty close to the number of tricks the high card difference between the two sides represents.

However to not look for that magic fit will often happen to inexperienced players who are too much reliant on the value of hcps.

Going further, the hcp theme was an exercise in selling the game to the masses. In some minor way it does mean something, like what was said before, balanced hand opposite a balanced hand where long card tricks are not plentiful.

Hidden within this site are many very good players who, by their experience (more years than you believe), have seen and would 100% agree with David’s simple post about the smaller number of hcps making nine or ten tricks, while the larger number, even though with an eight card fit taking fewer.

Yes, that is why our game is a very difficult one to play with many very talented numerate (the key word) players ready to share their considerable bridge knowledge with less experienced wannabes.

That does not mean that others cannot play their version of our beautiful game and enjoy it, since it is also a very social exercise in being with people and meeting new ones.

But, as far as getting really good at it, ask a professional golfer or professional tennis player, and you’ll get a real education as to what it takes. Quite different than most expect!!!

Good luck and do not get discouraged but also remember a key phrase–Caveat Emptor.

MuhammadAugust 19th, 2018 at 10:13 pm

If there are two players, deal 7 cards each.