Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.

E.O. Wilson

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


In today’s deal, South opens one spade, and West overcalls two clubs. North can double to show values and the unbid suits. South now wants to get to a game, but does not know which. He cannot bid no-trump without a club stopper. Spades seems a likely prospect, but there may be a 5-3 heart fit, or his partner may have a club stopper.

South’s three-club cue-bid asks North for more information about his hand. When North shows his diamonds, South repeats his spades, and North raises to game to end the auction.

South ruffs the third club and must then look for the safest way to make his contract. If South simply lays down his three top trumps, he will be left with just the trump 10 while West has the jack. South will then have to start on the diamonds, and if East gives count, West will wait until the third round of diamonds to ruff in. West will exit safely with a club, and South will have to surrender a heart trick for down one.

The solution is to give up the trump trick at a time when the opponents are unable to return a club. In other words, there must still be a high trump left in dummy when the trump is given up.

So, South crosses to a top diamond at trick two and leads a spade to the 10! West can take the trump jack, but if he returns a club, dummy’s spade eight will protect declarer against the force. If West returns a diamond or heart, South can win, draw trumps and take the rest.

I can certainly see the logic in concealing the hearts and raising diamonds here; I might do that with a very minimum response (change the diamond king to the two, perhaps). Here, however, I have the values to think that this will be our hand, so my plan is to bid hearts then raise diamonds. Yes I’d rather have a better suit, but quantity often outranks quality.


♠ 8 4
 7 4 3 2
 A K J 8
♣ 7 3 2
South West North East
    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


Iain ClimieAugust 21st, 2018 at 11:59 am

Hi Bobby,

Today’s comment is from Edward Osborne Wilson, a Harvard biologist and great idealist. He has, for example, pointed out the potential massive benefits of carefully exploiting rainforests and many other desirable areas in situ rather than chopping them down or otherwise over-exploiting them for short-term gain when longer term benefits would be greater; he even provided costed estimates – see, for example, “The Diversity of Life” in the Unmined Riches chapter.

He definitely tries to live up to his own comment but the world does not work like that; he might want it to be run by synthesisers but it won’t be. They’d try to be rational so what chance have they got if you look in the papers?

Nice instructive hand today, though, while the safety play isn’t even that much anti-percentage with West having long clubs. Just as long as they aren’t 5-1 with West having the singleton Jack… If East has the 5 (but at least 3 diamonds) South still scrambles home.



bobbywolffAugust 21st, 2018 at 3:40 pm

Hi Iain,

Thanks for the literary, intellectual and historical prompt which helps the bridge hand come more alive with meaning.

Since the author is American and you, not I, have not only heard of him, but instead know details of his contributions, I will remain impressed as to your general and overall knowledge.

Yes, there are some pitfalls in today’s so-called safety play trump finesse, but overall I, barely, think the column finesse in trumps, except at matchpoints (and that , IMO, is close) is with percentage, warranted.

However with bridge players like you involved, readers will often get dual instruction. Stay
keen and hopefully others will also serve the group with unexpected historical and varied
knowledge, but hopefully always, like you, accenting our great game foremost.

Iain ClimieAugust 21st, 2018 at 4:21 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for the kind words and I wonder if EOW ever played bridge? If so, would he be more or less inclined to think Homo sapiens is capable of rational behaviour, I wonder. Much would depend on his choice of partner and aptitude (or lack of it) for the game I suspect, but a basic principle of biology and related sciences is that there are generally exceptions to what look like cast iron rules!



bobbywolffAugust 21st, 2018 at 6:04 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, your reference to a surefire intellectual and his views, together with being a possible bridge junkie (extremes only assumed) have the makings of either an extraordinary individual, plus or minus, but, no doubt, on his way to having a marked effect on each and every alternative venture he undertakes.

However, since he is virtually unknown in the bridge world (my guess), he more likely than not, only thought of bridge as something a despondent person jumps off of, rather than what we know as a game all of us overestimate our ability to play it as well as we think we do.

Please excuse the above as somewhat offbeat, but what else is new?

Ken MooreAugust 21st, 2018 at 10:35 pm


When you play a NT contract and you are trying to set up a long suit, both safety plays and holdup plays are easy to spot. For some reason, at least for me, playing at a trump contract, it is much harder to spot them. Doing things in the correct order, as in today’s hand, takes much more thought.

bobbywolffAugust 21st, 2018 at 11:56 pm

Hi Ken,

First, it is good news that you are monitoring yourself to degree of difficulty.

Although it is likely somewhat different for each of us, it is always better for the player to identify and thus pinpoint the trouble areas.

At least to my view, playing trump contracts usually offer the greater number of options, thus, if true, figure to demand the most complete reasoning.

While no specific rules need to be memorized, the feel of trump contracts, are better off slowly explored, so that at the death the declarer (or possibly even the defenders) realize what produced that extra trick, or, the reverse and thus for the defense, what it took to keep it from happening.

And always keep in mind, the more one learns
the more enjoyment and satisfaction will accompany it. But that also means to not round off close situations in favor of too difficult, but rather start to think, “I can do that”!

Eventually, in order to get to the first door to passing perhaps 80% or more of players who are already there whether as declarer or as a defender, every hand needs to be counted while it is being played and including the other two original unseen hands together, of course, with the dummy, which is known immediately to all three players, immediately after the opening lead.

Take this one step at a time, but judge all hands alike in that at the finish if you didn’t know what all four players started out with, at least, at first the original distributions, (and then fill in the high cards) you then have not mastered what needs to be always done.

Anything less will make it impossible to get there from where you are. (easier than you think). I know, “easy for me to say, but I am not exaggerating in any way”.

Ken MooreAugust 22nd, 2018 at 3:39 am

About the growing enjoyment and satisfaction: I once walked into the middle of a hand where the defender had a look of consternation on his face. After a while, he said, “You did it to me again.”

Declarer had a look of satisfaction on his face as he said, “Yes, I did.”

bobbywolffAugust 22nd, 2018 at 5:10 am

Hi Ken,

Although there is room for both cats and canaries in bridge competition, we all would prefer to be the cat. At least during the post-mortem.

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