Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, September 17th, 2018

Not only is there an art in knowing a thing, but also a certain art in teaching it.


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


A basic knowledge of suit combinations will always be useful, and today’s deal has points of interest in both the bidding and the play.

Let’s look at the bidding first. At matchpoint pairs, South’s jump to six no-trump is unsubtle but understandable. But since a grand slam in clubs could be cold if North’s heart queen were the king (and as it is, six clubs is a better spot than six no-trump), South should have explored further by bidding four clubs over three no-trump, then using Blackwood.

In six no-trump, South wins the spade lead and can count 11 top tricks. The simplest play for the contract is the heart finesse; can South do better? Yes, he can. If he takes the finesse and it loses, he is almost out of chances unless there is a somewhat unlikely squeeze, with the same hand guarding the third round of hearts and diamonds.

A better play is to lead a heart to the nine; today, that forces the king, and declarer is home free. But if the nine loses to the 10 or jack, declarer then wins the return and cashes all his clubs, then spades. One defender may err by keeping spades and unguarding diamonds, but even if this doesn’t happen, you can reduce to a two-card ending with the diamond nine and a heart in hand and the ace-queen of hearts in dummy. Unless there are strong indications to the contrary, declarer will fall back on the heart finesse, but he will certainly have made his opponents’ task more difficult.

It seems possible to build up the full shapes of all the hands. Dummy surely has a strong holding, maybe a 3=2=5=3 shape. Declarer must be 4=4=1=4, so it feels right to lead a trump and cut down the ruffs, as is generally the case when one opponent has a three-suited hand.


♠ 7 6 2
 K J 9 3
 K 7 4 2
♣ 9 6
South West North East
  1 Dbl. Pass
1 Dbl. Pass 1 ♠
1 NT Pass Pass 2 ♣
All 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


bobbywolffOctober 1st, 2018 at 2:47 pm

Hi everyone,

For a high-level learning experience. at least to me, it would be both productive and conscientious to consider the thought process necessary to come up with both North and South (particularly South) envisioning the now declarer, East’s distribution.

Yes, it is likely to be 4-4-1-4 but divining out why, is the key exercise. Of course, while playing at a high-level table (with every player well respected) will certainly add credibility to one’s choice, just sayin … but with it, comes a very important forward step
with progressing (and making our game much easier to play).

However, my suggestion need not be taken so seriously that one feels that he or she must comply and/or respond. Perhaps more constructive to just wait and hope to hear from others.

bobbywolffOctober 1st, 2018 at 2:55 pm

Please excuse my not mentioning I am writing about the LWTA, not the main column.

Apologies for the likely inconvenience.

Iain ClimieOctober 1st, 2018 at 3:05 pm

Hi Bobby,

On the play hand, there could be interesting ethical concerns if East has (say) HK10x and DQ10xxx. East takes the H10 and exits passively, but many weak players will squirm in agony before unguarding the HK (or getting it wrong and letting one diamond too many go, but then there is no problem). What do you do if East wriggles with HJ10x and DQ10xxx before letting the HJ go (apart from calling the TD)?

I know Terence Reese’s advice was just to store up the incident and remember the opponent; it was based on a hand where he was in 6NT with KJ10 opposite Axx in dummy in one suit and needed to check out his opponent. So he led the J from the closed hand from KQJ opposite Axx and got a little flicker form LHO when she didn’t have the Q. Back to hand, lead the other J, no flicker, run it successfully. As he said, such habits are not only unwise but unethical if done consciously.



bobbywolffOctober 1st, 2018 at 5:54 pm

Hi Iain,

Oh yes, perhaps a whole bridge book can be filled with what used to be called often, and likely effectively,”fish-eye coups”.

Of course, any noticeable body motion possibly or probably, designed to deceive an opponent while playing at the table is and should be, considered against the “ethics” of the game and subject to both a specific bridge penalty and appropriately, often, a disciplinary add-on.

Of course, a perpetrator will have almost always prepared a legitimate excuse, such as “caught by surprise” or “my card stuck to my hand” but in reality and through the years,
there are not many of them still playing or if so, not applying their evil habit, since at least the high-level community have already seen and then responded to them.

Of course, in many bridge clubs throughout the world they still exist, and come in random packages which enables them to get some early victims, but not lasting long, sometimes not even a single session.

In truth your specific example, though possibly apocryphal, can be applied in several different pause worthy (at least for bridge crooks) situations. However there are a number of self-styled expert bridge detectives who use those slimy habits of their opponents, to their own advantage.

Finally, while your admonition of “done consciously” is a polite reference, it indeed should only be given notice, if that particular player has just learned bridge, perhaps that same day, but not much earlier.

Thanks for the very cute story.

Iain ClimieOctober 1st, 2018 at 6:08 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for that and I recall your Bols tip (about “Your Tempo is showing”) here although that addressed accidentally leaking information; this is a more serious concern. Sadly I have met a few players at club level about whom Reese’s comment applies although he himself got caught up in one of the great scandals in the game; I hope the accusations were untrue but the British NPC (Ralph Swimer) was thoroughly castigated at the time for pulling the team out of the Bermuda Bowl. He tried to do the right thing in what he regarded as a case of uncertainty but was promptly vilified this side of the pond. The idea that Brits are always good losers doesn’t apply; after all, some 30 years after the end of the US war of Independence we torched the original white house (1814, I think).



Bob LiptonOctober 1st, 2018 at 6:34 pm

August 24, 1814. Why do you think we have to paint it?


Iain ClimieOctober 1st, 2018 at 7:26 pm

Hi Bob,

The anniversary is the day after my (Irish) mother-in-law’s birthday although she clearly isn’t that old. Mind you the Irish really have had good reasons to be very annoyed with the British over the years, a point which I’m reminded of regularly.

I also found this:!

There again look up the colour of British locomotive designer Stroudley’s “Improved Engine Green”, although he may have been colour blind. The amount of odd info out there beggars belief.


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