Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 20th, 2018

Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.

Alfred North Whitehead

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




When this deal came up at a pairs event, West showed the majors over one no-trump, leaving North with a problem as to how to compete. He decided to show his clubs with a call of two no-trump, the Lebensohl convention, planning to let his partner play a club part-score.

However, after the opponents bid confidently to game, he elected to disclose both minors, letting South play five clubs. Clearly, East-West would be able to take 10 (but not 11) tricks in hearts on best defense, but how do you like South’s chances in five clubs? At the table, West led a top heart, and dummy ruffed.

Declarer saw that he could afford to lose one spade, but not two. The plan, therefore, was to establish the diamonds by keeping East off lead. Playing smoothly but without undue haste, South led a trump to the ace and the club jack to the king, then let the diamond eight run to West’s jack. He ruffed the heart return, unblocked his diamonds and trumped a third heart to dummy to discard two of his spades on the diamonds, making five.

At the end of the deal, West asked his partner if he planned to live and die by the old saw “Second hand plays low.” East asked what he meant by that, and West pointed out that East had needed to cover the diamond eight with the 10. When declarer played his king, West would unblock the jack, and now East’s Q-7 of diamonds would be a sure entry to let him get in to play spades through declarer’s gizzard.

Your side has at least an eight-card heart fit, and your opponents surely have some sort of eight-card or better fit in diamonds. You do not need to examine the situation more carefully than that: The Law of Total Tricks tells you to bid on to two hearts. Dare you argue with it now?


♠ 10 6 4
 A 9 5 4 2
 Q 10 6
♣ 7 5
South West North East
  1 Dbl. Pass
1 2 ♣ Pass 2

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 WarheitOctober 4th, 2018 at 2:01 pm

If the D6 & 7 are switched, S cannot be stopped from making his contract. Either way, NS have done the right thing by bidding 5C.

Iain ClimieOctober 4th, 2018 at 3:45 pm

HI Bobby,

While I accept West’s comment is accurate, its phrasing and timing may not be (unless this was the last board). A more sympathetic approach might be sensible or even saying nothing until the end plus an attempt to restore partner’s morale. It is a partnership game, after all, and one digging at the other wastes energy, distracts from the task in hand and reduces the pair’s likely performance.

I accept that 35 or more years ago I’d have been in with West’s approach and then some (plus a few choice words of abuse) but, in retrospect, I really don’t think it helped matters at all.

So if on partner sees a mistake that the other has missed, should he say anything at all or just say in advance that such concerns should be left to the end? As somebody once said, the odds against the same hand recurring in the session are billions to one against!



TedOctober 4th, 2018 at 4:20 pm

If East does cover both times, a Spade can be ducked to West (fortunate spot cards). Declarer loses 2 Spades but no Diamonds.

Iain ClimieOctober 4th, 2018 at 4:57 pm

HI Ted,

Can’t East jump in with the S10 (not that he will necessarily do so) and East-West then just keep playing spades? Also, dummy still seems to have a slow diamond loser even if west wins the first spade with the 9 and plays SAQ next?



TedOctober 4th, 2018 at 6:11 pm

Hi Iain,

If South covers the 10, he can beat any spots from East. Hadn’t had my coffee yet, however, and forgot that South wouldn’t be able to pitch a Diamond on the Spade return (could West maybe return a Heart instead — pulled the wrong card, lost count, or something?).

Thanks for helping wake me up.

bobbywolffOctober 4th, 2018 at 7:19 pm

Hi David,

Now I know why my parrot, who always sat on my left shoulder, once told be that the seven of diamonds, being worth a full trick, should be gvien four points, the same as an ace, for its value in the Goren count.

It took me perhaps 70+ years to understand why, but once learned, never forgotten.

And for you to say, with or without that placement of the defensive seven and six of diamonds, you still condone the final contract of 5 clubs, contradicts your normal stern belief that the right contract is one that makes, although this one, thanks to East, still succeeded.

bobbywolffOctober 4th, 2018 at 7:47 pm

Hi Iain,

Your conversation recalled some old time memories during my so-called formative years when I became called-on to partner some very abusive, but highly talented partners (since I was still young, had a reasonably tough hide, but a strong will to improve).

Many jokes have been made such as, “When did you begin to learn to play, I know it was today, but what time, today” and/or “I don’t mind you betting on our opponents, but I would like to have at least part of the action”.

Thus I do understand your youthful temper to which in my state of birth, Texas, (no I was not hatched), a costly bridge mistake was merely referred to as “Justifiable Homicide” which was mostly thought much too lenient.

How about adding to your odds of “1 billion to 1” against the same situation recurring, instead uttering, “about the same odds of me ever partnering you again”?

However, you are no doubt correct, that one gets more flies with sugar, but the problem is:”who wants more flies?

Only kidding, or am I?


bobbywolffOctober 4th, 2018 at 7:56 pm

Hi Ted,

Bridge lends itself, especially when not as experienced as some of us old codgers, to, in addition to not enough coffee, various type errors since there are so many variables.

This malady also occurs during thought processes when playing, so in order to diminish them from quite often to only frequent, one must do some spot checks before playing at the table, or retorts later, especially when you are “surrounded by assassins” like on this site.

However, if you live, as I suggest you should, to see another day, your bridge quality quotient will markedly continue to rise.

Good luck!

Iain ClimieOctober 5th, 2018 at 9:12 am

HI Ted,

Don’t worry, I’ve posted far worse through impatience and/or not reading the article properly in the first place. Coffee (plus a quick extra check on the original analysis and then the post) can stop this as you say but my urge to hit that “Submit Comment” button regularly bites me in the back end.


bobbywolffOctober 5th, 2018 at 9:17 pm

Hi Iain,

Although I know nothing about why some diseases are contagious and others are not, we are both afflicted with that same urgent desire to hit that “Submit Comment” button immediately come Hell or high water and AFAIK we have never been closer to each other than perhaps 6000 miles or 9600 kilometers in our whole lives.