Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, October 12th, 2018

To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything.

Anatole France

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

3 ♣

Pass Pass 3 Pass
3 NT All pass    

*16 or more high-card points


When the two Chinese teams met at the Hua Yuan World Women’s Elite Bridge Tournament, the match featured eight world champions, six of whom had won the Venice Cup a few months previously.

Both Easts pre-empted here to three clubs, and both Norths reopened with three hearts, rejecting what would have been a sizeable penalty from three clubs doubled. Both Wests obediently led the singleton club, and when East guessed poorly by putting in the 10, it lost to declarer’s queen.

In the open room, one declarer advanced the diamond queen, holding the trick. She then cashed the top hearts to find the bad news. She could now have made her contract if she had played the ace and another diamond to endplay West into cashing out her red suits. After that, West would have had to lead a spade and concede the balance. Instead, though, she tried a spade to the queen and king. When West won and played another spade, the game went three down.

In our featured room, Wang Ping played a heart at the second trick. After two rounds of hearts, she played a diamond to her queen, won by West. (Ducking would have led to her being endplayed in that suit.)

Now West could not cash out her hearts without setting up declarer’s ninth winner, and a spade would give South the game-going trick with the queen. So, she exited with the diamond 10. Wang won with dummy’s ace, cashed the diamond eight, then exited in hearts. She eventually reached her hand with the spade queen for her ninth trick.

This may be an unpopular answer, but facing a pre-empt in first seat (especially a non-vulnerable one), I think it is right to pass and try to go plus there. Yes, there are hands where game will make, but even if partner holds ace-kingseventh of clubs, you still haven’t made four hearts or five clubs. Vulnerable at teams, you might persuade me to bid three hearts.


♠ A 5 4
 A K 8 7 4 2
 A 8 7
♣ 8
South West North East
    3 ♣ 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


A V Ramana RaoOctober 26th, 2018 at 11:26 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Perhaps West should have led J of spade initially.Not very difficult based on bidding.
( And seeing all hands, it is easy to comment that East should have won first trick and returned a spade)

Iain ClimieOctober 26th, 2018 at 12:20 pm

HI Bobby,

Can I ask your opinion on a hand form last night. Teammates went one-off in 6S on the following:

West AKJ743 Axx Q10x x East Q6x Jx Ax AKxxxx

What is the best line on a trump lead (probably the 9) or a heart lead? The club lead is unlikely on the biding while a diamond lead is a no-brainer. I found a rather odd suggestion in the first case which certainly would have worked as the cards lay but I think might be sensible anyway. Nothing breaks too badly (so trumps aren’t 4-0 or clubs 5-1).



David WarheitOctober 26th, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Ian: On a S lead, win the A, CA and C ruff, draw trump ending in dummy, ruff another C, cross to DA and claim. There are other lines that also work.

On a H lead, win the A, SA, CA and C ruff & lose a H. Opponent can now return a) a S: win in dummy, ruff a C high, draw trump and cross to DA; b) a H: ruff in dummy, ruff a C high, draw trump and cross to DA; c) a D: win in dummy, ruff a C high, play SK then SQ and run clubs; d) a C: ruff high, draw trump and claim.

bobbywolffOctober 26th, 2018 at 1:49 pm


Yes, and no doubt, it would have been better for the defense if either a spade was led originally or East would play West for a singleton club and at least close to the spade holding he had, winning the first club and switching to a spade.

However, either fortunately or not so, as different players may judge, as of yet we do not play with transparent cards (sadly not usually required by the defense when they agree to boldly and scandalously”cheat”).

Thus, without which, the winners would always be the best analysts, and therefore take away, what I think is likely the supreme feature of our gorgeous but extremely challenging competition. That being excellent detective like judgment (which also often includes slower tempo to read from your worthy opponents), to go with correct assessments based on both the bidding and the play up to what then eventually becomes “crunch time”, when a key play is made by one or the other side, as a rule, usually deciding the victor, at least on that hand.

To me, East’s duck of the first club seems reasonable, playing partner for a doubleton club, almost surely forcing declarer to duck, and then allowing a myriad of other suit combinations, plus increased back and forth communication between the defensive partners, to come to at least 5 tricks on defense.

However, our glorious game will always be subject to hindsight forcing a proper and therefore winning attitude for both defenders which should always involve partners imagining themselves in each other’s shoes, (while holding partner’s hand) certainly before any words (especially criticism, or facial contortions) are ever either spoken or shown.

However, and of course, those rules of bridge etiquette vanish later, when privately no hands should be excluded, nor possible or likely errors discussed, simply because every bridge player who ever lived, and even concerning the best ever, have been error free or even close, our game standing for just such a difficult one to play, to what every knowledgeable player would quickly and wholeheartedly agree.

Always thanks for your words of wisdom, given in the correct manner.

bobbywolffOctober 26th, 2018 at 2:30 pm

Hi Iain,

Before gazing at David’s post, arriving while I was answering AVRR, I would win the first spade in hand, (third seat following) and then lead another high spade from hand.

Assuming someone showing out, I would lead both the AK of clubs from dummy and then, and of course ruff a club high, then when they were 4-2, back to the queen of spades and ruff another club scoring up 6 spades, 4 clubs, and the two red aces.

IOW, not overly concerning myself with horrible black suit breaks, beginning at trick one finding out that the spades are not 4-0.

With a heart lead, something similar would also be appropriate, although since now it is a little more testing, and possibly a 5-1 club break but a 2-2 spade division would allow an end play (would not, of course put up the jack of hearts at trick one, giving my RHO a chance to play his single high honor (K or Q) at trick one so that with the above combination I might come down upon receiving a 2-2 spade break along with a 5-1 club break end playing, likely the opening leader, for a hoped for diamond shift when he holds the king.

Of course, no real problem when the black suits are no worse than 3-1 and 4-2 and I might be missing the best line when clubs are indeed 5-1. However, while playing pairs, instead of the teams that you were, and since 6 spades should often be bid, by cashing the AK immediately of clubs a possible 3-3 break would yield 13 tricks, something worth considering.

Iain ClimieOctober 26th, 2018 at 5:26 pm

Hi David, Bobby,

All looks terribly clear and obvious doesn’t it? I wondered about ducking a club after taking the first spade in hand, but that may be overly flashy and unnecessary; with the clubs 4-2 (South being short) and spades actually 2-2, you can even use the S6 as an entry so I did wonder how team mates came back having gone 1 off. There you go ….

The session was still a success, though, apart from this and the odd other “blip”.



bobbywolffOctober 26th, 2018 at 5:56 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, the comparison with your teammates especially on that hand. must have been more than a trifle disappointing to stomach.

Reminds me of a time when in the midst of playing an important bridge trials match perhaps 50+ years ago, while somewhere in the middle of the match, Bobby Nail, a great and late former Texas bridge player, who represented the USA in Bermuda Bowl competition twice, called his partner away from the table after the completion of about half the boards to be played, with the following offer….”I really do not mind you obviously betting on the opponents to beat us, but I would like part of the action”.

Of course, neither he, nor his partner ever informed me, nor perhaps anyone else, how or what his partner responded.

Iain ClimieOctober 26th, 2018 at 7:08 pm

Hi Bobby,

Just out of interest, how long did that particular partnership last, or did it get the sentence of death during the (appropriately named) trials themselves? I’d be terribly wary of feeding partner that sort of line unless I knew him very well and that he’d respond accordingly. I can think of one or two players who would have reacted with spectacular verbal and even physical violence, I must say.



bobbywolffOctober 27th, 2018 at 4:08 am

Hi Iain,

The subject pair, both had great senses of humor and had played for the USA around 1963 when I think the Bermuda Bowl was held in St. Vincent, Italy.

Bobby Nail had also played the year before when the BB was held in NY when his partner was also from Houston, Texas named Mervin Key(Bobby, having moved there from Wichita, Kansas and ran a rubber bridge club). Of course, in both years the USA finished 2nd to Italy.

Bobby was perhaps only 5 feet tall, but was indeed a tough competitor and fought tooth and nail. (pun intended). Before anyone beats me to it, no, his partner’s name was not tooth. Very talented and a pure player as well as, of course, being actively ethical.

Actually, at least the good players from south of the Mason-Dixon line in the USA all seemed to be jolly good fellows and almost always the same, during wins and losses.

Now, of course, with professionalism bringing money into the game, and many various cultures being ever present, senses of humor are sometimes drowned out by constant bickering, not a positive, but unfortunately causing a sometime much too serious attitude by many who have caved into forgetting to laugh at themselves instead of others.