Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.

Alfred Harmsworth

E North
None ♠ J 10 9 2
 K 9
 Q J 4 3
♣ Q 10 9
West East
♠ A K 8 6 5 3
 10 6 5
♣ 8 7 3 2
♠ 7 4
 10 7 6 4 2
 A 9 2
♣ A J 4
♠ Q
 A Q J 8 5 3
 K 8 7
♣ K 6 5
South West North East
1 2 ♠ Dbl. Pass
4 All pass    


At the 1998 Cap Gemini World Pairs Invitational, we saw a relative rarity when Paul Chemla of France made an error in declarer play. His dissatisfaction with a bad guess on a high card must have been doubled upon discovering that he did not require the guess at all!

While three no-trump may be the best spot for North-South, the contract of four hearts on the lead of a top spade looked perfectly reasonable. After some thought, West shifted to the diamond six, middle of three cards, and East defended well by putting in the nine.

Declarer won in hand and crossed to the heart king, then continued with the heart nine. East continued his accurate defense when he covered, to deprive declarer of an entry to dummy. Now Chemla could draw all the trumps, but in the process, he made the mistake of pitching all of dummy’s spades. Now a diamond to the jack, ducked, left him needing to find the club jack in the endgame. Since West clearly had the length, and from the auction East had the club ace, Chemla got it wrong by playing West for the club jack.

A better line would have been to leave one spade in dummy while drawing trumps, reducing to one spade, three diamonds and two clubs. Now when you lead a diamond to dummy after drawing trumps, East must duck it as before. But now you ruff dummy’s spade back to hand and lead a third round of diamonds. East takes it, but is endplayed to lead clubs away from his ace in the three-card ending.

It seems logical to bid one no-trump now rather than raising diamonds, since you can also support diamonds later in a competitive auction; whereas if you raise diamonds now, you may have an awkward decision at your next turn. Also, your partner may misjudge how much defense you have, should you raise directly.


♠ J 10 9 2
 K 9
 Q J 4 3
♣ Q 10 9
South West North East
    1 1 ♠

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 RaoNovember 6th, 2018 at 2:14 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Since declarer knew that diamond six is a MUD lead, he could have simply prevailed by advancing a diamond to J in dummy after he won the second heart. East is compelled to duck and now declarer ruffs a spade, draws trumps and leads third diamond endplaying east . ( This line caters to west holding even seven card spade suit! just in case but has three diamonds) What I mean is that declarer need not fret over discards in dummy on trumps.

And Wishing you a great time at the local tournament

jim2November 6th, 2018 at 3:10 pm

A V Ramana Rao –

I await Our Host’s response, but West knew the 6D lead was MUD, but I am not so sure declarer knew.

That is, West’s choice of the 6D was because they were playing MUD — true. However, if West’s diamonds were the 6 and 5 (or 6 and 2), might not the lead have still been the 6D? Then, East’s play of 9D would have been from A1092 (or A1095).

If I am correct in my interpretation of the column text wording, then declarer did not yet know that West had led MUD and thus began with precisely three diamonds.

A V Ramana RaoNovember 6th, 2018 at 3:38 pm

Hi Jim2
If east eld A1092 in diamonds, he need not duck the diamond J. He can win and passively exit in spades. South is forced to ruff and has to guess clubs again. So hope diamonds are 3-3

jim2November 6th, 2018 at 3:52 pm

I did not address lines of play for declarer or the defense, nor did I intend to do so.

I simply pointed out that I did not believe that “declarer knew that diamond six is a MUD lead.”

Iain ClimieNovember 6th, 2018 at 5:22 pm

HI Bobby,

Any case at all for a pushy 2N from North with the slow spade stop, soft values and a possible disconnect between the EW hands (West has good spades, East the other high cards)? That may get to 3N assuming that South doesn’t just punt 4H of course; how good / bad / indifferent is 2N as a bid though?



slarNovember 6th, 2018 at 6:22 pm

I had a question a few days ago, but I posted it too late for you to notice. Does the notion of adding a king (when bidding) and removing a king (when responding) apply to a balancing NT as well? What do you recommend the balancing NT range to be? We normally make 1NT overcalls with 15-18. We have been playing 10 (NV) or 12 (V) -14, but maybe 12-15 would be more appropriate. Last weekend my partner got caught with a 15 count and placing the contract was difficult.

Bobby WolffNovember 7th, 2018 at 10:49 pm

Hi AVRR & Jim2,

Yes, of course, declarer would not know that the defensive convention of MUD (middle, up, down) was in effect, nor, for that matter, would East, However, while at the table, sometimes the defense, based on his hand, the bidding and play up to that time can apply what could be called an educated guess, in a similar way, to what might also occur to the declarer.

And, while applicable on this hand, that random application is only an important side show to what will turn out to be correct or not so analysis as to what to do,

IOW, high level advanced declarer play and defense probably more often than not, will involve assumptions rather than aces and cinches often evidenced by what the other dog does, barks or stony silence.

This above fact sometimes is often wrongly thought to be a subject critical, all of its own, instead of what it is, not exactly determining the ending.

If the above appears to be at least slightly confusing, it can be thought to be done on purpose. Then we can have something else to argue about.

Both of you appear to be right, especially the other one, but neither appears to be vitally necessary.

Bobby WolffNovember 7th, 2018 at 11:03 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, 2NT, instead of the negative double is definitely in the mix of being the right initial bid by North. Perhaps double and a conservative pass also belong there, but, of course, “The play’s the thing that will get the conscience of the King” and that happens to be the alternate game contract of 4 hearts. 3NT is not lay down with a random mix (on this bidding, with the opponents cards, but appears to be, on percentage, the best shot at a make).

Bobby WolffNovember 7th, 2018 at 11:10 pm

Hi Slar,

While now back home, I have answered your comment you made on last Monday, and will be now available by scrolling back.

Hope you understand my intent, possibly answering your question with a question, but nevertheless trying to emphasize what I think important. Sorry for your inconvenience.

NiamhNovember 10th, 2018 at 1:52 pm

A health care provider instructed that she strive donor remedy.