Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, November 1st, 2018

I had rather believe all the fables in the Legend and the Talmud and the Alcoran than that this universal frame is without a mind.

Francis Bacon

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


When the three little pigs were faced with a declarer-play problem in three no-trump on a low diamond lead, the differences in temperament emerged in their approaches.

The first little pig won his diamond queen and optimistically played three top spades, expecting that suit to break for him. When it did not (East pitching a diamond), he led a heart to the 10, which West won and drew the inference that his partner had to have good clubs. He shifted to that suit for down two.

The second little pig won the diamond queen and played on clubs, not expecting to set up the suit so much as hoping the defenders might shift to hearts for him. Not a bad idea, but today the cards did not cooperate, and East cashed out at once to set the hand.

The third little pig saw that either hearts or spades might produce the extra trick for him, but he decided that he could make life harder for West if he made him guess early. That way, he might be able to combine all his chances together.

The defenders would surely go after clubs if South played on hearts after showing that he had spade and diamond strength. But when he won the diamond ace, concealing his queen, then played a heart to the 10, losing that trick to West, West would have had to be very suspicious to shift to clubs.

When West failed to find the killing club shift, continuing instead with diamonds, South could test both spades and hearts, and the 3-3 break in hearts let him make his game.

The two-diamond call is a one-round force, asking you to bid your suits up the line. There is no reason not to bid two hearts. You know you have the suit, and sometimes your left-hand opponent doesn’t have as many as he should. In any event, partner will bid a new suit if he doesn’t fit them, so no harm will be done.


♠ A K 6
 A K 10 3
 Q 7
♣ 7 4 3 2
South West North East
Dbl. 1 2 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


Iain ClimieNovember 15th, 2018 at 10:53 am

Hi Bobby,

East can give South a losing option here by playing the HJ wen the heart is led from dummy. If South ducks, then it is curtains; if he decides East has QJx(x) in H, he’ll win, take the DQ, 3 rounds of spades and play a heart to the 10 with unfortunate results.



Bobby WolffNovember 15th, 2018 at 5:25 pm

Hi Iain,

Before I get to your unqualified “refuse to lose” philosophy, allow me only to lead up to it.

When one is confronted with the usual frustrating experience of likely having the possibility, if on lead, to defeat the game immediately, but not having the facility to change the, so to speak, “luck of the draw”
exchange the word “frustration” to instead “opportunity” and instead of feeling sorry, try to change the scenery, if for no other reason that to serve as an alarm for partner to wake from his lethargy.

While normally, even from the QJ holding it would be unusual to rise with the jack. playing low instead to let nature take its course or worse, partner being dealt only Q10 or perhaps just as bad, K10 doubleton (enabling declarer to perform undue magic if he so guesses).

At the very least it may slow down the play, therefore being the bell necessary to invite partner to what was really happening (however do not get your hopes up, at least not usually for long).

However, do not die without a struggle, since only by creating some distraction may you be able to come out whole on this sad overall card combination. And do so confidently, even if it doesn’t work as well as hoped, for at least your partner will realize that you were fighting the only way you ethically could, by changing the order of normal play, thereby staying alive, just a trifle longer than most. Also perhaps declarer might have only AKxx in hearts and decide to duck the first one.

Finally, if Iain happened to be the other sex, his jack of hearts play may be worth a dozen roses from his male partner, regardless of the result. That is, lasting until Iain may play a like jack of hearts, only to find out that a club shift basically allowed declarer to score up an otherwise unlikely to be made contract.

David WarheitNovember 15th, 2018 at 6:09 pm

Iain: You forgot one critical detail: East was the Big Bad Wolf.

Iain ClimieNovember 15th, 2018 at 8:24 pm

Hi Bobby,

Many thanks for that.

Hi David,

Like it (and fair point) but should he be doubling for an unusual lead and hoping partner doesn’t just trot out a spade which some players think is required? Apparently 1N (P) 3N (X) demands a spade in many Australian partnerships.

I suspect if Wile-E-Coyote sat East instead and tried X there the consequences for the defence can be readily imagined. He and Karapet could probably form the world’s least fortunate partnership.



Bobby WolffNovember 16th, 2018 at 4:15 pm

Hi David & Iain,

While speaking of unfortunate partnerships, I have often wondered what might happen if a team-of-four(TOF) had two TOCM TM victims on the same team.

While TOF promise that what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander, perhaps TOCM (theory of card migration) turn into TOCM2 (theory of choice migration) wherein one of those unfortunate players first have the good news of the cards not migrating, but the choices of card selection migrate instead.

If so, there figures to be an inappropriate large number of KJ combinations to guess or, of course, having to decide early which suit is likely to break evenly.

No doubt the card gods are not happy when two TOCM victims play on the same team, but if they do, perhaps by some magical attraction they become partners, instead of just teammates.

clarksburgNovember 16th, 2018 at 6:08 pm

And if the migration of cards and choices took small but finite times, to repeatedly cross and/or circulate around the table, timing would be rather important. 😉

Bobby WolffNovember 16th, 2018 at 6:36 pm

Hi Clarsburg.

Is that how the phrase, “catch me, if you can” got its christening?

And likely before rather than after that same board is played at the other table, otherwise the automatic board shuffler union would mightily cry out.

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