Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, November 12th, 2018

A man may be in as just possession of truth as of a city, and yet be forced to surrender.

Sir Thomas Browne

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


In today’s deal from a team game, one pair came back to score up with what they considered a normal result in their game contract: North had opened a weak no-trump and played four spades on a heart lead. He could not find a way to succeed after that start, but was disappointed to lose a big swing when four spades came home from the South seat in the other room on the auction shown. And it all came down to the play to trick one.

When you have this combined heart holding, you are happy to have the suit led around to — rather than through — your tenace. You are gifted a second trick in the suit, but that will not do you any good today. One discard is completely irrelevant in comparison to the avoidance issues in the minor suits.

See what happens if South wins East’s heart queen with the ace. After drawing trumps, declarer will run the diamond nine. East can win with the king and return a heart to West’s king, then a club shift will beat the contract.

At the table, South appreciated the necessity of keeping the danger hand, West, off lead. By allowing East’s heart queen to hold, communications between the defensive hands were cut. East could not effectively attack clubs from his side of the table. South won the heart return, drew trumps, then ran the diamond nine. East could win in either case the first or second round, but the defenders were limited to one club trick in any case.

There is no clear reason to get aggressive with a heart lead — nothing about this auction suggests we cannot beat three spades on normal defense. So it feels right to lead a diamond, but which? I tend to lead top of three small in a bid-and-raised suit. From a four-card suit, I would therefore lead the eight; the six might be hard to read if declarer has a singleton honor.


♠ J 8 2
 J 8
 8 6 3 2
♣ A Q 6 3
South West North East
    1 1 ♠
2 2 ♠ 3 3 ♠
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


Iain ClimieNovember 26th, 2018 at 9:55 am

HI Bobby,

Trickier at pairs, where the DK and CA both need to be wrong for ducking to be right, but clear cut at IMPs. Ironically that HJ is a snare and a delusion; the play is far easier to find with HAx. North at the first table was probably “System fixed” though – 1NT followed by transfer to spades and 2N which North converts to 4S. Your recommended approach of 2-way Stayman instead would avoid that problem, at least this time, although I might have led a club against today’s auction anyway.



jim2November 26th, 2018 at 1:17 pm

Iain Climie –

I would have interpreted the 4H lead as either a singleton/doubleton or three to an honor. Since East did not bid 2H, I would presume a 5-card suit, not 6 or 7 – so West more likely has three hearts.

However, once the QH is played, I can deduce East’s suit to be Qxxxx. That is not a strong suit to overcall with, even NV. Thus, I would expect opening points. West’s failure to raise in competition with Kxx of hearts further supports that East must have both the KD and AC.

So, I think the play is indicated even at MPs.

jim3 (honorary only)

Iain ClimieNovember 26th, 2018 at 3:19 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks for that and I forgot my own advice to read the column more carefully before posting; I missed the heart overcall so I think your analysis holds up. Mind you, I’ve overcalled with all sorts of dross over the years, but West’s failure to raise does rather suggest HKxx and neither the DK nor CA, although I suppose he might have downgraded the former. I suspect all the pairs lemmings (even though the furry creatures themselves don’t behave this way in reality) would just go HA, draw trumps, take the diamond finesse, though, so the score that way would still have plenty of company! Thanks for the wake-up call, though.



Bobby WolffNovember 26th, 2018 at 4:49 pm

Hi Iain & Everyone,

Judy & I are back home in Las Vegas, after a somewhat hectic last week while traveling to Hawaii for the Fall National ACBL bridge tournament and then, upon two days after arriving, last Wednesday at 4AM, November 22 getting the news that Morris Chang, my very close adult lifetime friend and bridge partner, could not join us due to a severe bout of food poisoning to which his doctor then advised him not to chance a long plane flight (from Taipet, Taiwan), but AFAIK he is now nicely recovering.

Upon hearing that sad news, and being scheduled to being a part of a four person team (for much of the week) we decided rather than forage for a teammate or teammates, to just return home ourselves, due partly to a minor (easy for me to say) accident which Judy had while taking a tumble after arriving in Hawaii.

In any event, after undergoing what felt like a voyage from or to Hell on the way back (with more inconveniences bordering on the supernatural) I, or we, are now recovering ourselves from the travels after finally getting a full night of sleep in my own trusty and very welcome bed.

From here, but on the next comment, away to my beloved subject bridge and hopefully not to experience any more “Indiana Jones” (a slight exaggeration)” or a better stereo type, “Keystone Cops” or “Inspector Clouseau” (Peter Sellers) type movie experiences.

Bobby WolffNovember 26th, 2018 at 5:19 pm

Hi Jim2 & Iain,

While both of you have both suggested and then clearly illustrated what role this “tricky” hand has to do with the oft times “rocky road” rise to relative and rightful respect.

While, no doubt, seeing the opening lead as the manufacture of an extra trick (East with the KQ) it will now become 2nd nature to merely win it and then soon discover that all your clothes, while in public, are about to fall off.

Better to learn to take time at trick one (except with a singleton unless basically announcing such to those “needing and necessay to know” worthy opponents).

Yes, especially for notoriously slow players, taking unnecessary time sometimes interferes with the enjoyment of the game for others (something spelled out clearly that way in the official rules), but the play at trick one for both 3rd seat (should be announced beforehand) and the declarer (need not be alerted) who is entitled to consider the overall play, not just the opening joust.

If that wasn’t so, there would be more than a few quickie and very good players who would fail on today’s hand, forever (or at least some hours) to be embarrassed.

No doubt, the match point argument is totally valid and, of course, speaks to the winning of an extra trick should the large cards in the minor suits be differently held.

However, and indigenous to a few (including me) that discussion will always be regarded as a reference to a lesser game and again while an integral part of it, will have to do with sheer guesses, not tied to expert handling, taking away, not adding to, the majesty to which rubber and IMP bridge will always enjoy over the game we define as matchpoints (or duplicate).

Room for argue?, sure, but not one to camouflage the facts.

Iain ClimieNovember 26th, 2018 at 11:39 pm

Hi Bobby,

Sorry abiut the assorted misfortunes and I hope Judy soon recovers. Welcome back, though.

A minor question, if you’re OK with it. At favourable 1st you pass Jx QJxxx xx AJ8x ant goes 2S weak P P to you. Do you balance and, if so, with X, 2N or 3H?


Bobby WolffNovember 26th, 2018 at 11:46 pm

Hi Iain,

Whatever I would do, pass or what to bid, it is about a tossup. Deciding on what I thought of those specific opponents and, of course, on partner’s proclivities to either bid or pass when close.

Likely and against good opponents I would tend to pass, especially if partner is quick to come in, and as to what to bid, would be 3 H=100, 2NT (to play) =70, double=10.

Good luck to me, I’m gonna need it!

Iain ClimieNovember 27th, 2018 at 9:18 am

Hi Bobby,

Pass works best, and double (even with 2S making) is still better than the carnage at the table. The weak 2 opener (myself) had KQ98xx 8x 6 K10xx and his partner had x AK109x AQJ92 7x, dummy holding A10xx x K10875 Q9x. I led the D6, declarer’s ploy of the 5 from table left me still on lead when partner played the 2. SK was aced and the club finesse lost so SQ (partner dumping a club), club ruff, small diamond back ruffed, club ruff, another diamond back and declarer ruffed in high. When the dust eventually cleared, we’d taken 10 tricks, as declarer was trapped in hand at T12 with HQx and partner holding HA10.

Partner could have had (say) a balanced 13-14 count with decent spades, 4+ clubs or a heart suit but I felt the punishment was disproportionate to the crime, even allowing for declarer’s misplays. Still, just one bad board at pairs!


Iain 30th, 2018 at 10:27 am

I appreciate looking through your website. Kudos!

http://profolan-pt.euNovember 30th, 2018 at 2:37 pm

Nice webpage you possess here.

tao website ban hang onlineNovember 30th, 2018 at 6:34 pm

It is keywords that attracts the Google search engines, and so they should be
relevant on the website’s subject matter. Once the sitemap file
may be uploaded towards the web server, you may use the Web Master Tools to submit the sitemap.
When you are ready to buy, choose an internet site with a domain name that suits the business enterprise in this particular
niche or market. 30th, 2018 at 8:23 pm

I appreciate the data on your web sites. Thanks.