Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

Tricks and treachery are the practices of fools that have not wit enough to be honest.

Benjamin Franklin

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



It is often a danger signal when an expert thrusts a bridge deal scrawled illegibly on a grubby scrap of paper into your hand. Typically, he is giving you a chance to make a fool of yourself, so make sure not to commit to a plan until you have found the trap.

In the deal that follows, a colleague of mine described being buttonholed by an international player and shown just the North and South cards, to play four spades on the bidding and auction shown.

My friend thought he had spotted the theme. He ruffed the opening lead high, then played a spade to dummy’s 10 for another diamond ruff. He went back to dummy with a trump to ruff the last diamond and led a third trump to dummy, then a low club from the board, intending to insert the nine.

When East inserted the 10, the king lost to the ace. The defenders cashed three clubs ending in West, and exited in hearts, leaving declarer needing one of the queen or 10 onside. Today was not his lucky day.

That said, though declarer had taken most of his chances, he could have done better. At trick one, declarer simply discards a heart on the diamond king. West’s best hope is to shift to a trump, but you win, eliminate the hearts, then return to dummy in trump to ruff the diamond nine.

Finally you go back to dummy with a trump and play the diamond queen, throwing a club from hand. West is forced either to furnish a ruff-and-discard or to lead around to your club king.

Time to stand up and be counted: Are you going to rebid two no-trump without a stopper or rebid diamonds (strongly suggesting six, or five with better suit intermediates than this)? I’ll go for two no-trump; yes, this may wrong-side no-trump, but it may also be the best way to get to three no-trump when it is the only game we can make.


♠ 7
 8 6 4
 A K 7 4 2
♣ A Q 7 6
South West North East
1 Pass 1 ♠ Pass
2 ♣ Pass 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 28th, 2018 at 10:05 am

Hi Bobby,

The hand also shows the merit of EW not taking the “cheap” sacrifice of -500 in 5D, especially at IMPs where gaining 3IMPS has to be balanced against declarer not finding the right line. If the HJ is with South, of course, and the D3-0, then 620 is easy but the save costs 800. Give declarers rope ….



bobbywolffNovember 28th, 2018 at 10:36 am

Hi Iain,

Just because you are a bridge purist doesn’t always mean that everyone is.

For declarer in 4 spades to find the winning line, he needs to dig deep to throw a heart from hand and allow West to win the high diamond lead.

Not that the play shouldn’t go exactly like the column suggests, but only because that line of play seems so counter intuitive and changing the game to matchpoints, would surely allow the declarer to, at the very least consider scoring up making 11 tricks (+650) if West possesses the heart queen…..ruff the diamond take the heart finesse after drawing trump, ruff another diamond, and finally the finishing touch of throwing a club away, while leading the queen of diamonds for West to take and then be played in the end (so to speak).

However, when not at the table and a veteran player asks you to plan the play at 4 spades, yes, and no doubt, one must not accept any normal play to work, only (with a key finesse or two offside) to find a way to scamper home by new forms of transportation.

Yes, playing great bridge, although sometimes being a fantasy, is so very challenging, especially since there are so many varieties almost hidden, but upon due reflection, can result in ultimate triumph.

Always thanks (and, no doubt from our whole AOB tribe), for, as usual, leading the discussion.

David WarheitNovember 28th, 2018 at 10:45 am

Iain: You are off by one trick. EW only lose 1S, 2H & 1D in a D contract, so only -300 or if the HJ is held by S, -500.

Iain ClimieNovember 28th, 2018 at 2:04 pm

Hi David,

Isn’t it Game All, not favourable?



bobbywolffNovember 28th, 2018 at 3:57 pm

Hi Iain,

Definitely no, although it is Game All, not favorable, doubled and down two.

You Englishmen (or close) seem to love extra u’s.

I, too, luv u’s, but over here, in our nation, they are rationed.

David WarheitNovember 28th, 2018 at 5:51 pm

My vulnerability has been exposed!

Iain ClimieNovember 28th, 2018 at 6:15 pm

Hi David,

No worries, I (far more culpably) missed an overall the other day when I read the column.


bobbywolffNovember 28th, 2018 at 7:34 pm

Hi David & Iain,

No doubt bridge players, especially males, should carry around fig leaves, if for no other reasons, than to both conceal their strength and, of course
win by finesse.

Ken MooreNovember 29th, 2018 at 12:33 am

Bobby, After all of the discussions on ducking the first one, this was easy.

bobbywolffNovember 29th, 2018 at 11:57 am

Hi Ken,

If, in fact, you will call discarding a possible winning heart trick (50%+) on an opening lead you can easily trump (and maintain your winning heart possibility), in order to weave your way through declaring this hand, by deftly arranging that artistic final throw-in, then, and of course, you are correct in determining that your play is indeed the most logical to succeed, but calling it easy may be thought to be an overbid and not justifying its brilliance.

Perhaps a better calibration might be the mother ducker play of the week, month, or better stated, one’s career.

However, your reference to our back and forth discussions on popular ducks might just be worth calling it, the real Donald in honor of either our President or another very well known Walt Disney character of the same name (perhaps one of our all-time favorites, the one who won the heart of Daisy).

Ken MooreNovember 29th, 2018 at 7:18 pm

Funny. That quacks me up.

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