Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, November 19th, 2018

A prince … must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot defend himself from snares, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize snares and a lion to frighten wolves.

Niccolo Machiavelli

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


When the sight of dummy reveals that entries may be at a premium, you must take care to avoid embarrassment. Now that you have been warned, you won’t fall into a heffalump trap, will you?

After a rapid auction to three no-trump, West led the spade queen. Declarer saw she had nine tricks — provided that the clubs brought in the expected five winners.

South ducked the opening lead, more for form’s sake than anything else, then won the spade continuation and reassessed what could go right and what could go wrong.

She noticed that if she played dummy’s clubs from the top and followed in her own hand with small cards, a 3-1 break in clubs would mean that she would be forced to win the fourth round of the suit in hand, blocking communications to the fifth winner. Similarly, if East held all four missing clubs, the contract would be doomed.

But there were two undesirable outcomes that declarer could handle, the first being that if West held all four missing clubs: The situation would still be under control, as long as South retained both her two high clubs (for the possible finesse) and the low one as an entry.

So, at trick three, South led the club seven from hand to dummy’s queen. When everyone followed, she now only had to remember to unblock her two high clubs under the king and ace.

However, if East had shown out, declarer would have been in position to return to hand and finesse against the jack.

I do not think this auction demands a heart lead, but it does suggest some kind of heart stack, and it further indicates that declarer cannot run that suit as his main source of tricks. I have no reason to assume that I know which of a spade or club lead will work better. So, I will lead the heart six and hope the sight of dummy will let partner work out what to do.


♠ Q 7 4 2
 6 2
 9 5 4
♣ K J 6 3
South West North East
  1 Pass 1 NT
Pass 2 Pass 2 NT
Pass 3 NT Dbl. 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 ClimieDecember 3rd, 2018 at 4:43 pm

Hi Bobby,

All horribly reminiscent of a hand which I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, and you told me my pet lemming needed a very, very stiff talking to, although it was a one-off partnership. My partner was in 6H after an opposing 3C pre-empt had a side suit of SAKQ43 on table opposite 7652 in hand. 4-0 is unmanageable but he cashed the Ace without unblocking after drawing trumps and visibly relaxed then didn’t pay attention to the (black) card from his RHO before the penny dropped. If RHO had dumped a club he could still recover by playing a loser on loser of a club from dummy dumping a blocking spade which would also have worked with the S2-2. If RHO had followed to the spade (LHO did so) then he could cross to the S7 and go back to dummy.

He panicked, put on THAT Wile-E-Coyote expression (just before gravity strikes) cashed another top spade and was now stuck in hand. He wasn’t very strong at all so I consoled him, didn’t cheerily tell him “you could have made that by playing the loser-on-loser play”, which is a morale killer and told him that I should have just bid 6S after 3C X P when holding AKQxx KJ9 xx K108. A bit out of character for me not to hog the hand to say the least; my “clever” 4C was partly to blame for us winding up in 6H instead of the easy 6S opposite 7652 A8xxx AKxx None, so rock throwing from my glass house was wrong; we had a reasonable session after that.

I always wondered why dummy wasn’t allowed to helpfully say “Having None” to an opponent showing out; this was a reminder – UI to an inattentive partner. In my first incarnation, before the 25 year break form the game, my reaction would have been quite different, though.



bobbywolffDecember 3rd, 2018 at 9:24 pm

Hi Iain,

Your sentiments mightily resound around the off-the-charts-game we love to play almost as if a needless somewhere in our world, violent war has just broken out, or a senseless psychotic killer has unleashed the fury of his weapon(s) to only remind the world just how pathetic humankind can become, if left to only their thoughts and moods.

Our game, like golf, is full of traps and human distractions, favoring the experienced who have seen and felt the despair of falling victim, therefore have built in devices (mind control) to keep it from happening again.

All that either you and/or I can suggest to all players (with dummy getting a pass) is to not lose the most important single virtue any bridge player can possess.

That secret word is concentration, without which we become cannon fodder for not only thought to be a fool, but rather to find out for sure, that realization is, without contradiction, an underbid.

Your comment (and today’s hand) should be required reading for every newbie’s bridge class.

Until it is, we need to both grin and bear it, neither of which, is ever a satisfactory remedy.