Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, November 26th, 2018

Our life is frittered away by detail. … Simplify, simplify.

Henry David Thoreau

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

*Short diamonds, agreeing hearts


Today’s deal is derived from a hand from a North American Bridge Championship match in San Diego. The defenders’ sidesuit holdings have been edited to make my point more clearly.

When North hears his partner respond one heart, he might believe his hand is too strong for a splinter raise to four diamonds, because slam is almost cold facing nothing more than five hearts to the queen and an ace. Some people would prefer a jump shift to spades before jump-raising hearts. Regardless, South ought to reach six hearts today. Plan the play on a diamond lead.

Here’s what you should not do: Draw trumps. If you win the diamond and play the heart ace and king, maneuvering to get that diamond ruff has suddenly become just a little awkward. You can come back to hand with a third heart, but now if you play the diamond king and ruff a diamond, you will expose yourself to a force in diamonds. And if you play on the black suits, a bad break in either suit might prove fatal.

Instead, simply ruff a diamond high at trick two, then play two more high trumps from dummy. Finish drawing trumps if they break, but when East turns up with length, simply play on clubs. You will succeed unless one hand has a singleton club and four trumps.

If West turns up with trump length and the club ace is ducked for one round, you may have to guess whether to play on clubs or spades. However, East’s early discards will probably help you decide.

Partner’s (not entirely surprising) failure to compete any further in diamonds makes me slightly reluctant to lead that suit. A spade lead looks like it is going to find partner’s length. While it might set up a discard for declarer, the fact that West responded one no-trump makes this slightly less likely than usual, so I would lead the spade six.


♠ 9 8 6
 7 2
 K J 8 7 4
♣ K 4 3
South West North East
Pass 1 NT Dbl. 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


A V Ramana RaoDecember 10th, 2018 at 3:02 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Since the contract will be doomed if both clubs and spades break 4-1 , hope for minimum evil ie either clubs or spades are 4-1 and in that case , perhaps simple dummy reversal would do the job for eg., win the lead in hand, play Q and a small heart. West shows out. Dummy wins and hope that clubs are benign. Lead a club from dummy. If east has A and plays , south has twelve tricks but as west has A , he has to win . West does best by returning a diamond but dummy pitches spade, south wins , leads club to winner in dummy and ruffs low club after which dummy is good ( and just in case east has club A and ducked, south wins with J and continues with a club to Q in dummy and has tempo to ruff a club )

Iain ClimieDecember 10th, 2018 at 3:26 pm

Hi Bobby,

While I agree with ruffing a diamond with the H10 at T2, I thought you would be safe unless H are 5-0. Cash the HA and all follow, so just draw trumps and play the CJ. You’ve still got the other high diamond so all’s well with the world – apart from the lack of a re-entry to the DK after the defence duck a small club to the K! Penny drops with a loud crashing sound.

AVRR’s line looks good too. These hands are brutes i.e. those with numerous options. The urge to just make the obvious play of a H to the A at T2 is very strong but needs resisting. 68% of the time there may not be too much of a problem while 5-0 may need a lot of luck to overcome. Those 4-1 breaks are the nightmare, and patience at tricks 1 and 2 crucial.



bobbywolffDecember 10th, 2018 at 4:03 pm

Hi AVRR & Iain,

Between the two of you I am left with nothing of value to add.

Except to say, while strict analysis (like you two presented) is not the only quality necessary in order to perform consistently well, its value, particularly so when it seems to be more fun to discuss than just hard work, simply allows the high-level game to flow more easily through your eyes and lips, allowing one more free brain time, to also spot soft (though unlikely) issues which can be prevented with early detection.

No doubt our wondrous game requires wide knowledge (most dealing with numeracy) in order to nail its difficulty, but many more than do could accomplish at least one notch up (from their present ability) if and when they decide to give a legitimate effort to succeed.

Getting there is significantly worth the effort, even though if the only gain, is self-satisfaction. Also and no doubt, the first few stages in order to do so, usually become the most difficult time to progress, mainly because of bridge logic, e.g., very similar to learning to make good decisions in life itself, and that, of course, is the important reason that youngsters should be taught our marvelous game while young and in school, so that their later life will flow evenly, a more or less significantly happier result.

Bob LiptonDecember 10th, 2018 at 4:03 pm

Yup, Iain, the best hands are the ones with only one way to play them, and that way actually works. This weekend I wound up in a diamond slam after partner had opened 1NT and righty had overcalled 2H. I needed for him to have doubleton clubs, so I could endplayed him for a ruff and stuff, and he did. It was only later that I realized I could have let partner play it in NT for a double squeeze that wouldn’t work.


Iain ClimieDecember 10th, 2018 at 4:18 pm

Hi Bob,

I trust you were able to apologise to partner for hogging the hand given that you brought home the contract and that 6N was doomed the other way up. I used to have one club partner who was diffident about playing the hand so, if she had a hand worth 4H opposite 1N, she’d transfer and bid game; if I had such a hand, she’d be happy for me to bid 4H directly if I felt like it. You can’t knock success – look up Napoleon’s comment on generals (good vs lucky).



jim2December 10th, 2018 at 4:44 pm

Iain Climie –

IIRC, many pros playing for “green points” had identical understandings with their clients.

Iain ClimieDecember 10th, 2018 at 5:16 pm

Hi Jim2,

The spirit of Mollo’s Hideous Hog is alive, well and getting paid.



bobbywolffDecember 10th, 2018 at 8:43 pm

Hi Bob, Jim2, & Iain,

Instead of getting paid, how about putting paid to the age old argument of best possible result, whether it be by talent, happenstance or just sheer luck, leaves a better legacy than almost, not quite, should have been, or any other close, but no cigar ending, especially while competing at the table when playing our favorite game.

And, at least up to now, just being able to talk about great plays, whether it actually happened or not, sometimes results in the same thrill.

Aren’t we devils and, if not, why not?

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