Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 31st, 2018

I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.

Robert Heinlein

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


The USA under-21 team lost to Sweden in the finals of the 2014 World Youth Bridge Championships held in Istanbul. The gold medalists included three players who have already represented their country and won medals in the European championships open and women’s sections! Among the Swedish players were Ida Gr√∂nkvist and Mikael and Ola Rimstedt, all of whom won the junior title two years later, and who will be stars at world level sooner rather than later.

The USA silver medalists included Ben Kristensen, who played with Kevin Rosenberg. The latter is the son of Michael and Debbie Rosenberg, both world champions. Their teammates were Christopher Huber and Oren Kriegel.

Today’s deal came up in the final. In the first room, the Swedish East (probably rashly) sacrificed in five diamonds at his second turn to speak. This decision seems unsound because he was too balanced in the side suits, and he was not bereft of defense. This was passed around to the USA North, who doubled and collected 500.

In the second room, the auction was as shown: East (Huber for USA) bid just four diamonds. This passed to the Swedish North, who bid four hearts.

Kriegel, West, led the diamond ace, and on seeing dummy’s singleton, tabled the only card at trick two that could lead to the defeat of the contract — the club jack — a textbook surround play to ensure three club tricks for his side, whichever club declarer played from dummy.

Your partner has shown a pre-emptive raise, so your values on defense are strictly limited. My best guess to beat this would be to lead the spade ace and give partner a spade ruff or two. Starting with a top diamond may extract our own entry prematurely, so you must hit the ground running with the spade ace.


♠ A 6 3 2
 6 4
 A K 7 5 3
♣ 5 4
South West North East
1 Dbl. 3 4
Dbl. Pass Pass 4
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


Robert BordenJanuary 14th, 2019 at 11:45 am


It seems to me that we are only going to defeat 4H if partner has a trump trick that he will win
while still having a trump with which to ruff a spade, only 2 spades and either a second trick or
our side being able to cash a diamond (unlikely). I would lead a small spade to keep communication
open and at the same time gives us a chance to score 2 spade tricks if dummy has KJxx and partner happens to
have Qx.

Bobby WolffJanuary 14th, 2019 at 1:29 pm

Hi Robert,
First, welcome to our site, and for taking your time to write in and above all, voicing an opinion.
Next, let us analyze the bidding, from which, often the logic of playing and defending evolve.
West has made a takeout double of our one diamond opening bid, usually showing support for the major suits (often holding specifically four, at least from a classical view).
The bidding (our double of four diamonds), meant to insure a diamond lead should North be on lead while defending, when West will takeout, extremely likely to a major suit, and at the four level (game).
However, our double gave West a chance to pass, usually showing an equal number of major suit cards (again classically four-four). East then completed the auction by taking out to his lowest major (usually selected, not necessarily by the individual strength, but rather by the lowest rank, therein receiving a legal message from partner, that if I do not have exact equal length in both suits of choice, it will normally be longer in the lower ranking (the above a general expected caveat with experienced and high level players, e.g. with four spades and three hearts West would have immediately bid 4 spades over the double or, if not, while holding four-three would have converted to four spades over his partner's eventual four heart take out).
Therefore, and in a vacuum, from South the opening leader's viewpoint, and on the specific bidding auction given, would add up to his partner having a singleton spade.
However, I would be fringing the truth to say it will always (or almost) be the case, but in the absence of other stronger evidence to act on, such knowledge is what high-level bridge is all about.
Sure, your suggestive lead could work, but only when partner was dealt the queen of spades (with the king in dummy) and since East was willing for his partner to bid four spades if he, West, had only three hearts, but 4 spades he would have done so.
From the above, is the bridge logic which develops, when one devotes mind interest in the game itself. The good news is that extended thinking continues to flow back and forth from aspiring bridge partnerships the world over, tending (at least it says here) that bridge itself is the game of choice in developing young minds (or, for that matter any age minds), as to the application of logic in life.
Finally, again much thanks for joining us, with our hope of your both asking and also exchanging your thoughts about what to do with the countless original situations which almost always seem to permeate intelligent bridge playing discussions.

JudyJanuary 14th, 2019 at 4:53 pm


Bobby WolffJanuary 14th, 2019 at 5:14 pm

Yes Sweetheart,

But only when applied by people who are morally responsible.!

JudyJanuary 14th, 2019 at 5:27 pm

I agree Sweetheart .. and you no doubt directed your comment to the perfect person!

jim2January 14th, 2019 at 6:34 pm

Another Heinlein quotation goes something like this:

“If you realize you have won an argument with you wife, apologize at once! It may not be too late.”

Iain ClimieJanuary 14th, 2019 at 6:43 pm

Hi Bobby,

On LWTA can’t East redouble to show equal length in the majors and force West to make a decision although I agree that West’s pass over 4D ought to show equal length here? There might even be an inference that East hasn’t discounted clubs e.g. with 4 hearts and 5 / 6 clubs when he’ll move 4S if West bids it over 4H. It is maybe a bit far-fetched but modern players do seem to double with all sorts of hands nowadays e.g. 3334 14 counts after 1D on their right.

The trouble with the quote though is when you add the word “wrong” at the end!



Iain ClimieJanuary 14th, 2019 at 6:59 pm

Hi again,

As an extra thought, what should be the difference between West passing the double of 4D and redoubling? Both could be seen as equal length but perhaps 3-3 / 4-4 for partnerships who do that much work. West could be 3-3-2-5 with no diamond stop and a good hand I suppose, with East perhaps 3-4-1-5 or 4-4-1-4.

I agree with the other Heinlein quote too though – nice one Jim2.



Bobby WolffJanuary 14th, 2019 at 7:44 pm

Hi Jim2 & Iain (on his agreement),

When I showed Judy Jim2’s post, she reminded me, if that ever happens, she’ll let me know.

Bobby WolffJanuary 14th, 2019 at 7:58 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, your suggestion could be incorporated into a special partnership agreement, but unless done so, my guess is that most top partnerships would show extra strength and depending on how much would also include at least 2nd round diamond control and possibly with a bit less extra strength a diamond void.

IOW, slam try!

Bottom line is that a partnership which feels compelled to discuss such sequences invests their time in best trying to get on the same wave lengths, methinking that the above, is likely the single most positive any aspiring partnership can doubly possess.

Overall and individually likely a somewhat waste of time, but collectively showing a major sacrifice in trying to remember why this partnership was formed in the first place and how to climb that mountain to huge victories. (at least some talent and experience are a prerequisite).

Mircea1January 14th, 2019 at 9:59 pm

Hi Bobby,

I finished re-reading Larry Cohen’s Law of Total Tricks book not that long ago and can’t help looking at almost every board from that angle. I’m wondering if it can be employed here to help North make the right decision on his final bid. What is your take on LoT, Bobby? I hope this is not too big a question to ask, but I know at least one Ace who doesn’t think much of it (Mike Lawrence)

Bobby WolffJanuary 14th, 2019 at 11:39 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Unfortunately my answer to your question is not yes or no, but merely a generalization.

While the combined number of trumps between partners is perhaps the most important single feature of evaluation, there are many others which are close;
1. Controls(aces kings voids singletons)
2. Card combinations
3. Separating key cards from worthless
4. Expected defense
5. Caliber of the opponents
6. Togetherness of honors
7. Fortunate location of intermediates

The one almost constant is that a partnership which has 9+ trumps, unless
there is a duplication of suit length
(mirror distribution), will almost always
take more tricks than would their hcp total expect. (usually only necessary to know for considering a sacrifice).

Finally suit fits undervalue aces and kings while overvaluing queens and jacks.

FWIW, the Goren Point Count is only close to accurate when playing NT and with balanced hands facing one another.

Otherwise the old Vienna System of 7-5-3-1 (1930s) is much more useful than is 4-3-2-1 for suit bidding.

Finally, generalities are always false, even in bridge, especially the one I just wrote.

However, I cannot be any more precise, even as hard as I try, and bemoan the faith average players have with the point count. No doubt the Law of Total Tricks is more accurate,, but alas it also has its limits and IMO is not to be revered.

Experience, Numeracy & Developed Talent
are where it is at!