Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Curfew must not ring tonight.

Rose Hartwick Thorpe

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


4 ♠ All pass    


No one could be more enthusiastic than I about the merits of reading bridge hands in books and especially newspapers (a fact that may not entirely surprise you). However, when you do so, you will often be consciously or subconsciously aware that there is a critical play or kill-point in the deal. At the table, of course, the players may not hear the bell ring to tell them to focus their attention. By the time the bell does ring, it may be for their own funeral.

Consider the contract of four spades here. When West leads the heart king, East gives count by starting an echo, so West continues by leading out his high hearts. Would this seem like a critical moment in the deal to you? It should, since if declarer ruffs the third heart with dummy’s solitary trump, East will over-ruff, and a diamond return means that declarer cannot escape a diamond loser.

As declarer can afford to lose three tricks, it is sensible to retain dummy’s lone trump as an entry to the South hand to allow him to draw trumps. The discard of a minor-suit card from dummy at trick three solves the problem. A further heart lead by West can be ruffed in hand. Trumps will be drawn, and South’s losing diamond vanishes on a club.

Similarly, of course, the defenders cannot profit by shifting to a minor at trick four. After winning the trick in dummy, declarer can draw trumps, following which, once again, the losing diamond can be disposed of on a club.

Yes, your partner may have been dealt two trump tricks and not much else. But it is far more practical to play this double as a decent hand, asking you to decide whether you want to play offense or defense. If so, you must bid on now. A call of four no-trump to suggest the minors and a hand like this will let partner determine the best trump suit and what to bid over further competition.


♠ 8
 8 6
 A 10 7 2
♣ A K Q 7 5 3
South West North East
      1 ♠
2 ♣ 4 ♠ Dbl. 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


A V Ramana RaoJanuary 31st, 2019 at 1:04 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Quite an instructive one. I remember Alfred Shienwold wittily mentioned in one of his books that ” If a bell rings everytime a player commits a mistake , the perfect player would get NoBell prize ” ( may not be verbatim as I am reproducing it from memory)

A V Ramana RaoJanuary 31st, 2019 at 1:07 pm

Too bad . Sorry for missing Regards

Iain ClimieJanuary 31st, 2019 at 2:07 pm

Hi Bobby, AVRR,

I can see a couple of traps here. What if West had (say) 107xx in spades and tried a fourth heart, for example, although then the contract is in trouble anyway. There might also be a RR moment if East had only 3 hearts, but one was hidden in the diamonds with West having only 5 hearts but a similar spade holding. It would have been safe for South to ruff in on the 3rd round, but now disaster strikes.

An even less likely chance is that West has a club void and trickily leads a small heart at trick 3, but that is just unlucky unless East doesn’t have the S9 or 10 when South has to ruff, cash CAKQ and hope East has to follow twice.

Madcap possibilities (and TOCM) aside, though, it is a good hand.



Iain ClimieJanuary 31st, 2019 at 2:09 pm

Sorry, the penultimate paragraph is mixed up. The C void with west is a killer regardless, but East having neither S9 or 10 will revert to the column line I suspect.


A V Ramana RaoJanuary 31st, 2019 at 2:37 pm

Hi lain
( with the permission of our host)
If west has four carded spade holding 10 7 x x along with his six carded heart suit, the contract just cannotbe made . And even if east like Rueful Rabbit mixed up his hearts and the third heart gets ruffed in dummy while east follows, defence can perhaps engineer an uppercut incase East holds three card club suit along with four card trump for setting the contract as south lacks transportation to hand.

A V Ramana RaoJanuary 31st, 2019 at 2:43 pm

Perhaps the theme of the hand is trump management considering lack of entries to hand. One would certainly go down by ruffing third heart on actual lay of the cards which can be avoided

Bobby WolffJanuary 31st, 2019 at 4:25 pm

Hi AVRR (4 times) and Iain (twice),

Madcap ramblings, though instead, if analyzed, thoroughly instructive and worthwhile.

After all, perhaps the most compelling (or if not, certainly high on the list) is first learning (already done, long ago, by you two) and then searching for and then finding other possible holdings (even though somewhat farfetched length possibly being with already known length, making column lines fatal instead of successful).

After all, many of the most interesting declarer play challenges, boil down to estimating the percentage chances for success, but first the danger needs to be seen, before it can be overcome.

Going further, some intelligent educator (who certainly needs to be adept, at least with the theory of bridge) could constitute a bridge aptitude test for youngsters (perhaps at ages 6-8) to likely find out just how adept he or she can become at our game.

Little by little we can do great things and you two guys may have shown the way to get us started, before kids get ready to attack the whole game in school.

Ken MooreJanuary 31st, 2019 at 11:00 pm


Re.: “but first the danger needs to be seen, before it can be overcome.”

It is hard to be defensive toward a danger which you have never imagined existed – John Christopher

Was that you, Bobby, that gave that quote or did I get it from somewhere else?

Bobby WolffFebruary 1st, 2019 at 5:23 am

Hi Ken,

In bridge and no doubt, it is often difficult to see the danger before it strikes.

The one cosmetic advantage of the above is that when it doesn’t strike, one can live in blissful ignorance of it even being there.

No, Ken it wasn’t me, though I wish it was.

Bobby WolffFebruary 2nd, 2019 at 6:17 pm

Hi again Ken,

Well perhaps, that quote was mine, although it is, should we say, self-evident.

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