Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, April 6th, 2019

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. I find out what the world needs. Then, I go ahead and invent it.

Thomas Edison

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


Today’s deal is a real-life hand from 45 years ago, reported in the Australian press.

It represents a missed opportunity for declarer, who had been given a roadmap by East’s double (maybe Dick Cummings was assuming his partner, Tim Seres, had a hand with some defense, given his overcall rather than a preempt.)

The defense began with a top heart lead to the ace. Perhaps assuming that hearts could not be 7-1, declarer unblocked clubs and led a heart from the board. Cummings discarded a club on this trick, and from here on in, the contract could no longer be made.

Declarer should surely have played for the diamonds not to break, and after winning the club ace, he should have led the diamond queen from dummy.

Say East covers, which looks right for preserving the tenace over dummy. Then four more rounds of clubs, discarding spades from dummy, forces East to ruff and return a high diamond. Now Declarer wins in dummy and cross-ruffs the majors. Though East can score his high trump sooner or later, that is all he gets.

The play is far more interesting on a spade lead, when East wins and returns a heart. After heart ace, then club ace, then the diamond queen to the king and ace, South cashes the club king and queen, throwing hearts from dummy. Then he takes the spade king, leads a spade to the queen, and ruffs a spade. In the four-card ending, South ruffs a spade and leads a heart from the board; now East can score only one more trump trick.

There is no reason to redouble, after which it may be difficult to get all your suits into play. Similarly, raising diamonds might lead to your losing a major suit fit. The simplest way forward is to bid hearts, hoping to hear partner raise or bid spades; but if not, you will raise diamonds at your next turn. When in doubt, bid suits rather than redoubling.


♠ Q 6 3 2
 10 9 6 4
 Q J 4 3
♣ A
South West North East
  Pass 1 Dbl.

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 RaoApril 20th, 2019 at 3:24 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
South , missing K 10 9 8 in trumps elopes his way to eleven tricks . Perhaps this can be posed as an elementary double dummy problem : South to make five diamonds on any lead

bobbywolffApril 20th, 2019 at 4:30 pm


And not such an elementary (possibly not to you) problem. Although a long time ago, the same principle might apply, and, in spite of great defenders, Seres and Cummings, sometimes a penalty double will alert a cunning declarer to the right line of play, which then becomes a momentous swing in favor of the lesser known, but did not when declarer’s play fell from grace.

However and no doubt, the casual 1 heart overcall can be misleading to partner since, although its offensive strength is there, the long suit, plus no side defense might and indeed, did confuse partner.

Such is fairly normal with our beloved game, but minding one’s discipline, although back in those days, partnerships were often, “I’ll handle my hand, you handle yours” present often resulting in poor results for the offenders.

While West’s hand would be a textbook example of a 3 heart preempt over his RHO’s 1 diamond opening, the vulnerability suggested not. Perhaps 2 hearts is a decent compromise, but today many partnerships play a jump overcall as adding another ace added to that heart suit when their color of the vulnerability is red.

Bob LiptonApril 20th, 2019 at 4:33 pm

And all the time, 3NT is cold!


bobbywolffApril 20th, 2019 at 6:03 pm

Hi Bob,

What you are stating is absolutely, not to mention, 100% true. However, what there is to learn of value, is simply any one hand, in its beginning stages, (when each player is only looking at 1/4 of the deck, 13 cards,) and the bidding is either just in the process of going through the embryonic stages.

To be more precise, or at least easier to understand, how can anyone even begin to fathom that while holding what West holds in hearts (KQJxxxx) could not be established in one lead and if any entry is present in that hand or if partner wins a trick and has enough hearts (depending on the overall distribution of that suit) 3NT figures to go immediately down and likely some numbers of tricks when a suit contract can make anywhere up to and including a grand slam.

With that as a forerunner to learning the game, one may begin to understand the complexities of it, regarding trick taking, card combinations, intelligent and objective reasoning as well as a code language designed to exchange enough accurate information to determine the best contract and then try and exhibit enough energy to plow forward and, of course, achieve success.

The above probably will scare more people off learning how to play than it will give incentive to do the opposite.

Remember this started with a compliment to you to realize what is certainly correct, but in retrospect in order to be logical how an even handed temperament, together with vital knowledge of how to get there from here might be the beginning of turning an averagely intelligent person into possibly a great player.

Again, the above is just a preview of what to expect. The truth is in the progression which, at least to me, is from the “womb to the tomb”.

No one will ever thoroughly master this great game, only, at the best, get better at it, Finally, is it in fact really worth learning?

Yes, I think it should be mandatory and one of the necessary learning experiences while someone is young enough to be blessed with a lifetime of playing it.

Hopefully I haven’t bored the reader to have given up several paragraphs ago, which, in fact, will happen much more often than I have the capacity to expect.

Anyway, thanks for your accurate assessment of this hand. In the long run, the result is what counts and your account summed it all up, even if a few loose ends were left unsaid.

Thanks for taking the time to write comments and for allowing me to visit the many complexities our game features.

Bob LiptonApril 20th, 2019 at 9:13 pm

I’m not urging anyone to bid 3NT on the hand as bid, or even if West overcalls 3H instead of one. It’s just the sort of result merchant analysis I’ve been dealing with for many years.

With the hands as is, I would hope to play at 4Diamonds, single-dummy.


bobbywolffApril 20th, 2019 at 9:27 pm

Hi Bob,

With hearts bid by West and South the declarer, I’d take my chances at 3NT, expecting a heart lead and those worthy opponents to waste an honor at trick one. However on this hand we will have to be very fortunate to make this hand, but even a 4th best heart lead will not keep us from getting unbelievably lucky.

However, perhaps too quickly assessing my chances, now likely getting the game bonus scored up, with the difference also being very close between bidding and making 5 diamonds instead of only 4.

When non players ask about what is so exciting about playing bridge, this hand represents something good to tell them.