Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, April 25th, 2019

But I, being poor, have only my dreams,
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

W.B. Yeats

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


When East overcalled one spade over one heart, South could easily have passed rather than bidding one no-trump. (Too much of his hand was tied up in spades, in my opinion.) South denied three hearts by his action — with three hearts, he would have made a support double of the overcall.

West led the spade seven, top of his doubleton, against three no-trump, and when East overtook with his eight, declarer saw little point in ducking. He won and played the heart queen, then continued with hearts when East ducked. East took the second round and continued with the spade queen. Again, declarer declined to duck, continuing with a club to the ace to cash dummy’s heart winners, throwing diamonds from hand, while East also pitched a low diamond.

Declarer had planned to try to concede a club to West while keeping East off lead. But when East threw a spade on the second club, declarer rose with the ace and exited with a spade. East could take his three spade winners, but then had to lead away from the diamond king and concede the ninth trick.

Declarer would have been unable to make his contract on the layout seen here if he had let East win either the first or second round of spades. Had he done so, he would been unable to endplay East and would then have had to rely on a finesse in diamonds to make a ninth trick — which would have been unsuccessful as the cards were divided.

It isn’t clear whether you belong in diamonds or three no-trump, but you don’t really have any slam ambitions yet. Bid three clubs to show where you live and let partner help you decide what strain to end up in. When in doubt, it is always better to let partner tell you what he has, rather than deciding for him.


♠ 9 2
 K J 10 5
 A Q 9
♣ A 8 5 2
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 Pass 2 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


MattMay 9th, 2019 at 11:09 am

When playing East, I never have the guts to casually pitch the second diamond from Kxx. This is a practice I need to cultivate.

Iain ClimieMay 9th, 2019 at 11:39 am

Hi Matt, Bobby,

It may not help if you do, though, at least if you’re playing Weak Jump overcalls. Declarer will ask why tou didn’t bid 2S with QJ108xx Axx Jxx J or similar and put 2 and 2 together, concluding you were two strong. There is a case for mixing up overcalls on occasion (although this needs to be notified on the convention card) to avoid giving too good a picture of the defensive hand.

The other point is to realise asap what will happen if you keep the DK guarded i.e. the throw in. If so, then mentally shrug your shoulders, dump 2 diamonds and hope for the best and that declarer has missed the inference above.



Iain ClimieMay 9th, 2019 at 11:47 am

The other thing (apart from my apologising for the typos above) is to do it smoothly having seen the problem coming but, above all, don’t order a coke (or similar) from a passing waiter while you’re at it. See the famous Lee Hazen story.

bobbywolffMay 9th, 2019 at 4:30 pm

Hi Matt,

While I could have chosen to include both you and Iain in the very small additional information I am intending to transmit to which, and of course, neither of you two to be surprised.

Obviously you are, at least what appears to be, a newer player about to (if you haven’t already) fall in love with our cherished game.

The good news is that, by just mentioning that you had a sometimes tough time doing, but know you need to do it casually (and FWIW) without pause for thought since way back at trick one, when declarer didn’t duck the first spade (partner’s seven of spades, instead of a very small one while holding three instead of two) at trick one should have alerted you to his having no more than two spades), therefore declarer being able to duck without danger.

IOW the key to moving up the bridge ladder and quickly, has a very large percentage to do with, while defending or declaring ALWAYS counting. Learning to do that, whenever the time comes, hopefully early in one’s bridge development, is as necessary in bridge as getting up in the morning is in life instead of either literally or figuratively sleeping one’s life away.

Since you went out of your way to immediately mention that ploy, at least to me, you are already more than 50% there, definitely targeting you as willing, knowledgeable, and capable, so all that is necessary is greasing the path (by counting, starting with partner’s opening lead and, of course, the significance of declarer’s non-duck).

By doing so, you should make up your mind to make your first two discards diamonds and here is the good news:
While, if you are playing against the clubs best player as declarer (by chance) you will have a significant advantage (that day) since you know how good he or she is, but he, unless your reputation has become virile you know him, but he, at least until now, does not know you.

IOW, you get a free pass to do well on this one hand, but once obtained never forgotten, so from that time on, at least in his mind (and likely the word will spread) you will be regarded in very serious circles as a player always to be reckoned with.

Although you had to listen to the above, arriving there will only be a fast start to the many new ethical wrinkles you will fast learn to soon be known the same as a great hitter in baseball, aka “a tough out”.

Good luck, don’t be a stranger, and feel free to write since this site contains many wily great players who, no doubt, will share my hoped for opinion as to your continued positive development while playing our favorite game.

bobbywolffMay 9th, 2019 at 5:05 pm

Hi Iain,

Thank you for defining the good bridge involved with Matt’s hand, allowing me to welcome Matt, both to our site and also to what might be in store for him if he continues to devote his time and effort to what you and I, among many, have been enjoying playing for many years.

Although Lee Hazen was a key factor in the formation of the ACBL (tournament bridge in the USA) as far back as 1936 he later on became a close friend who had a marvelous, though non-bridge playing wife, named Sylvia, who, no doubt, by force of her own personality, enabled Lee to accomplish great things for our game.

My guess the punch line in your story, by casually mentioning wanting a coke, while at the same time making a very deceptive play or discard will only add to an unknowing, though competent declarer, the throwing of doubt in his eyes concerning Lee’s apparent then concentration.

If so, no TD, even if called, would dare rule against a player, who no doubt would only claim to have been thirsty, rather than, perish the thought, unethical in his manner of trying to throw a not so wily declarer, off track.

Many of those stories have been told, some true, others apocryphal, but all adding to the marvelous beginnings and lore of our always sensational game.

Iain ClimieMay 9th, 2019 at 5:15 pm

HI Bobby,

the version I heard originally was that Lee was in 6S missing Kxx in trumps and a cashing Ace. He led the Q towards Axxx(x) and next hand followed smoothly, but then he would. Lee had a think and RHO hailed a passing waiter to order a coke. Although the odds favour a finesse, Lee himself wrote in a the Bridge Players Bedside Companion (or a similar anthology) something like “There and then, I knew he had the missing King. Nobody orders a drink in the middle of a critical hand unless he has something to hide.” He played the Ace and the King dropped.



bobbywolffMay 9th, 2019 at 9:13 pm

Hi Iain,

No, Lee, nor no one else, ever mentioned that story, at least not to me.

However, that result sounds real, since most kings have so many social obligations it will tend to, most likely, make them stiff, or, if given a choice, all alone.