Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving in words evidence of the fact.

George Eliot

S North
None ♠ A Q 9 7 5
 J 4
 Q J 7 4
♣ 5 3
West East
♠ J 2
 K 9 7 5 2
 6 5
♣ K 9 8 7
♠ K 10 8 6
 10 8 3
 A 3
♣ 10 6 4 2
♠ 4 3
 A Q 6
 K 10 9 8 2
♣ A Q J
South West North East
1 NT Pass 2 * Pass
2 ♠ Pass 3 NT All pass

*Showing spades


There are several points of interest about today’s deal that have a general application. The first is that despite his small doubleton, there is no viable alternative to South’s opening one no-trump. When in the middle of the range, you must normally open one no-trump. Occasionally, though, you may be able to up-value or down-value hands at one end of the range or the other if they seem inappropriate for opening one no-trump because of their honor structure.

Second, North does best to transfer to the major, then offer a choice of games, rather than showing his diamonds at his second turn. With a singleton, or with maybe an ace more — so that slam isn’t entirely out of the picture — I might feel differently.

Declaring three no-trump, how should South judge the play on the lead of a low heart? The first thing to do is to put up the jack — if you don’t, you will get no use from that card. (With the heart nine in hand instead of the six, you would play low from dummy, by the way.)

When the jack holds, don’t relax prematurely! If you play a diamond, East will rush up with the ace to clear the hearts, and you will find that eight tricks are the limit today. Instead, finesse in clubs, knocking out the entry from the danger hand. West does best to win and shift to a low spade, and again you must be careful. Win the ace and clear diamonds; now you can ensure nine tricks for your side no matter how the opponents’ cards lie.

Playing two-over-one, where the two-diamond call set up a game force and three hearts was encouraging to slam, how many of my readers bid on over four hearts? Should I be more hurt than surprised if you did? If partner cannot cooperate with a slam try, it is hard to imagine slam being any more likely than the club or perhaps heart finesse. You should trust your partner and pass.


♠ 4 3
 A Q 6
 K 10 9 8 2
♣ A Q J
South West North East
    1 Pass
2 Pass 2 Pass
3 Pass 4 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


bobbywolffMay 28th, 2019 at 11:33 am

Hi everyone,

Today’s hand struck a positive nerve, while referring to declarer’s play in the form of George Eliot’s apt quote as it applies to the scheme of declarer’s right on, timing.

Our hero, South, definitely had something worth saying and he executed it flawlessly and was thus rewarded in spite of 2 of the 3 finesses, and for discussion purposes, one can claim that all three were, in fact, technically offside.

This hand could serve as a “litmus” test for playing cards in the right order as declarer, forcing the defense to acquiesce, but not before being treated to a lesson of a successful
moment at the bridge office.

The only flaw, having it done by an opponent, rather than one of their own.

clarksburgMay 28th, 2019 at 8:54 pm

Hello Bobby
A question about the letter of the Law on revokes, the underlying rationale and intent.
Declaring 3NT with a very friendly opening lead, I took three Club tricks, cashed my two highest Diamonds of four to unblock and then went to Dummy to cash Dummy’s remaining four Diamonds tricks. In a terrible lapse, I discarded a Spade (revoke) before my next-to-last Diamond, and produced my last Diamond on Dummy’s next. Director call. One-trick penalty and my cold 3NT went off; the Defender who had failed to find the killing lead for a two-trick set, and made the Director call, was rewarded with a top.
I know the Law requires the penalty even for a revoke that was absolutely of no consequence to the “Bridge” result; and that there’s no path for the Director to waive the penalty.
No doubt the writers of the Laws must have a reason for this. Can you enlighten me on what that reason is?

bobbywolffMay 29th, 2019 at 3:40 am

Hi Clarksburg,

Story time. When I was active in the WBF, both as a player, but mostly as an administrator, for a number of years at the Annual World Championship I chaired every important committee held.

When I finally retired from attending those events, of course I preferred to as a player, and that went on for about 30+ years, but then although an occasional player in the Senior events but also an intense interest in maintaining the equity uppermost in what was fair, I intentionally overlooked existing rules in order to guarantee the fair result.

To many, that procedure seems like nothing short of anarchy, but to me it seems only fair and just, since I didn’t have a dog in any of those races to which I was ruling and I wrote or oversaw a complete report on why every verdict was the way it was, begging for those who took charge in the future to please consider the equity of what they were doing.

I cannot, not will I ever be privy to what has happened in the last double digit years to which I have not had a say, but hopefully some of the precedents back then have been followed, but my guess is that they haven’t such as the ruling that was made in the case you just presented.

The truth and nothing but the truth is that the rules (therefore laws) cater to the people in charge not having a high IQ as to bridge so in order to form a more perfect union (as is stated in some of the early legal developments when the USA was coming into being) the laws were intended to be specific, which would mean that you went down 1 in 3NT.

To me, that is outrageous, but then I didn’t have to cater to less than high level thinking in why the laws said what they did.

To many, they would hang me out to dry, and who can blame them. Except if I lived 30 lives (I’d settle for only 2, but I doubt I’ll get my wish) I would rule the same way (in my book I discuss this subject at length with examples).

IOW bridge equity would triumph, not the cold hard exact words of the written law. I would always search high and low to establish equity with other considerations down the list, and if chicanery was obviously present (often) they would pay the price for promoting that type of phony thinking indigenous to some shady bridge lawyers.

Your hand was a pianola and although I can understand what happened, at least to me the equity is that you were entitled to not fall victim to what happened, although I can understand why the ruling was what it was, since TD’s are taught very little of the above, and a whole lot of “ACHTUNG, VE VILL FOLLOW THE WRITTEN LAW”.

‘Nuff said—I am not proud of the above, but in spite of that anyone foolish enough to make me in charge will get those types of rulings, if only because so few of the bridge laws take equity into consideration for fear of the governing authority not following what they should.

In truth that above caveat causes the whole problem, but unless the ruling authority has enough talent in charge they are probably better off in what they are now doing. Down 1 for you!

Iain ClimieMay 29th, 2019 at 8:51 am

Hi Clarksburg,

Partner could have saved you here by asking “no more diamonds” on the revoke trick. Even the oppo could have been civilised and done the same. Hard luck, though.



ClarksburgMay 29th, 2019 at 10:10 am

Thanks Bobby and Iain
I have had some follow-up discussions with the Director that day, all with a constructive tone of improving our understanding of the “letter of the Law” versus the true spirit of the game.
To her immense credit, she found (not in the Laws book, but rather in “Duplicate Decisions”, an aid for interpretation and application of the Laws), the following “The Director must ensure that the non-offenders receive equity, not a reward”.
So there seems to be a path available for the Director to put aside the written letter of the Law and rule to achieve fair Bridge Competition.

bobbywolffMay 29th, 2019 at 10:18 am

Hi Clarksburg & Iain,

No doubt, the two reasonable alternatives to which Iain refers are both important. The first one by the dummy (actually a sleepy partner who had lost interest, and thus contributed mightily to the horrendous ending and second, also to the opponents, who legally accepted the setting trick, but very well, in the interest of good sportsmanship, could have verily declined the gift.

However for any partnership, in this case yours, to expect such a reaction, considering this day and age, only mightily proves that the greatest generation in our country was many moons ago, perhaps around 80 years, and starting steadily downhill perhaps 20 or so years after that, since, at least IMO, never varying course in pursuit of selfishness, the me generation, success without dedication, and lack of respect for both one’s neighbor and even more so for one’s country, with the sole exception of raising the bar concerning diversity acceptance.

bobbywolffMay 29th, 2019 at 10:39 am

Hi again Clarksburg,

Your last post, just now read by me, is extremely heartening since finally the ship may be righted and common sense, in the way of NOT being so sterile as to open our eyes and ears in important areas in ruling our game.

Now if we can turn our attention to eradicate all cheaters post haste (the world over, including the USA) hardly ever to see their faces again we, at least will be headed to the Emerald City (as long as Frank Morgan types aka the Wizard, are not hidden behind the drapes).