Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 7th, 2019

Although our intellect always longs for clarity and certainty, our nature often finds uncertainty fascinating.

Carl von Clausewitz

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


Liam Milne was able to report a fine play by Barbara Travis from the semifinals of this year’s Australian Women’s Playoff. Travis declared six spades on the friendly lead of the club eight to the jack and queen.

If clubs behaved, 12 tricks would be easy; but West’s decision to lead a club instead of a heart argued strongly that the lead was from shortage — and that West must not have the heart ace, or a club lead would be almost pointless.

With the general idea of playing East for the heart ace, Travis ruffed a diamond in the short trump hand, then drew four rounds of trumps. When West followed all the way, she provided additional weight to the theory of club shortness in that hand. Dummy discarded a heart and a club, while East discarded a low heart, a low club and the diamond jack.

Travis now played the last trump and the diamond king, coming down to three clubs and the bare heart king in dummy. East, holding the doubleton heart ace and three clubs, had no choice but to come down to the bare heart ace. Trusting her judgment, Travis cashed the club 10 before exiting with a heart. East had to win and, with only clubs left, was forced to bring dummy back to life. From declarer’s perspective, the only thing that could have made this hand any more spectacular would have been if both heart honors were off-side!

In the Seniors, Open and Women’s events, most declarers who received a club lead reduced themselves to guessing hearts — and not all of them did so correctly.

If you want to force to game, you should respond two clubs and bid hearts later. But this hand is clearly not worth that action; you should instead respond one heart and take it from there, planning to invite game in no-trump after partner rebids in spades or diamonds. Only a heart raise would make your hand worth a force to game.


♠ J 6 4
 K 10 6 2
♣ A K 7 5 3
South West North East
    1 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


jim2June 21st, 2019 at 3:48 pm

Seeing no Comments … it’s been a while since we visited LS …

Midnight Pairs at the Mud Cup is famous for strange occurrences, but this time it was as much my fault as anyone’s.

I was East and drew out the green “Pass” bid only to see that my partner had already played an identical bid card. Now, it was late and it had been a long day, so bids out of turn are not the rarity they are in other games.

I looked around, my green “Pass” still in my hand, and saw that RHO had also played the “Pass” card. Belatedly, I glanced at LHO’s place and saw she had the red “X” for Double before her place.


Only then, to my horror, did I spot the “3H” card before me.

I had no clue how it got there, but what could I do about it now?

So, knowing the First Rule of Holes, I played that “Pass” card after all.

The KS was led, with North playing the 4S. The KD came next, and again all followed.

South paused a bit, then played the QS, probably reasoning North was more likely to have short spades after his Pass. I ruffed and led the 6C, and South was quite puzzled when her 10C held the trick.

Diagnosing that North must be short in diamonds, South cashed the AD and led a third for North to ruff. North declined to lead trump from K106 with Q97 on the Board, and saw the KC as a safe enough exit. I ruffed on the Board as South followed with a frown with the QC.

I ruffed the 9S and a third club lead put South in an over-ruff finesse pickle, and so she discarded a diamond and I ruffed with the 9H. Now I led the QD, over-ruffed North with the AH, and my fourth club went to the QH.

Minus 500.

Every other table was in 6S. Half made it, and half went down.

As for that “3H” bid card, it belonged to South! It had been played by the previous South and left there. The South at my table had put her convention card down on it as she sat down, concealing it from view. When I had lifted their card to look through their conventions, it had exposed it to view. After a few moments, South spotted it and centered it in front of me.

Just another dead average at the LS Midnight Pairs.

David WarheitJune 21st, 2019 at 5:10 pm

Actually, 2 declarers figured out where the A & Q of hearts were but still went down after a club lead. Each won the C in hand, played A & ruffed a D, drew trump & then cashed his remaining C. One of them then led the HJ—and it won the trick! He repeated the finesse, but E won the A and returned a D. The other declarer, instead of leading the HJ, led the H8—and W played the Q! A third player, however, managed to come home. He led the HJ which won. He then cashed the DK and repeated the H finesse. E won but had no safe exit. I think he wins the prize for best played worst played hand of the tournament.

bobbywolffJune 21st, 2019 at 7:59 pm

To Jim2 & David,

Don’t despair since during my youth (some say it never existed), I played with a variety of partners allowing me to understand how others think.

One partner of mine learned the advantage of covering honors, but never did in trump (David, like you experienced) .. since he didn’t mind losing tricks in other suits, but not in trump, because whenever he covered, he seemed to lose that trick.

Another of my partners prided herself for, even after playing our great game for 15 years, never having been endplayed. She accomplished that great record, by playing, at her earliest opportunity, her highest cards, from top to bottom, so that usually by tricks seven or eight she had no cards left higher than perhaps a nine, and only that high, if she started with a pretty good hand.

Still another told me once, after not ruffing a trick with her singleton deuce when sitting 4th seat and having no spades left and declarer leading the queen, me covering with the king, and declarer calling for the ace in dummy, when she was out of spades, “Bobby, I was just too tired to trump”.

Also, when asked by her favorite kibitzer (and yes, she often had one) what it is like and how difficult is it to play bridge, she replied. “Nothing to it, just sort your hand, add up your points, bid when it is your turn, wait for the opening lead and then lay down your dummy”.

The strangest thing about the above examples is that they are all true, although by admitting that, one may barely think that I was a bidding hog.

My biggest regret is not ever going to a Lower Slobovian tournament, where Jim2 is king and TOCM TM is barred, but where my above partner would have had a chance to play a really “cold” contract.