Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 14th, 2019

There are two possible outcomes: If the result confirms the hypothesis, then you’ve made a measurement. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you’ve made a discovery.

Enrico Fermi

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


All our deals this week have focused on the principle of Restricted Choice; but this concept cannot be considered purely in abstract, as today’s deal from the later stages of a Vanderbilt Trophy match shows.

Declaring four spades, your chances do not seem so great on a devious low diamond lead, but when the diamond king holds the first trick, things look up. Draw two rounds of trumps, ending in hand, and lead a heart to the jack and king. Now East cashes the diamond queen and returns the heart 10, on which West unblocks the queen.

You ruff the last heart in hand, cross to dummy in trumps, and lead a low club, intending to put in the seven. Naturally, East thwarts you by playing the nine, so you try the queen, losing to the king. When West returns a low club, what should you do?

If you have been following this week’s theme, you may conclude that Restricted Choice suggests playing low. The logic for that would be that East is more likely to have J-8-x or J-9-x than 9-8-x. However, there is a much sounder argument for putting in the six, if you remember the earlier play. East can be assumed to be a true expert player; with three low clubs, as opposed to jack-third, he would not have defended this way when on lead earlier in the hand. He would have shifted to a club rather than returning a heart, to break up the impending endplay.

Is your hand worth a try for game? That isn’t clear, but you do not know whether game your way or their way will be playable. Much may depend on the nature of the double-fit, if any. If partner has diamond or heart values, you will want to defend; with black-suit values, you will want to declare the hand. So bid three clubs, perhaps a slight overbid, to help partner decide how far to compete.


♠ A K J 7 2
 8 4
 6 3
♣ A Q 7 4
South West North East
1 ♠ 2 2 ♠ 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


bobbywolffJune 28th, 2019 at 2:43 pm

Hi Everyone,

Before this hand passes on to virtual nothingness and perhaps forgotten, it, in most ways, certainly including its conception, becomes as educational as any advanced hand or theory can be.

Why? Because it usurps percentages, restricted choice, in favor of high-level technique, practiced by players we should all aspire to be.

IOW restricted choice, originally promulgated by Terence Reese, is only a proven successful theory, to be specifically followed, when no other human touch is involved, but otherwise, when advanced players choose a defense, that fact alone, trumps other percentage numbers, and instead allows the perceptive opponent to rather correctly guess (not really) the actual lie of the cards.

Where else does that type of reasoning exist, one may ask? In business for one important and vital answer, often when the success or failure of the deal is at stake. Sometimes the answer has only a material effect on the price, but that alone is certainly worth the effort to educate oneself on how to think.

And perhaps the above is among the most necessary reasons for having bridge taught in schools. It is not only a powerful way to learn what is most important, but it also, and do not ever underestimate its value, an immense bit of fun as well as challenge to conceptualize that crucial aspect of learning.

Bob LiptonJune 28th, 2019 at 3:00 pm

Nice follow up, Bobby, but what happens if West puts up the HQ when it’s led initially?

Small … well, you can’t call it an error, because what if South holds HT4? …. misjudgments lead to opportunities for the other side. That, however, is why, when south tackles clubs, the right card to play off the dummy is the C6. Perhaps East will be distracted by that choice. Probably not, but it certainly doesn’t cost.


bobbywolffJune 28th, 2019 at 3:27 pm

Hi Bob,

Thanks for responding.

If West rises with the queen of hearts, an unusual play by him for the example you gave, plus, of course if declarer had originally possessed K10x and was on his way to misguessing. However, if not, nothing of real interest or difference would then occur as declarer was on his way to eliminating his side suits in order to try and eventually be successful in holding his club losses to only one.

Also, by the time the clubs were tackled, (declarer was unfortunate in not being able to entice them to earlier, another reason West should not rise with the queen of hearts, although the discard possibly available in case of an unexpected good jack of hearts is not of any consequence).

And, by the time the clubs need be played by declarer, both sides will 100% know what to do, at least up to the time declarer must guess, against perfect defense (which will almost always, my take, be done 95% of the time) when excellent players are involved (much, much less when they are not).

No doubt a salty club combination, but just another day at the office for players used to playing against other ones of their high-level ilk.