Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

There is nothing so bad or so good that you will not find an Englishman doing it; but you will never find an Englishman in the wrong.

George Bernard Shaw

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


It is often good strategy for declarer to surrender a critical trick as early as possible in a deal so as to put the defense under maximum pressure before they have had a chance to signal.

In today’s deal, South took at a flyer at slam, since his side was playing a weak no-trump; thus, the simple raise would normally deliver extras in the form of shape or high cards. West avoided leading the club ace (which would have been fatal), but he did lead a trump rather than a heart, the latter of which would have made East’s task far easier. South won his jack and immediately took the diamond finesse, since the sooner it was taken, the better the chance East might make the wrong return. Note that if three rounds of trumps had been drawn, West would have discarded a small heart.

When he won with the diamond queen, East realized that he had to find his partner’s ace at once. With what seemed to him like an open choice, he led a heart and later tried to excuse himself on the grounds that he had simply guessed wrong.

True enough — except that it was highly improbable that South could be missing the heart ace and have so few hearts that they could be discarded on the diamonds. That would give West a six- or seven-card heart suit headed by the ace, with which he might have opened the bidding and would surely have led that suit to the first trick. A singleton club, on the other hand, was a more plausible holding for South.

Faint heart never won fair lady. You have a balanced strong no-trump, and heart stops are in the eye of the beholder — if you think you have one, you surely do (and your left-hand opponent will believe you)! You should bid two no-trump to show the basic nature of your hand, and damn the torpedoes.


♠ Q 9 5
 Q 4
 A K J 10 3
♣ Q J 6
South West North East
  2 Pass 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


jim2August 13th, 2019 at 6:30 pm

Sitting East, how many would cover the QC at Trick 2?

Iain ClimieAugust 13th, 2019 at 10:33 pm

HI Bobby,

As diamond count can hardly matter, should West play the D2 when South leads a D to the J? The only problem is tempo of course.

The comment about an Englishman is too close to the truth according to my wife, even though I’m half English and half Scots.



bobbywolffAugust 13th, 2019 at 11:03 pm

Hi Jim2,

Possibly many more times than any of us can imagine, it becomes a mind game to which card we should lead, almost always from the dummy.

Such are the mind games often played between the declarer and the defense, with the player behind the dummy often winding up the goat or the hero. (and this GOAT doesn’t mean the greatest of all time, but only about to be the hero or the villain on this one hand.

An alternate way of sizing it up is for a good declarer not to test an opponent, but instead go easy on his judgment, (even though it turns out not to make a difference), is nothing but a passive grave error.

bobbywolffAugust 13th, 2019 at 11:23 pm

Hi Iain,

While which diamond West plays first could in some cases be important, my guess is for neither declarer nor East to rely on that particular suit following for the obvious reason of count. Sure, at trick one East should be thinking about what to do if declarer leads a diamond to the ten, at least one trick before it happens. And whether East studies before making his play at trick one (even though all will know later it was not important) does not concern itself (at least to me) with the ethics of whether to take the diamond queen, whether he possesses it or not.

To think otherwise is just not fair to the defense, at least IMHO. What is wrong is for TDs and (for that matter) appeals members, to not have the experience of knowing what and how to rule when a 3rd seat defender huddles some seconds,at trick one, even when nothing he held, had any reason to study.

Hoping someone who feels differently (or even the same) is listening and responds. An exception, of course, is a too long study with nothing (perhaps two clicks rather than just one), but rather than tick off the seconds, all I can say is one should know that answer when he sees it.

Tangled webs are not the answer, but some sort of fairness still remains to an innocent who is not necessarily trying to gain, but also not to both give away the answer or rather to deceive.

Bob LiptonAugust 14th, 2019 at 12:57 am

My issue, Bobby, when I’m sitting in third seat holding nothing, is to play at the same tempo I would play at normally. Even if I am holding nothing of value, my suits have a certain number of cards in them, and I need to consider issues like whether partner can tell that from the bidding, cards on display and in his hand, and any discards I am likely to have to make later, whether they are meant to help partner or fool declarer.

In short, there is almost always something to think about, whether I am holding half the deck or a Yarborough. Just as declarer should pause to think when the dummy comes down, so should each defender. Even dummy should think, if only to prepare himself to ask “No xxxxs, partner?” When declarer fails in a suit.

This is, after all, a game based on thinking.


bobbywolffAugust 14th, 2019 at 3:26 am

Hi Bob,

Very well expressed, indeed.

Since there are an infinite number of decisions to be made, first often in the bidding, and, if not dummy, usually in the play or defense, it, as you so correctly stated, is a game based on thinking.

Therefore, the key word while playing competitively against quality opposition is focus. All competitive sports require it and without complying, there is unlikely a keen competition where one can succeed without so doing.

No doubt bridge demands it, and while physical sports require sound body and adequate mind, mind sports demand total concentration and adequate endurance.

Also, because of the partnership aspect to our sensational game, we are constantly faced with the duty of remaining ethical at the table, which has nothing to do with cheating (that, of course, is the gravest crime of all, deserving forever and a day banned for life) but working overtime to not give or take unauthorized information from or to partner, which is just an added requirement indigenous to what is required on every hand.

All of the above seems harder to accomplish than it really is, so the answer is to develop a routine for success, e.g. concentrate and count and then from that, learn to count and concentrate.

Well, you get the idea, but to succeed is a great positive ego trip to which we all aspire.

Thanks for your continual and spiritual help. We are all better for it.