Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, August 1st, 2019

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Thomas Jefferson

S North
Both ♠ K J 9 5
 6 4
♣ J 8 6 4 3 2
West East
♠ —
 K J 9 7 5
 J 10 8 6 2
♣ A 10 9
♠ Q 10 6
 Q 10 3 2
 K 5 4
♣ K Q 5
♠ A 8 7 4 3 2
 A 8
 A Q 9 3
♣ 7
South West North East
1 ♠ 2 4 ♠ 5
5 ♠ Pass Pass Dbl.
All pass      


‘The five-level belongs to the opponents” was one of Terence Reese’s mottoes. On today’s deal, South violated that principle successfully, but a more inspired defense would have produced a different result.

West led a heart against five spades. It might have been right for South to lead clubs right away, but declarer won in hand and crossed to dummy’s spade king, finding the bad news. Now declarer had to take the diamond finesse to discard his heart loser, at which point he exited with a club. East allowed West’s 10 to hold the trick, so West played another diamond. This allowed declarer to ruff in dummy, then cross-ruff clubs and hearts. East could eventually over-ruff the fourth round of diamonds with his trump trick, but that was the defense’s second and last trick.

When East sees South lead a low club from hand, he can more or less count 11 tricks for declarer if this is a singleton, unless he can seize the lead himself in order to switch to a trump. But if he shifts to a low trump, he is simply exchanging one trick for another — the outcome will not be affected. What East must do is switch to the spade queen, sacrificing his honor in battle to win the war. Declarer can win with the ace, but he does not have the entry to set up dummy’s clubs and can only take two ruffs in the dummy. One of those ruffs will be with the spade jack, and that repromotes East’s trump 10 back into the setting trick.

When you are 6-4 and have the opportunity to make an economical rebid in the four-card suit, you should almost always take advantage of that opportunity. (Exceptions are dead-minimum hands in which the four-card suit is weak.) Here, you have extras and a good four-card suit, so bid two diamonds happily.


♠ A 8 7 4 3 2
 A 8
 A Q 9 3
♣ 7
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 1 NT 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


Steve ConradAugust 15th, 2019 at 12:28 pm

I always thought my friend Eddie Manfield was the first to make that statement. I googled and at

it says that Manfield wrote that in 1987 and won a “Best BOLS tip” award in 1987.

bobbywolffAugust 15th, 2019 at 1:44 pm

Hi Steve,

While the proof of who said “the five level belongs to the opponents” first is not immediately at my disposal I will do some checking and see whether Terence Reese or Eddie Manfield said it (or published it) first.

Both of the above players contributed mightily to bridge and although Reese no doubt became controversial, his overall writings, almost all before 1987 (and for many years), produced a plethora of what even today would be universally considered good advice.

I, of course, was a good friend of Eddie and held him with great respect before his untimely death.

Thanks for the “heads up” and will let you know ASAP my findings.

bobbywolffAugust 15th, 2019 at 4:27 pm

Hi again Steve,

Happy to report that you are essentially correct with Eddie Manfield being the first to publish that “the five level is for the opponents”.

Reese had said several times (in much earlier writings, mostly in the English Bridge Magazine to which many years ago, I was a regular panelist) that three defensive tricks are often much easier to come by than eleven while declaring but AFAIK did not ever include about which side should or not, bid at the five level.

Sorry for the incorrect editorial license I assumed and thanks to you again for taking the time to correct it. It is always heartwarming (not exactly personally in this case) for another to take bridge (and friendship) seriously enough to right a wrong.

Rest assured that in the near future I’ll find a way to pay back Eddie (and his friends and followers) for my gaffe.

Steve ConradAugust 16th, 2019 at 10:35 am

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for checking who was credit-worthy for the famous statement.