Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

Books must follow sciences and not sciences books.

Francis Bacon

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


Today, we see an expert following a textbook play. Alas for him, he had failed to realize that it is sometimes necessary to set aside the manuals when other issues demand it. Fortunately for our hero, the defense were also on autopilot, not using their imagination sufficiently to generate extra trump tricks for themselves, which is the theme of this week’s deals.

Four hearts was the normal contract on this board, and Zia Mahmood and Norberto Bocchi reached it straightforwardly. When West led the diamond king, which went to the six, three, and seven (a routine falsecard from Zia). West now understandably, but perhaps a trifle unimaginatively, continued with a second diamond, which Zia won and crossed to hand twice in clubs to take two finesses in hearts, making the routine 10 tricks for an above-average score.

Unremarkable, you may say. Yes, but Zia had given the defense a chance when he ducked the first diamond, a play that was unlikely to gain him anything.

Similarly, West might have reasoned that if declarer had two diamonds, continuing the suit would achieve nothing, while even if he had three diamonds, there could be no entries back to the West hand to reach the defense’s second trick in that suit. If West had shifted to a spade at trick two, the defense could lead that suit at every opportunity to arrange a trump promotion for the heart queen that Zia would be unable to stop.

Since you limited your hand at your first turn to be in the range 0-9 high-card points, your partner’s double suggests real extras. In that context, because of your first two calls, you have a pretty decent hand, and the best way to show it is to jump to three spades. Partner will infer that you have five spades and about 6 or 7 points.


♠ K 9 7 5 3
 K 4 3
 5 4 3
♣ 10 4
South West North East
Pass 1 ♣ Dbl. Pass
1 ♠ 2 ♣ Dbl. 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


Iain ClimieAugust 27th, 2019 at 3:34 pm

Hi Bobby,

Proof that even the best players can slip, and I’m sure West wasn’t a bad player either. Still, the punishment wasn’t was bad as what happened to one partner of mine in the mid 1980s. We were playing England junior trials (back in the days when I was much stronger) and things were not going at all well, for various reasons. He was in 4S after LHO had put in a Weak Jump overcall in hearts and I tabled my assets including HAxx which faced his xx. After some thought he decided to duck the HK at T1, and of course the HQ was covered by the Ace and ruffed. I didn’t check to see if he’d stuck in the relevant false card from his xx, I must admit.

Under different circumstances I’d have been livid, but things were going so badly that I managed to see the ridiculous side and cheer him up. Also, I hadn’t exactly been blameless on some earlier hands, so something about not casting the first stone sprang to mind!

There again, if you want to look at lost opportunities, have a quick look at what the Australian cricket team did against England over the weekend, losing by the smallest possible margin from what appeared to be a completely won position, although they had two late chances to win by the smallest possible margin as well, although cricket scoring is probably a bit weird for most people.



Iain ClimieAugust 27th, 2019 at 4:52 pm

Hi again,

To be fair to Zia, what if West had C10x, East had HKQ alone and the spade finesse worked? If he takes DA and plays a C to the A (or ducks the DA and a club switch at T2 taken, heart finesse loses and a club comes back, another H finesse and crash! Taking the S finesse earlier could walk into something similar e.g. if RHO had HKx and the defence manufacture a club ruff that way; to be fair, small spade to the Q allows the SJ to be a re-entry if it loses. Ok it would be extremely unlucky for the cards to lie like the first scenario but the sleeping beast of TOCM is stirring as I type here. I’m guessing he reckoned he might need a D ruff as a safe re-entry.



jim2August 27th, 2019 at 5:09 pm


bobbywolffAugust 27th, 2019 at 7:48 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

In my view it is not acceptable, but often done, to blame the declarer, in this case usually a right on one, but most times indeed, quite a remarkably both innovative and efficient one.

To be able to calculate even up to 10% of the various mere possibilities of the exact future defense and its implications enabling a mere earthling to do is take what he considers the right beginning path to success, in order to set the stage for a hopeful happy ending.

While some may agree with my opening sentence, they probably shouldn’t, since I also have not taken the time to even begin to visualize even a reasonable percentage of various parry and thrusts which may begin to happen. It is fair to expect that West does not have a 7 card solid diamond suit and being NV will prevent West from now giving his partner a 2nd round diamond ruff, although rumors have told me that it happened once in Glasgow, Scotland exactly 62 years ago. Suffice it to say that by ducking, the declarer has cut off communication with the defense which could come in handy once upon a midnight clear.

However, while now getting serious, Zia has made a good bridge living by usually putting off crucial playing decisions until later when he may (while being attentive at the table) pick up both where the key cards may be and the exact distribution of the enemy’s cards, allowing him to put that information to good use.

IOW, I have no idea how to judge his play at trick one, only to see what all of us do, it did not work, quote the Raven, “Never More”.

However, and to complete my zero analysis, I would recommend that Zia stay away from Jim2 next time they are in general proximity to each other, since and no doubt, a proper diagnosis
of what happened definitely indicates a doctor around or that TOCM is at the very least, somewhat contagious.

Thanks Jim2 for allowing me to step out of character, but if people see white coats around
they, no doubt, will at least consider that they are after me from escaping from the loony bin.