Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 14th, 2019

When you study natural science and the miracles of creation, if you don’t turn into a mystic you are not a natural scientist.

Albert Hofmann

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


Today’s deal to continue our week’s theme of trump promotions comes from “On the Other Hand — A Bridge From East to West” by Martin Hoffman and Kathie Wei-Sender.

South, who had put himself in four hearts instead of letting his partner play three no-trump, won the opening diamond lead with the king, then cashed the spade queen. He then led the club two, and West took his ace, fearing the two was a singleton. West returned his remaining diamond, and South won with dummy’s ace, then threw his remaining diamonds on the spade ace-king.

The question now was whether the defenders could score three trump tricks. They did not, because South led dummy’s heart to his own queen, and East won the next heart lead with the 10. On East’s diamond lead, South thoughtfully ruffed with the heart king. Then he led a heart and cashed the remaining trumps to make the game.

Nicely played, but the defense would have prevailed if West had won the second trump trick with the jack. He could then lead a spade, allowing East to ruff with the heart ace. Then a diamond lead would promote West’s remaining heart as the setting trick.

Does that mean West was at fault here? Yes and no. East could have made the defense easier by playing the heart 10 on the nine. Then West would have been forced to win the second trump trick, and now the trump promotion would be much easier to find.

You have some nice shape (albeit no great fit for partner) and some real extra values. Do you have enough to raise to two no-trump? I’d say so, but if I had the club 10, I’d be more optimistic about my partner’s chance to set up the suit for one or two losers.


♠ A K 9 8
 A 5 3
♣ K Q 7 6 4
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 Pass
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


jim2August 28th, 2019 at 2:31 pm

3N by North is hardly a contract w/o interest in its own right! Especially after East’s obvious QD lead with declarer not having the benefit of playing double-dummy.

bobbywolffAugust 28th, 2019 at 4:09 pm

Hi Jim2,

“Right with Eversharp”, a phrase (I believe) Ralph Edwards made famous on his radio show, “Take it or Leave it” way back in the early 1940’s when the contestants fiercely competed to eventually answer the mammoth $64 question, in order to win that huge sum.

Can anyone find a better line of play at 3NT vs. the Queen of diamonds lead than win the king in dummy, cash the queen of spades and then lead the jack of clubs and continue until the ace is knocked out. Then win the nine of diamonds continuation from West, cash the gpod clubs and the ace of spades, followed by either the king of spades and then a heart, but more likely, lead a heart first, ducked to the queen, and then a losing diamond with the ninth trick becoming either the king of hearts or the ace of spades. Of course, if West has kept all his spades and thrown hearts away, then declarer needs to have cashed the ace of spades first, before exiting with a heart. Not exactly double dummy, since a perceptive declarer may be able to divy out the exact distribution before it is necessary to make that decision.

No doubt a very lucky lay of the cards for North, and there may be a much better (or at least a slightly better) line of declarer play, but whether that becomes double-dummy, instead of just lucky, is in the eyes of the story teller. Once clubs break, 3NT becomes reasonable with, I think declarer not to cash his 3rd high spade, but instead try leading the heart first, needing East to hold the ace. However diamonds could be 3-3, to which a born optimist would expect, but no one alive would hope, much less believe, for such luck with you as declarer.

For new visitors to AOB, please bone up on TOCM (theory of card migration) in order to begin to understand our conversation.

bobbywolffAugust 28th, 2019 at 4:21 pm

Hi again Jim2,

Much of my dribble had to do with an overtrick, only important at matchpoints, but since the specific game was not mentioned, I hope no one took me seriously about trying to score an overtrick and not cashing the king of spades for trick #9, although at the crucial moment, not cashing the ace of spades will not turn out to be risky since all roads, at that point, lead to scoring up 3NT,

Bob LiptonAugust 28th, 2019 at 4:24 pm

How about ducking the first diamond trick and winning the second with the King, and then tackling clubs with the CJ? This doesn’t look like a hand to be worried about by a shift. Perhaps I am being influenced by the actual layout.


jim2August 28th, 2019 at 4:37 pm

Like I said, interesting!

Note that TOCM ™ has already struck by making the communication-attacking diamond lead a near-certainty!

Oh, there’s always: AD, KH, JC, 2C.

That smacks a bit double-dummy, but I am not about to venture into math/odds on that hand!

bobbywolffAugust 28th, 2019 at 7:08 pm

Hi Bob & Jim2,

With Bob opening the what if door, and Jim2 then taking it from there, all readers should be satisfied.

Needless to say, 3NT is a difficult, but could be successful contract while 4 hearts not as good. No doubt it is a fine line which chooses one or the other, but picking the right one is what it is often about.l

True all the way from basic novice to world expert. The only sure winner is the game itself, which spreads challenges to any and all who take it on.

Joe1August 29th, 2019 at 1:45 am

FYI, re: the quote, Hoffman studied LSD and for him, by what I have read, everything was mystic. Not being anti-LSD necessarily, but trying to have a more sober perspective, keep that in mind. Interestingly the best local player I encountered on a number of occasions had a cocaine issue, I am pretty confident of. Nice guy, not a sociopath in any way, but seemed to play better on the stuff, so kept it up, but to his detriment, I later learned. So the question that comes to mind is whether PEDs are an issue in bridge? Like most sports everyone wants an (hopefully legal) edge. Besides good sleep, and enjoying cocktails after the rubber rather than before, any insight into this?

bobbywolffAugust 29th, 2019 at 10:50 pm

Hi Joe1,

Although your subject is only barely related to our great game, it still provokes interest to me.

A number of years ago I became friendly with Martin Hoffman, and although never close enough to discuss personal topics such as mysticism, his attitude toward playing winning bridge accented natural ability, especially to the location of cards held by the opponents.

To me, that talent comes alive from being extremely alert at the table, while not necessarily thoroughly familiar with their bridge game, but instead knowing (at least thinking that you do) the type who would make a play (sometimes only a bid) befitting that type of personality. IOW, knowing and then acting on the tell that one thinks he picks up by better understanding human nature.

However, as to your suspected main topic, performance drugs related to playing better bridge, I would have to suspect and thus feel, that, unlike physical sports, while certainly possible that it could happen, I do not think that testing for illegal stimulants (or whatever) at bridge is worth the time or effort to worry about.

More power to them who think otherwise since I feel somewhat gifted in possibly being right more often than not, I have never thought about taking a stimulant, nor the need to do so.

The above can be translated into, I think I understand your question, and, to that, I have given an answer, but through all these years (over 70 years of competing at bridge) it is possible, but not likely, that a few could benefit from bridge performance drugs, but IMO only to stop the stage fright, not to guess the location of the opponents cards.