Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, September 12th, 2019

Man is Nature’s sole mistake!

W.S. Gilbert

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



Despite the disparity in North’s suits, he preferred to get his hand off his chest in one turn, hence his Michaels Cue-bid as opposed to a simple one-spade overcall. South jumped to four hearts, and West tabled the diamond queen.

With a club trick to lose, South needed to limit his trump losers to two. He won the diamond king in dummy and called for a low heart. If East followed with the nine, declarer intended to follow small. Since West had opened the bidding and had not led a top club, he seemed to have at most eight points in the minors and thus had to hold a top heart honor. Intended to duck the first heart would be beneficial if West held a singleton top heart honor, and it would almost never lose against other lines.

However, East had also been thinking ahead and had worked out that declarer must have the diamond ace, and that even if West had the spade king, it would be in the pocket. Since the defenders were entitled to at most one club trick, they needed three trumps — which could only be done if West had the heart ace. That would be simple if West had the doubleton ace, but what if it were singleton?

Hoping to put declarer off the right track, East inserted the heart jack. Now declarer could no longer duck in complete safety, since West might have aceking-nine. No count of the hand was available, and declarer was forced to guess. Can you blame him for putting up the queen and dooming his own contract?

Partner has an unbalanced hand with at least five clubs and four spades. Although this shape and heart holding suggest no-trump, a twoclub preference is the better call. If partner has something like a 4=3=1=5 shape, it will not take the defense long to go after the diamonds once the dummy is displayed in one no-trump. Clubs may not be the top-scoring contract, but it is probably the safest.


♠ 8 5 4
 K J 9
 9 8 4 3
♣ K 5 3
South West North East
    1 ♣ Pass
1 Pass 1 ♠ 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 ClimieSeptember 26th, 2019 at 9:58 am

Hi Bobby,

Earlier this year I wound up defending 4H with HAQ10 over declarer only for dummy to turn up with KJxx. Disappointing but when declarer, who had a weak hand with few entries, led a small heart I tried the Q and declarer was then persuaded to play another small trump from table.

Maybe there is a common tip here, based on today’s hand, yesterday’s and the situation I describe – “Consider playing the middle card from to sow confusion”.

I’m afraid that as a known Hog I would have bid 1N on BWTA but I see your point. Quite different if the D’s were K109x and Cxxx of course but too much pairs and GeTNIF can be bad habits.



A.V.Ramana RaoSeptember 26th, 2019 at 11:31 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
East’s defense indicated what table alertness is. Of course he virtually knows his partner’s hand based on bidding but to work out the details and play J of hearts is brilliant. Difference between winning and breaking even ( If in other room the contract was made)

Iain ClimieSeptember 26th, 2019 at 12:02 pm

Sorry, missing “3” after from.

bobbywolffSeptember 26th, 2019 at 12:58 pm

Hi Iain,

First, it is satisfying for me to know that you, much like I, tend to be a bit hyper by jumping over “left out words” which help clarify.

My downfall, but in reality, protection, comes from Judy who reads me the riot act for so doing and rushes to my computer to rectify, always reminding me to try harder to not let
my great friends think I’m an idiot. (In deference to my own feelings I used “think” in the line above, instead of know).

Now to the bridge. Yes your example might work, but only if declarer is very short of entries back to hand, namely no more than one, and desperately needing that entry for what at least he thought, is incredibly important to succeed with his “usually very bold” contract.
Reason, of course, revolves around declarer rising with the king of hearts, assuming the defender plays the prosaic ten, playing his RHO for the singleton queen (usually a possible choice, when holding nine or rarely ten in the combined hands).

However, and no doubt, the playing of the queen instead will make your after game stop at the bar (assuming it worked), much more enjoyable with your friends, as long as the victim has not joined the party.

Regarding the BWTA, I actually prefer to bid 1NT the first time, instead of the plebeian 1 diamond response, but if not, what about (at matchpoints) passing 1 spade, since its major advantage is being able to make only 7 tricks instead of the pressure of 8 or more when your OX (short for partner) now overbids.

However, to each his own, especially with close bidding decisions while playing our superlative game.

bobbywolffSeptember 26th, 2019 at 1:05 pm


Well said and strikes a realistic chord, that the often difference between a superior “gambit” while playing bridge only becomes worthy if and when your random opponent falls for it, rather than to get credit for that brilliance either way it goes.

Massaging one’s ego is only a sometime thing.

Iain ClimieSeptember 26th, 2019 at 2:45 pm

Hi Bobby,

I was at a 50th anniversary party for my old bridge partner and his wife recently; another club member came over and said to me “I take it this is your (much) better half.” True, of course, and you obviously agree. She’s my reason for getting out of bed in the morning assuming I haven’t already been elbowed out for snoring.



bobbywolffSeptember 26th, 2019 at 6:09 pm

Hi Iain,

Good story, and because of your disclosure, I will give you what I think is good medical advice, although my bedside manner as well as my lack of medical knowledge is underwhelming.

Try a PAP machine, (mask while sleeping) which main advantage produces much less strain on one’s heart, by much better breathing and as a by product, no snoring. If you oblige you’ll be able to live as long (or longer) as I have now lasted, with even time dividends likely added on.

Moral: Bridge to longer life.

Joe1September 27th, 2019 at 12:57 am

The longer declarer paused before playing from dummy on trick one, the longer east had to study and be prepared for trick two, which he got right this time. False cards that with time are automatic, are not when playing in pace. Good strategy by S, good play by E. But especially if play was slow, be more on alert for false cards. Reading the player not only the cards, in this case if declarer had those tools, would have led to success. One moral for this week’s hands: beware false cards. How to tell? In many cases there are clues.

bobbywolffSeptember 27th, 2019 at 5:14 am

Hi Joe1,

Your summary was reasonably short, but mostly directly on point.

Obviously only IMO, the qualities necessary to become very good in bridge are:

1. Familiarity with cards, years ago, before TV and even radio, important to start early, even before one reaches his or her teens, which then became quite common for adult entertainment.

2. An above average quick wit, with a decided touch (and talent) for all things numerate as distinguished from those who preferred words and languages.

3. The ability to totally concentrate while playing, disdaining interruptions and especially the need for superior social behavior.

4. Possessing a fervent desire to win any competition worth entering, with, of course, while playing within the stated rules. (That is why cheating develops among some, who just cannot play well enough to win as often as they would like and thus ruthlessly turn to insure what reasonable people would never consider).

5. At a certain point during a successful bridge career, all players will learn that high level competition is indeed difficult, but worth working overtime to reach individual goals.

6. Those goals are not necessarily winning more times than one can count, but rather to just make as few mistakes as possible. Also everyone MUST learn that basic luck will even out for everyone over time, making that particular feature non existent for determining good players from not so, but tournament bridge always includes partnerships and teammates as well as solid competition which then translates into wins and losses by how well that pair or foursome is playing.

In regard to your above advice, I generally agree, but, while defending (by far the most difficult part of the game) both defenders must remember the exact bidding, develop rigid partnership understandings, follow them, but never drift away from total concentration when an opening lead is made, the dummy then comes down, and both defenders then become alert (similar to air-traffic controllers) to try and think down the middle, based on the cards known, the tempo and play of the declarer and continue doing so until that hand is over and done. By following those strict rules, one will learn (sooner than later) that the game has suddenly gotten much easier than expected as long as both partners do not abuse each other by having their minds drift away.

7. It will take a little time before one can possibly know what his upside potential will really become. Some will be blessed with good partners, showing the same discipline needed, while others will have to look around and experiment with several potential partners before gold is struck.

Yes, if the above gets to be too much, then one can just turn into a player who loves the game, but is willing to just enjoy playing without expecting great rewards.

I’ve already gone too far with the above, but you can take it from here and plays like the jack of hearts in today’s hand will take years to even consider such a sensational play.

Good luck to any and everyone who attempts to, if you will excuse the expression, follow suit.

daveatefiSeptember 27th, 2019 at 8:13 am

If East held AK in Clubs, would he have led the Queen of Diamonds? Not a truly safe lead. Reverse North and South’s Diamond holdings, for example.

Hence West must have a club honor. To have an opening bid, East must have a heart honor, and West cannot have AK10 in hearts.

In 1969, I turned into a player who loves the game, but is willing to just enjoy playing without expecting great rewards.

Iain ClimieSeptember 27th, 2019 at 8:54 am

Hi Bobby,

Many thanks for that; this is definitely the bridge blog that goes the extra mile.



Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2019 at 5:32 pm

Hi Iain,

Much thanks to you for your ultra kind words.

You seem to me to deserve the above accolades or even more so, since yours are often less verbal but, at least as effective.