Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, September 13th, 2019

Necessity never made a good bargain.

Benjamin Franklin

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


Mandatory falsecards may temporarily mislead partner, but the trade-off of confusing partner as opposed to declarer is one you can accept if the circumstances are right.

In today’s deal, South exploited the vulnerability with an aggressive four-spade opening. He had good spades, no defense and a singleton in the other major, making this a reasonable tactical move.

A minor-suit lead would have given the contract no chance, but West led a top heart, of course. On seeing the dummy and a discouraging card from his partner, West shifted to a diamond. Declarer took dummy’s ace and threw a diamond on the heart queen, setting up a trick in that suit.

Declarer ruffed the next diamond, crossed to the club ace and led a trump off dummy. When East followed low, declarer won his king. He needed to bring spades in for one loser, and if West had instinctively followed with the five, South would have had to play for ace-doubleton on his right by leading a low trump next, making his game.

However, West was aware of the situation and dropped the 10, creating a losing option for declarer where none had previously existed. South now had to decide whether West had jack-10 doubleton or jack-10-low. The Principle of Restricted Choice could not help because West had two equals either way. The only inference he had was that West might not have found this defense if he had three trumps. So South continued with the spade queen and lost his game.

This hand has great potential in support of hearts. The ruffing value in spades, top cards in the side suits and secondary trump honors are all positive features, so a simple raise to two hearts, while correct in terms of high-card points, would be inadequate. A jump raise to three hearts is what this hand is worth. Compare this hand to a 4-4-3-2 shape to see the extra potential here.


♠ 2
 Q J 7 3
 A 9 8 6
♣ A K 5 4
South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass

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Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2September 27th, 2019 at 12:05 pm

This is still another sad story hand from the Lower Slobbovian Mud Cup of a few years ago.

Sitting West, I found the 10S play, only to see declarer — after some thought — put the 4S on the table.

Resignedly, I played the 5S and declarer went deathly pale.

“I’m so sorry, Mabel,” she said to her partner. “I just assumed he’d have led a singleton if he had one.”

Turns out declarer had decided to postpone the trump decision by crossing to the Board and discarding on the heart winner, etc.

After a bit of confusion, it all got straightened out. She had sorted her smallest black spots into the opposite suits.

That didn’t help me, of course.

A.V.Ramana RaoSeptember 27th, 2019 at 4:14 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Favourable vulnerability notwithstanding , is the bid by South justified ? Personally , I feel that the odds are stacked against South . Grateful if you can comment

Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2019 at 4:22 pm

Hi Jim2,

All, or perhaps only almost all of what occurred, is entirely explainable since China, being not far from Lower Slobbovia, always sends many enthusiastic players to that glorious tournament, and, of course, feel very competitive with American players (since bridge has been in their public school system now for double digit years) and their world wide results certainly prove they should.

When competing against you and as it turned out, two Wongs made it right for them, allowing TOCM to further expand its devastating effect, proving yet again, how diversity is gaining in its fight for world wide popularity.

Perhaps someone needs to talk to Lena (who, of course lives there and is their darling), especially for all the Al Capp fans of Lil Abner fame.

Bobby WolffSeptember 27th, 2019 at 5:17 pm


No doubt, from a pure bridge standpoint, the South hand could be chosen as a classic 3 spade opening while dealer and NV vs V.

However, and with the right prerequisites, perhaps vs. good opponents (especially very ethical ones) and either tournament bridge or, instead rubber bridge for low stakes, a 4 spade opening is not a terrible gamble to take, with yes a possible significant downside, but also
a not so unlikely attempt to either make it, or come out undoubled, especially when the opponents, if left more room, could either have made something big or, at the very least doubled your sacrifice or third (more likely than some may expect) prevent West from getting help on the opening lead by allowing EW in the bidding at a lower level.

IOW, I am definitely not suggesting 4 spades as an opening bid, but neither am I saying it has no or little upside to so do.

The above discussion kind of applies across the board, when faced with either overbidding or instead being a solid citizen. When possible, not saying this hand qualifies, but “bid em up”, especially against sound opponents, rather than slink away”!

Our beautiful competition (when enlisting lady luck), still belongs to partnerships who, when faced with a choice, prefer getting their feet wet, rather than to just sit back and enjoy the conservatism.