Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

Love knows nothing of order.

Saint Jerome

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


South has a textbook opening bid of one no-trump, and North promptly raises to game, giving nothing away. The opening low diamond lead sees South play low from dummy and capture the 10 with the king. If diamonds are 4-4, declarer can simply finesse in spades and be safe whether it wins or loses. But that six is a dangerously large spot, looking far more like fourth-highest from five than an original four-card suit.

So South decides he must make nine tricks without giving up the lead. While a successful finesse in spades would solve the problem, there is no need to rush into things: If the spade king is in the West hand, it will not run away. South can afford to try his other options first.

To begin with, South cashes the top clubs, ending in the North hand. If the clubs failed to break, South would be in position to cross to hand in hearts to lead the spade jack for a finesse. When the clubs do break, South takes his last club winner, pitching a heart from hand and hoping to encourage a defensive error. He then takes the top hearts, and when the queen falls, he has nine tricks. He leads the spade jack from hand (in case West wishes to cover) to dummy’s ace and cashes the good club and heart jack for a safe nine tricks.

If West believes in covering an honor with an honor in spades, South will make several overtricks. There is no harm in giving your opponents the chance to err.

Thirty years ago, you might have been able to respond two diamonds here, to show 10 or more points, not forcing to game. Not anymore. This hand may seem too good for a call of one no-trump, but you should make that call whether it is forcing for one round or not. When partner has 12-14 points, you probably do not want to go past the two-level; when he has more, he will be unbalanced, and you can surely make game.


♠ 9 8 6
 Q 10
 A K 7 6 2
♣ J 8 3
South West North East
    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


Juozas KontvainisOctober 15th, 2019 at 6:02 pm

Dear Bobby Wolff,

Long time reader here. I’ve always wanted to try to play the deals you describe. I sometimes try to make declaring plan, however your deals occasionally are about defence, so often I read a few sentences of article first. And then I usually end up having read through all of the article before really having tried to find the point of the deal myself.

As it happens I am software developer, and I’ve recently acquired enough skills to create an app for iPhone and Android phones. I think a mobile app would be a great way to engage with your content. Being able to play and actually count the shape of opponents hands is a much better way to learn than just looking at NS hands and formulating a plan. The app would be similar to BridgeMaster, player receiving a new deal every day.

I’ve tried to contact you publisher Andrews McMeel Syndication for licensing your articles but did not receive any response.

If you’re interested, please contact me at juoz4s @ gmail . com

Kind regards,
Juozas Kontvainis

Joe1October 16th, 2019 at 1:25 am

BWTA 30 years ago pard would have had 13+ or maybe ++, not 11 and shape, and sometimes not much shape, so 2 D was the more descriptive bid. I am not sure how much better newer techniques are for most players-especially those who learned the game years ago. It seems that 1 NT tells pard “I don’t have a near yarborough”. With decent 5Ds and a doubleton, 2 D seems natural.

bobbywolffOctober 16th, 2019 at 2:07 pm

Hi Joe1,

IMHO, players make the success, not system, and thus, which follows, not the other way around.

Ingredients in the above declaration have much to do with:

1. choice and compatibility of partner.

2. much experience with the high-level game.

3. common sense application of all factors.

4. total cerebral dedication in the moment.

5. blend with partner when dealing with judgment against specific worthy opponents.

6. attention and expertise of handling both
good and bad luck, and treating those two
imposters just the same.

7. fitting the partnership’s system and conventions to the personality of the partners.

8. both partners need to feature consistent bidding discipline, playing technique and in competitive situations, bring their “A” game.

To accomplish the above, and as far as playing bridge, to do so, will give those two the world and all that’s in it, and what is more, the listeners and thus followers, will forever be winners.

With apologies to Rudyard Kipling. “IF”!

Iain ClimieOctober 16th, 2019 at 2:53 pm

Hi Bobby,

What if West leads the D2 here? South happily takes the spade finesse and east plays a diamond back leaving South (to quote Samuel Taylor Coleridge) a sadder and a wiser man.



bobbywolffOctober 16th, 2019 at 3:30 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, and no doubt, especially with Coleridge’s comment, but let us further evaluate.

You were automatically suggesting that EW were playing 4th highest leads vs. NT, a common decades old choice, but one still in fashion, but not without some competition.

The disadvantage of such a non-conventional opening lead choice (when, of course, playing 4th highest), might, on certain holdings, cause a misfire on defense and although I am, in no way, discounting its value (perfect in this case, although the six could also be led from only four) might lead to a classic failure on another. However the deuce, at least on the surface cannot, at least conventionally, signal more than four.

No doubt the definition of a “tough” opponent is often used to describe an adversary who cannot be trusted to be without guile, which in bridge thinking should be a player who may do such a thing, notwithstanding sometimes fooling the wrong person, his partner.

Like poker, it is sometimes explained that the best situation for any would be winning poker player is to almost NEVER bluff, but instead have the reputation of doing it often.

From the above, it should also apply to defenders who may deliberately lead the wrong card (or psyche during the bidding) but, in fact hardly, if ever, do such a thing for fear of misleading his pal, at least up to now, who is his partner.

IOW, all a responsible and conscientious declarer can do is play the opponents for, “if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, etc. it is one”. Except, of course, if one is playing against a duck lookalike he might just take an alternate 90% line of play (which doesn’t rely on the opponent’s cleverness, however in this case the spade finesse, only 50% or slightly less) but in reality, that finesse, being far less than 90% just isn’t, at least in my view, a percentage move.

To do so, is just to play much too great a price, for the reputation of an opponent who would rejoice beyond belief to see it happen.

However, being aware of one’s environment is also an important part of gaining a great reputation of being a bridge player for all seasons, in fact, IMO, no one has ever risen to such an exalted position (and kept it), but who is to say that one will never exist.

However, thanks much for injecting the possibility and at the same time, entertain all our readers.