Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, October 5th, 2019

Nothing is so good as it seems beforehand.

George Eliot

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


A little learning is a dangerous thing, they say. Consider this deal from a knockout match, where the defense against four spades at both tables began in the same way: West cashed both top hearts and shifted to the club king, taken by the ace.

At the first table, declarer took the diamond ace, then led the trump nine to dummy’s 10 to play a diamond toward his hand, in case East wanted to ruff in from out of nowhere.

When East discarded a club, South won with the ace. After ruffing a diamond with the trump jack, declarer returned to hand with a trump to ruff a second diamond in dummy. When East discarded a heart, declarer could now make only his two remaining trumps — he had lost trump control when he ruffed a club back to hand.

At the other table, declarer also led a diamond to the ace at trick four. However, instead of playing a trump, declarer tried to cash the diamond king. East ruffed and played a club. Declarer ruffed this with the trump nine, then ruffed a diamond in dummy with the spade 10. Next, declarer returned to his hand via a low trump to the queen to ruff a diamond with the jack, thereby establishing two long diamond tricks.

Declarer still had a trump left with which to return to hand. He drew the remaining defensive trumps with the ace and king, then claimed the rest of the tricks. He had made four trumps, three diamonds, two diamond ruffs and the club ace for a total of 10 tricks.

Here your first bid of one heart was fine, though with an extra queen, a call of one spade — planning to compete in hearts next — would have been right. On your actual auction, some people quite sensibly play a “next-step negative,” also called a Herbert negative, after the cuebid. If you can’t bid two diamonds to show this hand, you have to bid two hearts now, since two spades would show 5-9 or so.


♠ 8 7 4 2
 Q 7 5 2
♣ J 8 6 3
South West North East
  1 ♣ Dbl. Pass
1 Pass 2 ♣ 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 ClimieOctober 19th, 2019 at 9:54 am

HI Bobby,

What a curious hand. The second declarer’s line looked more primitive at first glance but actually worked. If spades and diamonds are both 3-2 the hand is trivial, either suit 5-0 and you’re off while S4-1 and D3-2 is easy too. Hence only 4-1 in both is the problem. Do you think either line was optimal though?



bobbywolffOctober 19th, 2019 at 2:43 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, I probably do, the above winning line, in the absence of, as Jim2 often describes, his head hurting, causing him to just do it.

At least to me, the sequence of described winning plays resembles a beautiful musical symphony rather than the sour note of mistiming this prospective possible pointed suits combination.

Yes, it takes careful, thoughtful play, made easier with disciplined habits, likely fueled by more than just a touch of brain numeracy.

However, when these bridge beauties appear, it indeed inspires those who correctly work it out, with the love of our challenging game, which, my guess, forever injects an addiction to continue playing forever, until death do us part.

Not totally unlike the advice given with today’s BWTA, which, at least to me, is the same kind of melody to which disciplined and consistent competent bidding within a partnership, should be based.

Always thanks for your to the point, summation, with specific numbers, which becomes necessary for all of us to fully understand simple alternatives, to which nothing of real consequence happens, but then only properly emphasizing what a touch of bridge genius can accomplish, if, and when, it does.