Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances.

George Bernard Shaw

S North
Both ♠ K J 5
 9 8 5
 A K J 5
♣ J 10 6
West East
♠ A 10 8 2
 K 4 3
 Q 10 4 2
♣ 8 3
♠ Q 6 4 3
 J 10 7 6 2
 8 7
♣ A 4
♠ 9 7
 A Q
 9 6 3
♣ K Q 9 7 5 2
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 Pass
2 ♣ Pass 2 ♠ Pass
2 NT Pass 3 NT All pass


North took the scientific route on today’s hand, responding one diamond and continuing with two spades over his partner’s twoclub rebid. North was showing a concentration in spades and some concern about hearts. In auctions like this one, the third suit shows values in the suit bid, while the fourth suit asks for a stopper.

Three no-trump was thus reached the right way up to protect the heart tenace, and West chose to lead dummy’s second suit, with the idea of leading to declarer’s weakness. This attack would be more attractive from a five-card or even a three-card holding (hoping to hit partner’s five-card suit). All too often, four-card suits set up winners, but not quickly enough to beat three no-trump. Then again, our recommended heart lead would give declarer no problems.

Today, though, the spade did pose a difficult challenge. Declarer could count eight tricks once the club ace was removed. The heart suit posed a threat, however. If West held the heart king and East gained the lead to shift through declarer’s heart tenace, the game would be defeated.

It followed that declarer had to keep East off lead at any cost. South therefore called for the spade king. This was safe even when West had led from the spade ace-queen. After all, the spade two lead was a strong indication that the suit was splitting evenly.

When the spade king held, all declarer had to do was knock out the club ace. The defense could score only three spades and a club trick.

In the absence of a checkback mechanism, you need to explore for a 4-4 spade fit or 5-3 heart fit by the seat of your pants. Since a bid of three spades would (according to some) promise only four hearts, you might miss a 5-3 heart fit. I suppose you could simply bid three hearts. If partner has three-card support, he will raise. If he has four spades, you hope he will bid three spades.


♠ Q 6 4 3
 J 10 7 6 2
 8 7
♣ A 4
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 Pass 2 NT 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


A V Ramana RaoNovember 12th, 2019 at 11:47 am

Hi Dear Mr.Wolff
Ironically, Shaw’s quote got have easily violated had North bid 2 NT initially in response to one club from South which perhaps would also be a natural bid. East would have led J of heart and unfortunately now, there is no way for making the contract.

Bobby WolffNovember 12th, 2019 at 3:08 pm


But if I imagine GB Shaw, a comedic rascal if there ever was one, would not refer (on this hand) an initial 2NT response by North as “circumstances” but only as a poor choice of bids, without having an unbid suit stopped, but chirping 2NT anyway.

No doubt, and because of, as you suggested, it not being successful, he would have found a way to protect his quote.

However, and in truth, and while playing our great game, “circumstances”, in fact, are often present and anyone claiming that they rarely determine good or instead, poor results, just haven’t paid attention.

No doubt though GB Shaw would quickly counter (if he actually played bridge), that, of course “the game of bridge is the one exception” and this hand, down 2, would prove it.

To which Winston Churchill, his often protagonist might mutter “Nice catch George Bernard, but when will you ever be right the first time?” To which GBS may retort,”At least before the first time that you may show up sober”.

However, while playing ACOL, such a practice was likely often done, (although that bid was NF in Acol, perhaps this hand was a bit strong to do so) he, based on the result you mention, would cry out, not circumstances, but rather incorrectness.

A V Ramana RaoNovember 12th, 2019 at 4:57 pm

Nice assumed repartee by Churchill . Reminds of
When Shaw mentioned to Churchill about his new play
Here’s two tickets to my new play. Bring a friend – if you have one.
To which Churchill replied.
Cannot attend opening night. Will come to second night – if there is one.
Both G B Shaw and Churchill are known for their quick wit.
Perhaps the fact that Churchill and Shaw being contemporaries is a Circumstantial coincidence

Bobby WolffNovember 12th, 2019 at 5:13 pm


Love the repertoire and your story.

However and not much doubt that circumstances
cuts better than circumcision, especially if the knife is sharp and the rabbi not careful.