Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, November 4th, 2019

Time past and time future What might have been and what has been Point to one end, which is always present.

T.S. Eliot

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


In today’s deal, North sensibly passes over West’s one-heart opening. A two- diamond overcall would be too aggressive, even at these colors. Since a protective one no-trump shows 11 to 14, South starts with a double, then tries the no-trump game when North jumps to three diamonds.

After the heart lead, South has three spade and two heart tricks. He needs four tricks from the clubs and diamonds. Which suit should he attack first?

It would be fatal to go after clubs, because they can generate only three tricks. Even if you sneakily lead the jack from your hand, West should take his ace and knock out the heart ace. Declarer would be able to run only eight tricks before leading diamonds, whereupon West could take his ace and cash out the hearts.

Declarer’s best shot is to lead a low diamond rather than the queen at trick two. West is marked with the ace, but he cannot profitably play it as the cards lie. To do so would give declarer four diamond tricks even if the suit breaks four-two. Nonetheless, West should probably take the ace and clear hearts, hoping his partner retains the guarded diamond queen. But declarer has his nine tricks without needing the clubs at all.

If West plays low at trick two, South has succeeded in stealing a diamond trick. He can then switch to clubs and will emerge with two hearts, one diamond and three tricks in each black suit, for nine winners in all.

The club ace is your best bet. Who knows what East has for his third-chair pre-empt? By laying down your ace, you can retain the lead and find out more about the hand, and can possibly take or give a ruff. Attacking in one of the pointed-suits is an option, but it would be somewhat unilateral, possibly allowing declarer to get rid of his losers in another suit on dummy’s high cards.


♠ J 10 7 6 4
 Q 8 7 5 4
♣ A 6
South West North East
  Pass Pass 4
All 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


A V Ramana RaoNovember 18th, 2019 at 11:51 am

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
Sure this West must have been regretting his opening bid and perhaps must be brooding ” If only had I opened two hearts” which certainly would have left South directionless . His opening bid have South a blueprint for success

A V Ramana RaoNovember 18th, 2019 at 1:38 pm

And as an afterthought : Five clubs always makes if South becomes declarer

bobbywolffNovember 18th, 2019 at 3:43 pm


As your opinions continue, well analyzed.

And, while using TS Eliot’s right-on quote as a backdrop, over a 2 heart opening on his left, South, after having it passed around to him, should challenge his opponents, by chirping 2NT, then easily being raised to game by North.

Also, sometimes, as West might have felt as dealer, bidding one of something, with unfavorable vulnerability present, becomes less dangerous than opening a weak two bid, even though by definition, weak twos are usually a bit less strong, at least in point count, than are opening one bids.

Sort of inconsistent, except bridge, being a difficult to impossible game to master, has much to recommend, requiring good consistent judgment at all times, here in the bidding, but, of course, also, often in the play.

Yes, 5 clubs by South is indeed cold, but try and conceive a bidding sequence which will arrive there, keeping in mind South’s heart holding. To do so and IMO, even while attempting to hold one’s breath until done, could be life threatening.

However, and hopefully, none of the above should keep you from offering your always wise and clever countenance, ever expected.

Bob LiptonNovember 18th, 2019 at 10:01 pm

To me, AVRR and Bobby, this hand illustrates that if the opponents were not continually trying to foul up the opponents, they wouldn’t tell us how to play the hands. Yes, West has a 1 Heart opening. Opposite many ten-point hands (xx Axx Kxxx Kxxx for example), there’s reasonable play for 4 Hearts. Yet his opening tells the alert and savvy South how to play the hand.

Sometimes the bridge play bids for the pleasure of hearing his own voice. At Saturday’s duplicate, I picked up ATx AJxxx AQx Ax in third seat at favorable vulnerability. Morning that I never picked up hands like this at the money table, I expected to open and hoped partner did not pass me in 1 Heart when I could make game. Instead partner opened 1 Club, and righty bid 2 Clubs. I thought briefly, decided there was no point in mentioning hearts, no point in asking partner if he thought we might have slam (with no aces? No!), and bid 6NT.

Everyone looked surprised and thoughtful, then everyone passed. Lefty led a low Spade and partner laid down – KQ KTxxx KJxxxx. I won, played dummy’s KQ (lefty played the HT on the second trick, then failed). I tested diamonds, found righty had two of them, and so took the club hook at the 12th trick for all of them.

Righty had committed Michaels, as Edgar Kaplan might have said, on KJxxx 9xxxx xx T. He was not going to go quiet into that good night! Instead, he was going to tell me exactly how to play this hand!

The point being, as with Bobby’s hand, that the opponents are listening too. If righty had had the brains to overcome his ego and shut the f*** up, would I have had the nerve to play dummy’s Jack at the 12th trick?


bobbywolffNovember 19th, 2019 at 5:51 am

Hi Bob,

Yes. when overzealous opponents give their distribution away, it, (on many hands, though
not all of them), often gives declarer an advantage, varying from tiny to overwhelming.

However if your RHO on this hand decided to really go all in, his distribution might have been, 4-5-2-2, of course including the Queen of clubs.

And, in actuality seven of either minor, (diamonds better than clubs could intelligently have been bid and made. However, no one can dispute that many times the blueprint that very aggressive opponents give away is the major reason why declarer play may get more clear cut.

Nothing above realistically disputes your point, with only the exception that the next person to come along who can prove that he has mastered the game, will, at least IMO, be the first ever.

How about “The game is the thing in which we will learn the conscience of the King” is, to me, more realistic, or would that be plagiarism of the Bard?

Iain ClimieNovember 19th, 2019 at 10:10 am

HI Bob,

The late Terence Reese would approve of your comments; he was forever grumbling that interference on weak 2-suiters often just told declarer how to play the hand. The counter-argument involves jamming the opponents bidding and/or finding cheap sacrifices but 2C over 1C isn’t exactly a high-level barrage. I like the 6N – eminently practical.



bobbywolffNovember 19th, 2019 at 10:40 pm

Hi Iain & Bob,

Yes both practical, and if this specific hand is an indication at duplicate, think what it would have achieved at money bridge….in addition to the slam bonus, bid and made, iit would also have included an extra 150 for one hand holding all four aces, while playing a NT contract.

How soon we forget rubber bridge, the real father of contract bridge, with its unique scoring system.

However it was judged almost 100 years ago, 92 to be exact, that to include honors at tournament bridge is not practical, since its value is hidden to the other three players at that time and that table, making it a key factor at matchpoints not advisable.

Nice bid Bob!