Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

The object of punishment is prevention from evil; it never can be made impulsive to good.

Horace Mann

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


Even at the top level, bidding too much and daring your opponents to beat you may work out well. That was the case last year in Hawaii in the Blue Ribbon semifinals.

Using the favorable vulnerability and his four-card side suit as an excuse to pre-empt to the limit, South stretched to bid three spades over the one-heart opening. North might have been inclined to raise, but knowing his partner could have a wide variety of hands for the pre-empt opposite a passed hand, he remained silent for the moment. East protected with a double, and West bid four hearts. Only then did North come in with four spades, a questionable decision, tactically speaking. East doubled with his top tricks, and there they played.

West led the diamond four to the jack. East cashed the top two clubs and continued the suit. Declarer ruffed, cashed the spade ace and guessed correctly to run the spade jack, picking up the suit. With time on his side, he could draw trumps and knock out the diamonds, escaping for three down.

After the diamond lead, won by East, the best defense is not obvious, but I think he can work it out. He must cash the top clubs and underlead in hearts for a further diamond play.

The defense can now take the first six tricks. When East plays the diamond eight, West ruffs in with the spade nine to promote his own queen for four down. There is a big difference between plus 500 and plus 800 in a pairs game when your side can make 680, so this miss was costly.

Pass. This is no time to introduce such a poor heart suit. There is no need to respond now, and you do not want to get partner excited. If partner voluntarily takes another bid, you can come alive later. Put one of the kings in the heart suit, and one heart would be fine. But as it is, you can be fairly confident you will get a second chance at a low level.


♠ K 7 3
 9 6 3 2
 K 9 5
♣ J 3 2
South West North East
    1 ♣ Dbl.

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


David WarheitDecember 10th, 2019 at 5:15 pm

Your side can not only make 680, it can make 1430 and in fact 1460 on any opening lead but a S. With S’s S pre-empt greatly increasing the odds that N has the DK, 6H is quite a good contract.

Iain ClimieDecember 10th, 2019 at 5:38 pm

HI Bobby,

Shouldn’t West double rather than pass, obviously moving 4D to 4H? It would make East’s like easier and he / she may now get encouraged to plough on.

Credit to West for not leading a top heart, although the defence could still (at double dummy) go D to J, top CA, C to Q, another diamond and so on. Is this impossible? East drops the HJ at T1, West plays D4 to DJ, East plays CK and West encourages, so small club to the Q, another diamond and back to the column line for +800.

North’s antics were presumably in the hope that EW wouldn’t reach game but if he bids 4S and East doubles should West (without sight of 52 cards) move to 5H (assuming 5 card majors), try 5C, pass or bid 4N to show playability in 2 suits?



bobbywolffDecember 10th, 2019 at 6:39 pm

Hi David,

While and in no doubt, 6 hearts EW is a good contract, perhaps 65% (since my guess implies that the king of diamonds being with North, instead of South) is only about a 2 to 1 favorite. Also some other combined bad breaks with NS in the rounded suits, although relatively slight, still need to be felt and therefore, included.

However, as we all know, not playing with transparent cards, it is impossible to come close to usually have any specific knowledge of exactly what to expect from any 52 card version of a bidding sequence.

Thus our discussions border usually on how to play what we see in front of us, plus imagining, in both declaring and defense, how the other 26 cards are likely to be held, but keeping in mind (both as declarer and either defender) with every card played, plus of course and remembering the bidding and often also the tempo, both card placing and its specifics, at least for the better players, become significantly much clearer, often leading to close to 100% in accurately deciding what to do.

But, before the bidding is over and the dummy is laid, that superior knowledge falls off greatly to only being figments of the imagination, almost not worth talking about, except among very good players who can pass on certain tells (at that specific time) which, in fact, are likely more prevalent than almost any of us suspect.

The above description could be classified as supernatural by some, but in reality, although usually not clear enough for any intelligent conversation, still become meaningful as afterthoughts.

None of the above is in any way close to disagreement with your ultimate conclusion, except perhaps your comment about the percentage of whether the king of diamonds is onside, but only to guide the huge difference between bidding decisions, before and after the bidding ceases.

bobbywolffDecember 10th, 2019 at 7:16 pm

Hi Iain,

Methinks that at West’s first time to bid that with pass, double and 4 hearts all in the mix, I prefer 4H, second, pass, and third, double.

Of course I grew up with 4 card majors and, even after all these years, still prefer them. However, (if still playing them) and on this hand and as West would then slightly reduce my choice of bidding 4 hearts, although then pass might overtake 4 hearts with double moving slightly up in preference with a return to 4 hearts if and when partner rebids 4 of a minor.

Next, regarding the opening lead, while I do appreciate the logic of leading a short suit, my discipline (as I think others should also) forbid me from branching off to a short suit, (particularly when holding Qxx in their trump).

Yes it feels and looks good (particularly while playing results) but good bridge relies mostly on mundane actions, and only resorting to attempted brilliance when the evidence becomes much clearer than it appears here.

At least to me Mark Twain’s great quote about “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it” (please no jokes about “climate change”), carries forth in playing winning bridge, since, although OK to talk about brilliant leads, but clearly another dangerous thing, to actually succumb to doing it.

Since I’ve already mentioned my first choice regarding my first time at bat, I prefer to not mention again, that bidding 4 hearts does, more than most of us realize, (I think) take the pressure off of me to override partner’s then decision (he might not then double).

The way it went at the table, after West originally passed, caused his partner to then double his opponents, and now asking me what to do, would be similar to asking me, after I ran over someone while driving, what to do next. However, if so, I am sure I would answer, take back what I have just done, but since that is not a choice, I then have no answer which works and have to just totally guess, eg. when that happens to any good player, I suspect his response would then be, “nothing good will now occur”.

Iain ClimieDecember 10th, 2019 at 10:27 pm

HI Bobby,

Just as an aside on climate change, there are numerous actions which make sense whether we’re in for heatwaves, business as usual or temperature falls. The Tambora eruption of 1815 caused global cooling of around 3 deg C as the ash and gasses in the atmosphere dramatically cut solar input. 1816 was destined as the year without a summer.

Examples include restoring fish stocks, reduced waste, large scale silviculture, combining conservation with careful use and reducing the impact per head of conventional livestock although some reduction in numbers might be sensible. Methane-reducing feed additives have existed for decades but not been adopted, although some can boost growth. The soil restoration activities of people like Gabe Brown in North Dakota are also worth adopting; his methods encourage methanotrophic bacteria, greatly increase carbon capture and water retention in soils and result in higher yields than conventional methods. Definitely worth a look and Gabe’s approach is praiseworthy and well worth supporting.

Sorry for the digression!



jim2December 10th, 2019 at 11:27 pm

+1370 is also available, and no need of a diamond finesse if the defense starts with two rounds of spades!

bobbywolffDecember 11th, 2019 at 1:01 am

Hi Iain,

Your post just gave me my first education ever, on the methods and complications of the evils of global climate change and at the same time a possible remedy for at least one of the problems.

No doubt your experience has caused you to become a relative super expert (at least compared to me) in the field and for that I appreciate the knowledge.

Yes, climate change has recently been in the news, especially since our President has shown a distaste for continuing to contribute our fair share.

While the only subject I consider myself qualified to discuss is tied to this website I feel good about reading what you wrote.

And to hear that someone from North Dakota has made some inroads in finding what appears to be only a single answer to perhaps many overall necessities is good to hear, if only to understand that the USA may have contributed to this serious problem to come.

Don’t be sorry for the digression since there may be some of our posters who can exchange some worthwhile thoughts on this world conundrum.

And then again, there may not.

bobbywolffDecember 11th, 2019 at 1:11 am

Hi Jim2,

Because of the 4-1 heart break a dummy reversal doesn’t work but a diamond spade squeeze against North, would.

Therefore, if you only will take the king of diamonds played when at trick 12 a diamond is led from the dummy, into the AQ at hand, then right you are.

Another item of note would be that the declarer definitely is not infected with the TOCM virus, yes with the bad heart break, but certainly not with the diamond king location.

jim2December 11th, 2019 at 3:21 am

I was talking about six clubs.

If the defense starts with spade-spade (ruff), then spade ruff + 5 hearts + 5 clubs = 12. (No diamond finesse required)

If defense starts with, say, a spade and a switch, then draw trump, finesse diamond, run tricks.

5 hearts + 2 diamonds + 5 clubs = 12 tricks.

Iain ClimieDecember 11th, 2019 at 9:31 am

HI Bobby,

Thanks for that and this is worth a look:



bobbywolffDecember 11th, 2019 at 12:02 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your score of +1370, instead of +1430, fell on my deaf ears, so sorry for my misinterpretation.

However, on balance, 6 hearts is better, mostly because of the better trump cards able to stand for a 4-1 break in one or the other and still be successful if diamond king is onside, except for a practically implausible rare holding, not even worth mentioning.

Perhaps, after a bridge law rule change, we can make legal a real “asking bid” when we are able to ask those pesky opponents which suit, if either, is breaking 4-1 and they must answer truthfully.