Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Alas, regardless of their doom,
The little victims play!

Thomas Gray

E North
Both ♠ K J 10 7 6 3
 K 9 3
 8 5
♣ J 6
West East
♠ A 5 4
 J 7
 A Q J 4
♣ K 10 9 7
♠ —
 10 8 4
 9 7 6 3 2
♣ Q 8 5 4 2
♠ Q 9 8 2
 A Q 6 5 2
 K 10
♣ A 3
South West North East
1 Dbl. Rdbl. 2 NT*
Dbl. 3 ♣ 3 4 ♣
4 All pass    

*Both Minors


As Thomas Gray remarked, “Full many a flower is born to blush unseen.” Today’s deal might have slipped through the cracks if Steve and Betty Bloom’s teammate had not been able to rectify that particular error by providing the Daily Bulletin with details of their prowess at a Gold Coast Congress almost a decade ago.

When Betty led the club 10 against four spades, declarer Sartaj Hans knew that he was in the wrong spot, caused by North failing to bid spades at his first turn. Worse, he could divine that there would be spade ruffs in the offing, not to mention the prospect of a diamond shift from East.

He put up dummy’s club jack and took Steve’s queen in hand, then drew trumps and played on spades. East had had two chances to send a signal. First, he followed up the line in trump (suit preference for the lower suit, here clubs), then he pitched a discouraging diamond nine on the first spade, followed by the diamond two for further suit preference.

Betty got the message. When she took her spade ace on the third round, she underled her clubs, advancing her smallest. Steve overtook her seven with his eight to make the killing diamond shift, and that produced the desired result of one down.

This was an absolute top for East-West; at all the rest of the tables in the main final, 10 tricks were taken in spades or hearts by North-South. (Interestingly, that was the case even when North was declarer, so that a diamond lead would have beaten four spades).

In a standard base, partner is unlikely to have either four spades or three hearts. Unless playing two-over-one, the no-trump response suggests fewer than 9 points, so with no fit and a maximum of 24 high-card points, you should pass. If playing the forcing no-trump, a rebid of two clubs on the doubleton will allow you to survive — unless your partner passes. And yes, you might have opened one no-trump, I suppose.


♠ Q 9 8 2
 A Q 6 5 2
 K 10
♣ A 3
South West North East
1 Pass 1 NT 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 RaoDecember 26th, 2019 at 5:10 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
But South could have prevailed by not covering the lead. If east has both club honors and West A and Q of diamonds, there is nothing he could do but fortunately club honors are split. Declarer should hope spade A is with West which luckily is and defense just cannot do anything to take the contract down if south refuses to cover the lead with J in dummy

A V Ramana RaoDecember 26th, 2019 at 5:12 pm

Sorry, I should have seen the spade ruff

A V Ramana RaoDecember 26th, 2019 at 5:21 pm

It is getting interesting . If South does not cover the lead with J in dummy, but wins with A in hand, lead three rounds of trumps ending in dummy and craftily leads club J, ( sole hope for spade A and club K with West)would east have covered? If so , EW deserve their success
PS: please forgive my multiple postings

David WarheitDecember 26th, 2019 at 5:31 pm

Mr. Hans should have played dummy’s C6 at trick one and then ducked. Not that hard since, as you point out, he virtually knew where every significant card lay, including even that W had all 3 spades. If he had done so, W would have to shift to spades at trick two, but that seems to me to be just too difficult.

Bobby WolffDecember 26th, 2019 at 6:01 pm


Yes, this hand is ripe for EW error, though East not covering with the queen of clubs after South has led it from dummy after drawing trump, is indeed a grievous missed opportunity.

Best chance for NS to score up a game is for North to first bid 1 spade, instead of redoubling, which IMO can only be described as a misleading choice, when one spade and then heart support later, unless which would certainly have happened, South supporting spades.

Your multiple postings are not necessary to forgive, for all of us, especially yours truly, do it all the time, by temporarily forgetting, at least what I think, an important consideration.

Furthermore, if the initiial trick while defending 4 hearts becomes a hundred honors in clubs, and declarer then draws trump and then knocks out the ace of spades, it is dollars to doughnuts that West should play his partner for the eight of clubs, since South taking the time to double 2NT should show the king of diamonds (then not held by East) allowing a crucial club entry for the “killing diamond shift.

Of course, while playing matchpoints rather than IMPs or rubber bridge, then finding South with the 8 of clubs, while playing matchpoints, would mean a certain zero for EW, but 1. the odds are in West’s favor (bidding) and perhaps the signalling in spades might get the message across (together with the play to trick one), but, in any event, “No guts, poor result”.

All of the above is worth a thought since danger in bridge almost as often, is just as likely by either bidding or playing conservatively as it is, by instead playing aggressively.

Not to mention the thrill which goes along with underleading the 2nd club play, bridging it to partner.

Bobby WolffDecember 26th, 2019 at 6:22 pm

Hi David,

A good counter move, which had its fair chances for success, with its imminent danger being the bidding which may have suggested no more than a singleton spade with partner, together with the eye opening 10 of clubs being allowed to win the first trick.

No doubt, this fork in the road could be an important bridge teaching hand about, while defending and seeing an otherwise unusual event, then recognizing the most likely reason for it, and then defending accordingly with the result, an earned down three.

And, no one to blame since your suggestion may have been (and probably would in most cases) the only way to score it up, since it would have required West to figure it out, which IMO would only be accomplished by a limited number of defenders.

Thanks for creating an antidote and the incredibly valuable thinking by several.

Steve ConradDecember 26th, 2019 at 8:58 pm

This is the third “Tuesday” in a row. We have seen Tuesday, Dec. 10, Tuesday, Dec. 11, and now, Tuesday Dec. 12.

Someone has a Tuesday fetish, huh? 🙂

Bobby WolffDecember 26th, 2019 at 10:49 pm

Hi Steve,

Four or more, possible reasons:

1. Tuesday is our favorite day.
2. Trying to set a month’s record for most Tuesdays.
3. Apologies for going off the rails.
4. Having no earthly idea what is happening.
5. Tomorrow, being Monday, we will find out.

Bobby WolffDecember 26th, 2019 at 10:54 pm

Again, Steve,

Have you not had the expression uttered before, “My partner is so bad, he does not know what day of the week it is”?

Bill CubleyDecember 26th, 2019 at 11:20 pm

Bobby, You are multi talented! I saw Star Wars today and watch the endless credits. Finally the music credits came and I saw the man who scored the music was Robert Woolf. They misspelled your name.

Happy New Year!

David WarheitDecember 27th, 2019 at 1:07 am

The bidding goes 1H X 1S P
3S P 4S all P. What would you lead as E, and supposing E leads a D, should W find the C shift after cashing his 2 D tricks? Apparently at no table did all of this happen.

bobbywolffDecember 27th, 2019 at 2:33 am

Hi David,

After a diamond lead. the club shift should be easy to find, since without a club switch, and from West’s point of view, unless East has the queen of clubs, together with considering the bidding and the layout of the heart suit, West has little chance for a set.

Therefore, it is likely that East, perhaps at every table to which North declared a spade game, led a club from the queen, rather than a diamond from nothing of value to which declarer played low as an entry killer. And, at least from my point of view, who can blame him, (except of course a player who plays results)?

Yes, I did fail to consider that at some tables when and if East led a diamond, that West, after cashing the two diamond tricks, made a serious error and did not return a club, away from the king. If so West was responsible and no one else but him, should take 100% blame for that result.