Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that's the stuff life is made of.

Benjamin Franklin

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




Fulvio Fantoni and Claudio Nunes finished at a somewhat disappointing 11th place in the 2012 Cavendish Pairs. Fantoni, however, produced the best-played hand of the tournament.

Against the heart slam West led the club queen. After East’s double at the three-level, vulnerable, facing a passed hand, Fantoni correctly placed him with a void in hearts, the black kings and some combination of the diamond honors. Even at double-dummy it’s not easy to see how the hand should be played.

However, after a long pause (so long that he ran into time penalties on the deal!), Fantoni made the spectacular play of a small heart to the seven in dummy. As expected, East showed out, pitching the diamond two. Declarer proceeded with the club 10, discarding a diamond when East played small. West won the club jack and continued with a heart to dummy’s 10. Now came the club nine, covered by the king and ruffed with the heart queen. The rest was relatively straightforward: the heart ace, a heart to the king, the two established clubs for the discard of another diamond and a spade, and a claim on the spade finesse. (East had already been squeezed, but that did not matter.)

Not surprisingly, Fantoni was the only player in the star-studded field to fulfill the six-heart contract. The first-round heart finesse may seem unnecessary, but if declarer starts with the heart ace and follows with the heart five, West can ruin his plans by inserting the heart jack, killing a vital entry to dummy.

Partner has four hearts and five or six diamonds in a good hand. How high should you go? I don’t think you have enough to bid three hearts – I might do that with either red queen in addition to what I have. My plan is to bid two hearts, then compete to three diamonds if necessary.


♠ 9
 K 10 7 2
 6 5 4
♣ 10 9 8 6 3
South West North East
1♣ 1 Pass
Pass Dbl. 1 1♠

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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Michael BeyroutiMay 17th, 2013 at 11:33 am

One Heart, forcing?… What do they open with a 5-card major and a minimum opening hand?
Congratulations to Fulvio Fantoni! The quote at the top notwhistanding, that was time well spent.

jim2May 17th, 2013 at 12:38 pm

So East made an aceless, zero quick trick three-level double, vulnerable against not, facing a passed partner, and with the strongest hand to the left. IMHO, a well-earned bottom!

On the BWTA, East-West have a spade fit of at least nine cards (and possibly more), so I would have little doubt that the final contract would be two hearts. The only problem I see is that I suspect that South will not be able to make a call of three diamonds (or three hearts) when the bidding comes back around again unless s/he is willing to have the director called to deal with an insufficient bid.

David HoworthMay 17th, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Answering Mr. Beyrouti: They open 1NT (if 5332 and 12-14) or 2H if unbalanced. All the 2-level suit openings show decent hands, not weak ones, but not good enough to open with 1 of a suit, which is always forcing.

Michael BeyroutiMay 17th, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Thank you David.

jim2May 17th, 2013 at 2:20 pm

“… have little doubt that the final contract would NOT be two hearts.”

—- sigh—-

bobby wolffMay 17th, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Hi Michael & Jim2 with thanks to David Howorth for system information,

The Fantunes system, although not appearing as all that different, sometimes creates unusual development, because of their unlimited, though all forcing opening bids of one.

The BWTA hand could be an example of that difference since, and expressed by Jim2, obviously the opening bidder has a monstrous hand, since East passed originally (after the overcall) and then only offered a simple 1 spade at his next turn. Partner looks to be void in clubs, and probably 3-4-6-0 or possibly either 2-5-6-0 or maybe even 2-4-6(7)-1-(0), leaving East with long spades but a weakish hand. Also, and for those relatively few intensely interested bridge theorists out there, forcing one bids, which have been fairly common through the years in Italy, cause a different type of bridge bidding logic, wherein later TO doubles by the opening bidder do not always conform to standard type distributions, expected by standard American or for that matter standard French (and many other countries who tend to bid along normal lines).

Playing bridge around the world, and mostly at higher levels, takes some getting used to, and sometimes before that happens, advantage passes to the users and not their opponents.

In other words, the bidding is just getting underway and the next time it will be South’s turn, the bidding figures to be at least as high as 4 spades. But then North probably will have bid at least 4 hearts or perhaps 4 diamonds, allowing us to have another say, which may be diamond support.

Needless to say, since we do not usually mention neither system played nor vulnerability with the BWTA, this particular hand probably should have been an exception.

With sophisticated bridge minds like the above correspondents around, we could be more informative, but in case you have any doubts, your audience is in the minority, instead of the majority, amongst our readers.

David WarheitMay 17th, 2013 at 11:52 pm

West can ruin Fantoni’s plans by playing the heart jack at trick two when Fantoni leads the heart 5. If he had done so, I think I would nominate his play for a major award, although there is a clue: what was Fantoni spending all that time thinking about?

Shantanu RastogiMay 18th, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Hi David

If West plays heart J then win with K in dummy take spade finesse. discard a diamond on spade ace and ruff a spade with heart 2. now play a diamond from dummy ducking any card that east plays. normally he would split diamond honour ie dont put King on that honour. now if west chooses to ruff that and play a trump win with 8 and ruff a diamond with 10 then come back to hand with club ruff remove trumps and claim. if west doesnt ruff and continues diamonds ruff in dummy remove trumps and claim. if east plays clubs ruff ruff the low diamond in dummy comeback to hand with a trump remove trumps and claim.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

Shantanu RastogiMay 18th, 2013 at 1:37 pm

oops-Cash a diamond honour before ruffing the spade.

Patrick CheuMay 18th, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Hi Shantanu,David,and Bobby,If Jh is played by West,win with KH,spade finsse n discard D on Ace of spades,ruff a spade,and play D from dummy preparing to insert 10D(double dummy),but win D if East splits honour, and exit with a low D!Prepares to ruff the third D and then draws trumps or ruff clubs back to hand pending West’s discards.If 10d holds then draw trumps and claim six making.Regards-Patrick

Patrick cheuMay 18th, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Hi Shantanu,David and Bobby,On reflection,win JH with KH,spade finesse,ace of spades discarding D fiom dummy,ruff a spade,and play D to Ace of Diamonds and exit with a low D(!) is better than finessing 10D on first round of diamonds which might lose to singleton JD or QD.Again preparing to ruff the third round of diamonds,all under control.Caters for singleton D in West’s hand by not cashing KD.Regards-Patrick.

Bobby WolffMay 18th, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Hi David, Shantanu, and Patrick with reprises from Shantanu and Patrick,

Forgive me for being late to the party, and only about one little hand, albeit a truly sensational one.

Without reacquainting myself with the entry problems and attempted foiling by the timely play of the jack of trumps from West, one can hardly condemn Fantoni from getting himself in time trouble by thoroughly thinking through his overall plan.

For years now, while being critical of frivolous waste of time brought about by wandering minds combined with lack of confidence, in a perfect bridge world, when a hand appears like the one which is being discussed here, the declarer, or perhaps next time a defender, should be allowed much slack before any admonition, much less a punitive penalty, be suggested.

To do otherwise, IMO, is to do bridge an injustice, since plays like what were made here, both the finesse of the seven, and the defensive counter, the rising with the jack, need to be carefully thought out (the duck, like in Groucho Marx’s quiz show, “You Bet Your Life” doesn’t fall from the ceiling to tell the player, “better think this through”).

Of course, before the arguments start, yes, subjectivity needs to occur, which in the minds and therefore hands, of the wrong people (perhaps too large a percent of us) leads to unfair things happening, but what is wrong in striving in the direction of perfection, insulting those who take advantage or are at least somewhat biased and political in making judgments?

Life is made up of trusting some, but not others, so why not go to the ones we know are always going to decide justly and with annotated reasons and precedents, but the reason being, like in our legal system, culprits who are on the wrong side of the case are always against the whole truth being told, especially when they have the best obfuscating lawyers (perhaps themselves) present.

BTW, in spite of my very loud and continuing voice for establishing precedents in our bridge legal system, the opposition continues to scream NAY! And so it goes.

My latest toot is that a hesitant defensive play needs to be handled differently than a break in tempo (BIT) during the bidding since, because a BIT during the bidding often conveys unauthorized information to partner (UI) which can be usually foreseen to happen by the one who hesitates, but in defense, at least in the usual case, a BIT, in most instances (but indeed sometimes) doesn’t involve itself with possibly influencing his partner. My opinion, at least currently and without unusual circumstances (such as having reason to know that by doing so partner will later make the right play or discard), defensive BIT’s should be allowed much slack.

Again, others also involved in the legal process, seem to ignore my plea, with the alternative in place of the committee having the power to do whatever they want with nothing, such as ultra transparent precedents, to stand in the way. Power, like money, eating and sex, ranks right up there in determining future solutions.

NoahApril 17th, 2014 at 4:11 pm

I do think you are dead on about the fear of someone else fidinng success away from Buffalo. I’ve never understood that mentality. I don’t even know what you’d call it? Civic self-importance? It sounds like the petty significant other that you always regret dating because they want you to fail because you broke up. But I can’t condemn anyone too much. If there’s a sports figure it’s understandable for people to get sentimental over, it’s Lindy, just because there were so many memorable moments and he was here for so long. I remember exactly what I was doing and where I was when I heard that he was hired. And that’s not because I love Lindy or he’s my hero or anything, but my entire young adulthood has been marked by his coaching tenure. And my hockey fandom has had such a big impact during that time period on my life.