Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Respect was mingled with surprise,
And the stern joy which warriors feel
In foemen worthy of their steel.

Sir Walter Scott

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

You decide!

The Cavendish Pairs has traditionally been run as a five-session event in which every pair plays each of the other pairs. But the 1999 Cavendish featured the experiment of dividing the pool into a final event and consolation event after the first two days, followed by a one-day final. Three pairs were fighting it out for the big prize with a couple of rounds to go, and one of those three was Billy Cohen and Ron Smith. However, with a couple of rounds to go, Smith and Cohen dropped out of contention — and this board cost them blood.

Kerri and Steve Sanborn play a hyperaggressive style of pre-empting, hence Steve’s choice of opening. Cohen might have contented himself with a call of three spades, but when he jumped to four spades, that persuaded his partner to look for slam. The two cue-bids did not drive the partnership completely overboard, but it did get them to a dangerous spot.

The success of the contract would hinge on the opening lead, and there is scarcely a more attractive lead than a singleton in partner’s suit, but Kerri had been listening to the auction, and — more importantly — she knew her spade trick would not run away. She unerringly led a heart, and the defense cashed their two heart tricks and had an inevitable trump winner to come to defeat the contract and hand their opponents a crushing blow.

How will you stop the opponents from bidding their game or slam in spades? The baby psyche of three spades might well work; even a three-no-trump call might silence the opponents. The simple raise to four hearts might persuade them to stop in four spades. You can take your pick – and remember to be suspicious of your opponents in this position if you have the strong hand in fourth chair!


♠ 10
 A 9 6
 Q J 10 9 8 5
♣ 9 7 6
South West North East
3 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 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieMay 29th, 2013 at 11:52 am

Hi Bobby,

I’m ashamed to say that 1999’s hyper-aggressive style of pre-empting is probably similar (or slightly safer) than mine today – I’d regard that East hand as quite a good pre-empt at favourable and first in hand, feckless fool that I often am. I feel the ace and robust suit compensate for the lack of a 7th trump, and is the hand often that much worse than (say) DKJ9xxxx and a side Q, where few would quibble in this position and vulnerability?

NS were unlucky though – the CAKQ were utterly wasted. Give North the HK instead of these 3 cards and thingds are very different.



Bobby WolffMay 29th, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Hi Iain,

Methinks there is much reason in what you say, as a body or thought, not just a specific area.

Yes, I agree with you about opening NV preempts and the good versus risk rewards which often accrue.

Kerry Sanborn, a USA top woman player for which now is for many years, had the smarts, derring-do, and downright courage to chance the criticism of not leading her singleton in partner’s suit, because of the bidding and her respect for her particular opponents.

Yes, light preempts, which both you and I recommend, sometimes cause havoc and in this case, took away enough bidding room to entice their worthy opponents to an what turned out to be a dangerous level in the bidding, but only Kerry’s bridge IQ was able to make them pay.

Such is the nature of our marvelous game, and while it may be true that unsuccessful attempts at brilliant opening leads do not always work, when they do, and on an appropriate large stage, they appear in neon lights.

Playing high level bridge is truly inspiring and when innovation achieves success, it is worth writing about.

Thanks for your endorsement of light NV preempts which was a significant factor in making this hand worth reporting.