Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, January 1st, 2015

Oh, 'tis a glorious thing, I ween,
To be a regular Royal Queen!
No half-and-half affair I mean,
But a regular Royal Queen!

W. S. Gilbert

North North
Neither ♠ A 10 6
 A 4
 K 10 9 7
♣ A 10 7 6
West East
♠ J 9 8 3 2
 K 7 2
 6 4 3 2
♣ 9
♠ —
 Q J 10 9 8 6
 A Q 8 5
♣ Q 8 5
♠ K Q 7 5 4
 5 3
♣ K J 4 3 2
South West North East
1 NT 2*
2 NT** 3 Pass Pass
3♠ Pass 4♠ Pass
Pass Dbl. All pass  

*Hearts and a minor



On this board from a recent US Women's trials Kerri Sanborn proved herself up to the task of bringing home a tricky game. Her call of two no-trumps was artificial, designed to sign off in a minor or invite in spades, and when she showed the invitational hand, Juanita Chambers had enough to raise to game.

In the open room, four spades had also been bid, after East-West had bid up to four hearts. It was not doubled, and went two down. However, when Sanborn was declarer, the heart two was led to the ace. Sanborn then carefully played a spade to hand, getting the bad news.

Now life looks very straightforward if you can find the club queen, but that is not so. Sanborn continued with a spade to the 10, then cashed the spade ace and had to take a view on the club position. East’s failure to raise to four hearts implied that she was not 6-5, accordingly she was more likely to hold three clubs.

So Sanborn played an immediate club to the jack, and when it held, she could play off the spade king (discarding a blocking club from dummy, a move that is also critical to making the hand) and be one step ahead of the defense. East-West could take only their spade, heart and diamond tricks. Notice that if declarer plays ace and a second club at an early point in the hand, West gets two ruffs and beats the contract.

Despite the attractive prospects this hand held when you picked it up, the hand has turned to ashes. With no obvious spade or club fit having emerged, since you have neither aces, nor any fit for diamonds, you should pass two diamonds, and hope to make it.


♠ K Q 7 5 4
 5 3
♣ K J 4 3 2
South West North East
Pass 1 Pass
1♠ Pass 2 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJanuary 15th, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Hi Bobby,

What if west leads a club at T1? South wins, plays SK, S to 10, SA as before then a diamond off table. East wins but plays the HQ. Dummy wins (say) but declarer is losing control or walking into 2C ruffs. So the HQ has to be ducked as a scissors coup, then take HA and play a club, with a diamond ruff as a reentry to hand to draw the last trump and throw a blocking club.

Back to yesterdays chat – I think my biggest error was trying to be a good player instead of trying to play well and to help lard to do so. This sounds picky but may not be.



Iain ClimieJanuary 15th, 2015 at 12:57 pm

A quick afterthought – does the diamond play then the heart duck count as a double scissors coup?

bobby wolffJanuary 15th, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Hi Iain,

You have already succeeded in becoming a very good player. Going beyond that is dependent on how fate blends in with determining what happens next.

I sincerely believe that I perhaps played my best, or at least in the most dashing and imaginative way when I was perhaps in my early thirties, but since then have improved with experience, but somewhat dulled with less enthusiasm and competitive instinct.

Who said “Life is what you make it” since whoever did was definitely on point. Since bridge, being a mind game, not a physical one, lends itself to many more years of potential upside with taught logical and cooperative thinking with partner which, in turn makes it truly a game for a lifetime and is just another reason why much of Europe and all of China are so right on in securing the teaching of it in all their schools.

Back to you and yes, it is not only helpful, but perhaps necessary to have a goal of leading one’s country into a bridge World Championship requiring at least 8+ enthusiastic players (6 players, a captain and a coach) who do whatever is required to gain previous experience of playing against better players than themselves, feeling and then learning their way of knowing what to expect from worthy adversaries who, at least at that point know everything you know about the game and, because of their experience, more.

On your other subject of helping partner, there is a normal fine line between partners or anyone closely associated with playing bridge in not trying to prove oneself better from the start, but rather relaxing in as cooperative a manner as possible and let that unnecessary fact eventually prove itself with others, not the competitors themselves, making that decision.

It seems to be that the above poisoned flowers encountered, along with many other competitive instances which become the enemy of any one pair, one team, or even one giant effort toward in sometimes simply quashing that enterprise almost before it starts.

I think the overall character of the potential players involved is most responsible for its success, nothing more, nothing less.

Finally naming a particular rare combination of plays is strictly (or should be) up to anyone who either executes or spots one. Might we just call it a Climie coup instead of double scissors? Certainly should, at least in front of our own special bridge site who now, because of you, are familiar with one.

Iain ClimieJanuary 15th, 2015 at 5:18 pm

Hi again Bobby,

A very kind suggestion, and definitely beating my less effective ploy of counting 14 diamonds in the pack about once every few months. Also better than the Gerbil Coup – I used to play friendly games at lunchtime in work with a small fluffy haired Yorkshireman (hence the nickname) who was prepared to take flak to try and improve. Twice in a week he ran off dummy’s long suit prematurely, putting his own hand through the shredder at the end. I could see what was happening but could only watch and wince as a look of growing horror suddenly appeared on his face. A nice guy, though, who deserved better.