Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, March 14th, 2015

Life is a long preparation for something that never happens.

W. B. Yeats

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

*Pick a slam


In today’s slam South saw at once that he was very well placed to make 12 tricks. All he needed was four spade tricks, so he intended to cash the spade queen and finesse the 10 as a safety play on the second round of the suit, protecting himself against a five-one spade break with West having the length.

Accordingly he won the opening lead in hand and took the spade queen and led a second spade toward dummy. When West discarded, it was time for a new plan.

South took the spade king, then played off the king and queen of clubs, followed by the king and queen of diamonds. East followed suit both times in each suit, so now South had to commit himself.

Since his combined holding in hearts was longer than in either minor, and West’s opening lead had suggested length there, South mentally crossed his fingers and took his remaining high heart, which had the effect of squeezing East into letting go something he did not want to part with. Not surprisingly he chose a small diamond, which seemed safe enough. But South now took the diamond ace, forcing East to pitch a club. That allowed South to play off dummy’s remaining club honor, reducing dummy and East down to just three spades each. At this point declarer led a low spade from the board, forcing East to win and lead into dummy’s spade tenace at trick 12.

You should re-open with a double here, showing extra values with at least tolerance for the unbid suit, diamonds. There is, I admit, a possibility that your partner may believe you have better hearts than you do, but if your partner bids two hearts you can worry about that on the next round of the auction.


♠ A K 10 7 2
 7 5
 A K 3
♣ A 7 3
South West North East
  1♣ Pass 1
1♠ 2♣ Pass 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


David WarheitMarch 28th, 2015 at 9:59 am

At the end of the hand, E was sobbing uncontrollably. “What’s the matter?” he was asked. “The other day at the casino I had a full house, aces over tens, and lost to a straight flush. Just now I held all of 2 high card points and was squeezed and endplayed. I’m the unluckiest person in the world.”

Minor typo: W’s opening lead is the HQ, not the CQ.

Iain ClimieMarch 28th, 2015 at 10:41 am

Hi David,

I like the hand and your comment. M & Ms in the UK (or something very similar) used to be called Treets and the marketing campaign (based on the hard outer shell plus presumably an attempted hard sell) was “Treets melt in your mouth not in your hand”. The subsequent joke (He’s so unlucky that Treet’s melt in his hand) would therefore appear to apply to East here.

A British sitcom also featured a character called Unlucky Alf who would be similar. Imagine Mollo’s Karapet being dogged in everyday life by what happened to him at the bridge table and you get the idea.



bobby wolffMarch 28th, 2015 at 10:46 am

Hi David,

2nd things first in regard to what you lovingly described as a minor typo. Inexcusable and not easy to trace the source, but my team has to find a way to prevent such disasters from happening. We have already instigated a final proofing before publishing, but this hand has obviously slipped through the process to which we again apologize. Eventually and necessary right away to find a fix to which we will give every effort.

Yes, a very good declarer or defender often leaves sadness in his wake. In competition it seems to demand one side being happy and the other not. Not altogether perfect, but one of the ground rules and good sportsmen seem to love the process.

Thanks for your very real analogy, which through the years, rings so true.

Michael BeyroutiMarch 28th, 2015 at 10:50 am

What happens if East throws a spade when declarer cashes the remaining high heart? I think that this is a better discard than a diamond…

bobby wolffMarch 28th, 2015 at 11:43 am

Hi Michael,

Then declarer goes back to the diamond in dummy, awaiting East’s discard, which if a club, then the high club is led in dummy before the spade endplay, but if a spade then a spade is led, awaiting East’s club return as the bridge (excuse the expression) to the good spade left in dummy.

In regard to your use of the word “better”, yes, it may be possible, depending on East’s specific minor suit lengths to fool the declarer into doing the wrong thing, but most bridge columns are more happy than they are sad.

A necessary key to that minor suit ending is to keep entries to the 3rd lead of each minor in the dummy so he can zig and zag on his way to success.

bobby wolffMarch 28th, 2015 at 11:56 am

Hi Iain,

Yes, both Victor Mollo and Skippy Simon, while both superior bridge writers, also had glorious insights into human nature usually profiling very average (or below) bridge playing characters trying to make their way at the bridge table.

While the Hideous Hog and the Unlucky Expert were both good technicians, Mollo’s Hog was far superior to Simon’s UE in bridge humanics and therefore hardly ever lost compared to the other who looked for and always found a way to not use his table presence effectively.

This sensational difference, at least IMO, is evident on a daily basis at every bridge club and at every bridge tournament, held throughout the world in all forms of our beautiful game.