Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 20th, 2015

Honest unaffected distrust of human abilities under all circumstances is the surest sign of strength of mind.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

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


At the bridge table, you soon find out that some people are inherently untrustworthy… but sometimes with the best will in the world you have to believe Zia Mahmood… don’t you?

In a recent Lederer Teams tournament John Mohan protected in the West seat after the opponents’ bidding had died in two spades. Zia’s bid of three clubs might not have been the majority choice, but it created a bit of excitement. Victor Silverstone didn’t double three clubs with his minimum hand, so Zia never got to demonstrate that his three clubs had been merely lead-directional.

Mohan obediently led a club against three spades. Left to his own devices Silverstone would almost certainly have made the contract, playing East for the spade queen and West for the diamond ace and the heart king-jack. Indeed, there is little else he can do, and both Vlad Isporski for the Spring Foursomes Winners and David Horton for Australia made nine tricks in spades in this way. However Zia won the club lead with the king and switched to the heart two!

From Silverstone’s point of view this was clearly a singleton, so he rejected the spade finesse and cashed the trump ace and king, getting the bad news. He exited with a club to the ace and Zia played the heart three, by now, a real singleton.

Silverstone won in dummy and led a spade. Zia went up with the queen, played a diamond to his partner’s ace and Mohan had no difficulty giving Zia his heart ruff for down one.

Unless you have a specific agreement to the contrary, the call of two no-trump is invitational but not forcing, suggesting 10-11 high cards and just four spades. You have a minimum in high cards but a hand that you would guess would play much better in spades than in no-trump, so retreat to three spades.


♠ A K J 8
 8 6 5
 J 7
♣ Q J 6 5
South West North East
1 ♣ Pass 1 ♠ Pass
2 ♠ Pass 2 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Yasser HaiderJuly 4th, 2015 at 11:25 am

Hi Bobby
Should South not be doubling 3C after his partner’s redouble (and leading a club). Surely that shows a good raise to spades based on values.

Bobby WolffJuly 4th, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Hi Yasser,

And welcome to our bridge site.

In answer to your bridge question, technically yes, but practically, at best marginally.

Add that to who South was playing against, Zia and his expert partner, John Mohan, and soon they would run to 3 diamonds and although that, due to a favorable heart position for NS (and an unlucky club duplication for EW), still could be set only one trick.

No doubt, North had full values (in my estimation, too much for only a 2 spade raise) but some excellent partnerships blaze their own trails, mostly by being unpredictable, and, of course, Zia Mahmood & his various partners, likely head the list in that category.

IMO, and in a very high-level game, one’s opponents need to be taken into consideration and in this case a penalty double of three clubs by South may set in motion a penalty double by partner when and if (100% certain on this hand), EW runs to a red suit.

Yes, a then game of cat & mouse often occurs, but, if so, especially when the mouse is named Zia, strange results sometime follow and probably most of them favor that famous cartoon character Jerry and not the cat AKA, Tom.

None of the above is intended as a total endorsement (or even close) of that method as a means of playing bridge in the best possible manner (mainly because of the unrest and unpredictability it causes everyone at the table), but at the very least, it is entertaining.