Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, June 26th, 2015

Once you hear the details of victory, it is hard to distinguish it from a defeat.

Jean-Paul Sartre

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


When Netherlands played Poland in the European Championships last summer, the Poles snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in both rooms here. They defended four spades by North in one room on a heart lead, letting declarer pitch a club loser immediately. Next declarer cashed the top spades and gave up a club. West went in with the jack and played queen and another spade, and declarer unblocked the spade jack to win the trump in hand.

Now North needed only to take the diamond finesse to bring home her game. But she led low to the ace and was down four for -200. Better defense would have been for West to win the club at trick five and lead a heart to force dummy to ruff. Now declarer would have stood no chance.

In our featured room the Dutch South, Meike Wortel, played five diamonds doubled. Had West led either of her side’s suits she would have defeated the game, but she led a spade, interpreting her partner’s double of five diamonds as showing a spade void.

Wortel put up dummy’s 10, led a diamond to the jack, then cashed the ace. Next came a top spade followed by a heart to the ace and a heart ruff, a diamond to the queen and a second heart ruff.

Now she exited with a club and, after taking two tricks there, whichever defender was on lead was endplayed, East to give a ruff and discard, West to choose between that and leading into the spade tenace.

Your additional shape makes this well worth a jump to three spades. But do not be carried away into doing more; if your partner cannot raise to game now, you will surely not take 10 tricks. Worse, if you do jump to the four-level, you may find your partner taking you too seriously. Just for the record, with the diamond five the king, I would bid four diamonds to show this pattern in diamonds and spades.


♠ A K J 9
 A J 9 8 7 5
♣ 7 2
South West North East
1 Pass 1 ♠ 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


A.V.Ramana RaoJuly 10th, 2015 at 11:59 am

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
I feel that the declarer should have made 4S after the favorable lead. What is the necessity to cash A & K of spades in a hurry? To keep control declarer should finesse J of spades first round( after pitching a club on H of course) . Now if it wins, declarer can give up a diamond playing Diamond A and small for making the contract in comfort. However in this case, the finesse loses and W can either return a spade or shift to a club. If a club is returned and defense can continue either a club or a heart, declarer ruffs with A and plays diamond A and small giving up a trick to K ( Honestly —declarer must be praying for D K to be on his left either singleton or guarded so that he can take solace that even 5 D will not make on finesse) & now whatever defense does not matter as declarer is totally under control. Hope I have not missed anything . ( In whichever way you look at it, playing Spade A & K is not appealing. )

Bobby WolffJuly 10th, 2015 at 1:38 pm


No doubt you are correct in both your assessment of the play, and the logic behind why.

While I am not familiar with the particular players playing at the time, both countries, Poland and The Netherlands can easily field world class lineups, but what went brutally wrong here is certainly not specifically known by me and perhaps only proves the accuracy of Jean-Paul Sartre’s quote.

AVRR, start warming up on the sidelines, the coaches are about to send you in.

Bill CubleyJuly 10th, 2015 at 3:10 pm

Omar Sharif has died. Maybe we can see some of his hands in 2 weeks. I remember a note in a San Francisco National where some woman wrote, “Omar Sharif, I am in room 1702”

Bobby WolffJuly 10th, 2015 at 3:36 pm

Hi Bill,

Yes, since rising this morning and, of course, following internet news I have indeed become sad upon learning about it and recalling how down deep he was such a good man, with great instincts and well learned emotions about living life.

He absolutely loved bridge, perhaps as much as anyone I have ever known, learned to play while waiting, sometimes many hours upon countless movie sets, and always considered acting his profession, but bridge his “passion”.

A real competitor who specialized within the human side of the game and yet he was very proficient in the technical side as well and, for at least when I was around, always made many sacrifices for the game itself, by making sure his time when playing the game benefited the lore and entertainment of its future, more than his personal conveniences and preferences.

I was amazed at how, after leaving his life in Paris to move back to Cairo (perhaps 25 years ago) he continued to be so active in the entertainment industry. His obituary mentioned Alzheimer’s disease, but then went on to say how active he was recently in making various type films.

He will certainly remain in my mind as one who reached the pinnacle in success, yet gave back more, at least as much as he received.

Please forgive my rant, but in truth he was quite a man, not without flaws, but who can deny that fact not always accompanying anyone who truly has lived a long and multi varied life.

Iain ClimieJuly 10th, 2015 at 10:27 pm

Hi Bobby, Bill,

Sorry to hear about Omar Sharif but I’m surprised by reports that he had Alzheimer’s. He still had a column in the UK’s Observer newspaper on Sundays and there are also suggestions that mental stimulants (bridge, chess and crosswords are obvious examples) can help reduce the effects.

I only met him once at a tournament in Switzerland in 1979 when he played with Paul Chemla. He was politeness personified and it was a memorable couple of hands. Somehow we managed to beat his team (Sharif, Chemla, Mari and Perron) in the teams, albeit only over a 4 board match with truly weird scoring – part point a board (but + or – 10 didn’t count as a difference) part The ratio of the teams net scores, all turned into VPs. As pard and I beat 6N by M & P, while our pair bid and made a suit slam, the win looked quite good. All very sad, though, and a reminder that life has to be lived not put off by more and more everyday drudgery.



Bobby WolffJuly 11th, 2015 at 1:39 am

Hi Iain,

Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane.

That French team was always a credit to our game. Wonderful players, superior ethics, and all good guys. Yes, the game you were playing was using that weird European invention, aka (I think) the Butler scoring system involving a little dab of IMPs, matchpoints and BAM. Kudos to you and your team for your many splendored victory.

Omar lived a number of years in Paris, before eventually returning to his roots in Cairo.

Also good advice about time, passing fancies, and living life.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 11th, 2015 at 5:37 am


I had not seen all the above comments until late this evening. I, too, was saddened to learn of Omar’s passing as I choose to envision him as a young dark haired handsome devil. Hard to recognize him in the recent photo which accompanied his obituary. This morning I also paid tribute to him on my own site .. called ‘Losing Omar.’ I am in the process of searching for a special photo of me with Omar taken when The Circus visited Philly back in 1970. When (and if) I locate it, the viewers will understand why I will treasure it. It was a shocking moment I will never forget!