Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 13th, 2016

Think nothing done while aught remains to do.

Samuel Rogers

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

*Puppet to two no-trump

**Setting spades as trump


You don’t see a 20 IMP swing very often, but this one came up in the round of 16 in the US Trials last May. In one room Jeff Aker reached the grand slam in spades. Matthew Granovetter led a trump and Aker won the jack with his ace, played a club to the king, and cashed the ace. A trump to hand followed and a club was ruffed.

Then came another trump to hand and three rounds of diamonds, pitching a heart from hand.

West couldn’t keep the heart guard and the diamond guard so he discarded a heart. In order to retain his club guard East had to pitch a heart. So Aker took the last two tricks with the heart ace and 10.

This was a very elegant solution, but note that Aker could have disdained the squeeze and simply ruffed a second club in dummy. Had he done that, he would have needed to cash two rounds of diamonds and ruff a diamond to hand. He was likely concerned that an early round of diamonds could be ruffed, but with the appearance of the spade jack at trick one, the queen and 10 were the two highest trumps out, so he was safe except against a 6-1 diamond break.

This rated to be a decent pickup, but in the other room, a bidding accident led to an unappetizing final contract of six no-trump. When West led the diamond jack declarer missed the best line. Had he played off all the spades and diamonds, East would have been caught in a heart-club squeeze.

Switch the clubs and spades and I guess I double or pass, the latter being the action the purists would approve of, I know. As it is, though, overcalling one spade on a four-card suit is the best way to get into the auction quickly, relatively safely, and effectively.


♠ A K Q 10
 K 4 3
 7 3
♣ 8 5 4 2
South West North East

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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


slarMay 27th, 2016 at 8:30 pm

Here’s a rules question.

all NV (2D)p(2H)2S;(3H)p(4H)4S;(X)AP down 3

After the hand was over, declarer claimed that the defense passed and did not double and refused to accept the -500 score. Both defenders were adamant that opener doubled. Advancer/dummy was oblivious, partially distracted by the fact that he didn’t get a chance to double the opponents with 0 HCPs and 6 hearts. The director was summoned but failed to calm the situation. Things escalated to the point that cries of ZT were heard from a neighboring table.

I found nothing in the rulebook governing this situation but I don’t know it backwards and forwards yet.


jim2May 27th, 2016 at 11:01 pm

I am not Our Host, but — IIRC — the final contract is written down before the opening lead is made.

Presumably, all at the table see what was written. Personally, on that bidding, 4S sounds like a save attempt.

bobby wolffMay 27th, 2016 at 11:34 pm

Hi Slar & Jim2,

Only a judgment call by first the TD, then the Appeals committee should the TD ruling be appealed.

What the defender hands looked like, especially for the one who doubled, becomes an integral factor, plus the reputation, if any (good, bad or mediocre) of the whole table.

It could, probably is, a valid controversy where both sides think they are right, but only one side could be.

Yes, it is more orderly for the contract to be written down somewhere (CC or score slip), but if not someone has to make the decision. BTW I would expect a later committee to ratify the decision of the TD, since at least he was there, so to overrule him with no special evidence is not good form.

And life goes on!

ClarksburgMay 28th, 2016 at 12:01 am

In addition to, but separate from, the Director’s judgement call to protect these Pairs and the Field what about a Director’s procedural Penalty deducted from both sides’ scores for the game (not for this Board).
After all they are both guilty of failing to agree on what the contract was.
And since North is supposed to be responsible for running the table, seems NS should suffer a somewhat larger penalty. How about 1/2 a top against NS and 1/4 top against EW ?

slarMay 28th, 2016 at 12:12 am

FWIW, I was opener/doubler and had T97/K2/A98762/K7. With a good 10-count and partner’s natural response, the double was pretty automatic. In fact, partner said he would double if I didn’t. The final scores were just posted and the doubled score did hold.

I did have the contract written in my scoresheet but the director did not ask to look at it.

bobby wolffMay 28th, 2016 at 12:23 am

Hi Clarksburg,

Your suggested procedural penalty for failure to communicate is possible, but if both sides really thought they were right, why would there be a culprit, but only a justifiable difference of opinion?

Yes, if unnecessarily harsh words or worse were present, I do not disagree with that possibility, but I would try and avoid making things worse for them than they are already.

However, others may agree or disagree, but the goal is always what is best for the game itself, not particularly the players playing it.

bobby wolffMay 28th, 2016 at 12:29 am

Hi Slar,

Congratulations on being believed. Yes, from what you showed me of the one hand, that hand would (should) double and apparently they ruled that way.

Also the auction calls for action (either double or bid 5 hearts) so almost a slam dunk ruling.

It also is nice to hear that more often than one might think, justice is done so therefore, the game itself, is the victor.

Hallelujah, at least until the next squabble.

slarMay 28th, 2016 at 3:16 am

Thanks, guys!

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