Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, March 16th, 2017

It is a maxim that those to whom everybody allows the second place have an undoubted title to the first.

Jonathan Swift

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

*strong **12+ balanced


Once at national tournaments there was only one serious event taking place at any one time. These days, secondary events generally run opposite the main tournament. These may for example, be for Seniors, or those with a limited number of masterpoints.

In Reno last spring when the final round of the Swiss Teams for those with fewer than 10,000 masterpoints began, there were three teams in contention for first place. Jerry Stamatov’s team finished second, thanks to this deal. For the record, after the artificial start to the auction, an exchange of natural calls followed by cuebidding had seen South reach the top spot.

Stamatov won the lead of the diamond 10 in hand, drew two rounds of trump to find the bad but not fatal news, then needed to reduce his spade holding in hand to play for a trump coup.

He played ace, king and a third club, ruffed as East followed suit. A diamond to the ace, and a diamond ruff saw East pitch a heart. Now came the heart king and a heart to the ace, and when East followed suit declarer was home in the three-card ending.

On the lead of the diamond jack, if East ruffed, Stamatov would over-ruff, draw the last trump and claim. If East discarded, declarer would pitch his heart, then lead a plain card from dummy, and East’s apparent trump trick would vanish.

In the other room they played seven no-trump down three, for a huge swing to Stamatov’s team.

Balance with one no-trump, a call for which the range is 11-14 (give or take a point). With more, you’d start by doubling then bidding one no-trump. The logic is that you must reopen with balanced minimums or the opponents steal you blind. Hence the range for balancing must be less than a full strong no-trump.


♠ 9 3
 A Q 6 4
 A J 5 2
♣ K 9 6
South West North East
  1 ♣ 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 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


bobby wolffMarch 30th, 2017 at 2:49 pm

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the horrible error and therefore confusion in the presentation. Why this happened I cannot say, except it is very embarrassing.

Back to bridge and to answer a query before it is made, that is the consideration of finessing for the ten of spades, after West plays the jack to the first high spade by declarer.
This is NOT an example of Restricted Choice as originally thought to be first promulgated and then named by Terence Reese (many years ago).

The reason is that West might have J10x and thought it wise (I agree) to falsecard. When a player does have that option, his play leaves the realm of having to play one of the honors (J10 doubleton) and becomes only an intended ruse, not an isolated choice.

Jeff SMarch 30th, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Beautiful play by declarer. There were a couple of bids I didn’t understand though. I expected a 4C bid instead of 4D and I also wasn’t sure why North bid 6NT. I thought South was asking for cheapest king.

As always, a huge thank you for all the time you (and others) devote to the comment section! Not to mention the column itself.

Bobby WolffMarch 30th, 2017 at 5:07 pm

Hi Jeff S,

First, thanks much for your compliments. They even mean more to me, after the above confusing, to say the least, presentation.

I’ll merely guess why those two specific bids (4 diamonds by South, instead of 4 clubs, and 6NT by North., rather than 6 clubs).

South may have feared 4 clubs would be taken as Gerber (asking for aces) instead of a cue bid (which he intended) and then North was unsure that 5NT asked for kings up the line and bid what he thought was a practical 6NT.

Such is life, even in the highly charged expert bridge world and when real hands, not manufactured ones, are reproduced. However, I may be as wrong as a person can be, and the players involved were merely bidding what they thought were correct at the time.

“That’s the glory of, that’s the gory of bridge”.

JRGMarch 30th, 2017 at 5:38 pm

I fixed the formatting error in the auction. I must have missed it when I originally posted the column — my program that converts from newspaper format to website format occasionally introduces small errors.

I apologize for not catching it when I proof-read the result. Not sure why I missed it, it should have jumped out at me.

Bobby WolffMarch 30th, 2017 at 6:12 pm


No doubt you are the best.

Furthermore, your skills are multi-varied and not in the quiver of most combatants.

A special overload of thanks for bailing us out
and making great tasting applesauce out of whatever trouble you inherit.

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 30th, 2017 at 11:43 pm

More like strawberry shortcake!!

Scotty DawgMarch 31st, 2017 at 12:48 am

I really enjoy your site and insight, your columns brighten my morning.

Forgive my ignorance on this, but I haven’t played for years and am only now taking it back up. On the bidding problem at the bottom, I thought that a 1NT bid would show only 6-10 points. Is it different on a 1C bid? Knowing the difference would certainly improve my game.

Bobby WolffMarch 31st, 2017 at 4:11 am

Hi Scotty Dawg,

Welcome to our site and thank you for your very kind words. You will get to know some very good and enthusiastic fellow players right here, if you tune in often.

You would be exactly right about the 6-10 range for a 1NT response by the one club bidder’s partner, but with the above Bid with the Aces question is instead asking about South’s bid, one of the opening bidder’s opponents. A 4th seat balance (so-called bid by the last opponent to speak) usually requires about 12-15 high card points, along with a balanced hand and, of course, usually having his left hand opponent’s suit stopped.

Therefore we suggest the 1NT bid by that player.

Good bridge luck to you and hope you continue paying us visits.

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