Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, May 12th, 2017

Golf is a good walk spoiled.

Mark Twain

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


Arnold Palmer, who died last year, was a keen bridge player. His go-for-broke style was applied not only on the golf-course, but also in business, and equally, he also tended to go all out at the bridge table.

Here, when Palmer’s partner jumped to four hearts, he used Blackwood, then went all the way to seven no-trump. In that contract either a diamond or heart finesse would be necessary, but the heart finesse on its own would not suffice. However, after the seven no-trump call, West had hitched, which helped Palmer decide to play him for the missing high-cards. So rather than take the diamond finesse – in abstract the best chance — Palmer played to squeeze West.

After a club lead, he took the club winners and the diamond ace then ran the spades. On the last spade, West was toast. If he discarded a heart, Palmer would pitch the diamond from dummy, finesse in hearts, and cash the diamond queen. If West discarded the diamond king, Palmer could let go a heart from dummy and finesse in hearts.

One of my readers, Peter Peng, a golfer and bridge player who has returned to the game after a 20-year layoff, had Palmer autograph the bridge book by my old boss Ira Corn, in which this play was first described. Corn, you will recall was responsible for assembling the Aces bridge team. At the end of 2016 the St. Petersburg Bridge Club auctioned the book, with the proceeds going to a children’s home.

There is a lot to be said for rebidding your hearts, since the opponents are quite likely to raise spades at their next turn. Therefore, this might be your last chance to do so comfortably. Unless your partner doubles the opponents in game, I would not intend to defend here. Instead at my next turn I will raise clubs if given the chance.


♠ Q
 A Q J 9 8 3
 Q J 8
♣ Q 8 2
South West North East
1 Pass 2 ♣ 2 ♠

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


Bruce karlsonMay 26th, 2017 at 10:14 am

Also a sign of a great partnership: can anyone imagine facing partner after blowing a cold slam by refusing the obvious finesse? My regular partner and I are native New Yorkers so it would be a source of good natured “busting” but that would hardly be universal.

jim2May 26th, 2017 at 11:21 am

I am unsure of the following column text:

“If he discarded a heart, Palmer would pitch the diamond from dummy, finesse in hearts, and cash the diamond queen. If West discarded the diamond king, Palmer could let go a heart from dummy and finesse in hearts.”

I think the position is the following 4-card ending:

——- North
—— –
—— AQJ
—— Q
—— –



——- South
—— A
—— x
—— 104
—— –

On the last spade:

1) If West pitches the KD, then declarer pitches the QD from Dummy, cashes the 10D, and finesses in hearts.
2) If West pitches a heart, then declarer pitches the QD from dummy, finesses in hearts, and drops West’s KH so the last heart honor is good.

Bobby WolffMay 26th, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Hi Bruce,

First, welcome back since it has been a lonely while, since last you wrote.

Ironically, especially in bridge where the emotional mind is more likely than in physical sports to be taken down by “busting” partner for a costly mistake.

Obviously, because of the disappointment, it often happens, but when it does and by your side, your partnership is more likely to suffer another disaster quite soon after.

It would be wise, not to mention, a move in the right direction, to only communicate with partner after either a good result, or perhaps even just a “close call”, rather than after a “costly” occurrence. (that is, of course, without a sign of your opponents being able to think, you are gloating, possibly after either with you or your opponents having left the table).

We hope to get you back in the swing of providing your usual helpful and practical bridge questions and answers and, of course, your experiences.

Bobby WolffMay 26th, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks for doing my work for me by setting the table for the final victory thrust. Clarity is never to be underrated, if, for no other reason, than convenience for the reader.

Jeff SMay 26th, 2017 at 3:54 pm

I played it the same way Jim2 did, dropping the QD either way and cashing the 10D if it was good (while discarding the JH) and then taking the finesse or taking the finesse and then dropping the KH before cashing the JH if West kept the KD.

In the column, if West keeps the KD, we drop the QD and if he drops the KD, we discard the JH. Which also works!

jim2May 27th, 2017 at 3:32 am

The column text has declarer cashing the QD at the end when West pitches a heart. I think it was supposed to be QH.

Bobby WolffMay 27th, 2017 at 4:39 am

Hi Jim2,

Yes hearts and diamonds are both red so, especially on this hand, whatever red cards which become good need to be cashed. Picky, picky!

Sorry for the error, but it’s like driving almost 400 yards to within 2 feet of the cup and then missing the putt. Arnold would understand.