Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Martin Luther King Jr

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

*11-13 balanced or 17+


Today’s deal occurred in the European Championships from Hungary last year. In the match between England and Ireland (where there is always something more at stake than just victory points) both tables reached four spades when the first five bids were identical in both rooms. For England, David Bakhshi as West elected to try for the vulnerable game, and bid five hearts. When dummy appeared, he must have had high hopes. However after a spade lead and a diamond switch from South, ruffed by North, the 4-1 trump split took him one down, for 100 to Ireland.

In the other room the Irish West tried for a vulnerable penalty and doubled four spades. What would you have led with his hand? Hugh McGann made the right decision when he started with a trump, realizing the only way declarer could scramble any tricks was by a cross-ruff. Andrew Robson won in hand and slid the diamond nine on to the table.

When West fell from grace and played a small card, South let it run. East could win and return a trump, but declarer was now able to find a way home. He could ruff two diamonds in dummy, and the fall of the ace and queen meant he could establish the suit for 790 and a 12 IMP pick-up.

If West covers the first diamond, careful defense after that will allow East to regain the lead with the club ace and play a second trump, and now the defense prevails.

Despite your limited high cards, you are well worth a jump to four diamonds. This is an unusual application of the rule that in forcing auctions an unnecessary jump sets partner’s suit as trump and promises shortness in the bid suit. This is known as a splinter bid, and might be one of the most useful slam tools to be employed by the expert community.


♠ J 7 5 3
 Q 7 3 2
♣ Q 7 6 5 3
South West North East
    2 ♣ Pass
2 Pass 2 ♠ 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


Iain ClimieJune 27th, 2017 at 11:09 am

Hi Bobby,

An old friend of mine used to ask “Where was your trump trick?” after such events, but poor West. How could he really anticipate going minus with that lot? It is the most painful awakening I’ve seen since I first saw the Duke of Cumberland hand. Allegedly form whist days, but also used in Iain Flemming’s Moonraker, you hold AKQJ AKQJ AK KJ9 and the oppo are in 7C (or the whist equivalent). No prizes for guessing what happens next as they have voids all over the shop and the hand on your left has 8 diamonds to the queen and CAQ10xx.

I wonder how many bridge players not quite having the mental fortitude (or warped humour) required to cope with such an event have given up the game as a result of such occurrences. Can you think of anyone you’ve met who cracked in this way?



Iain ClimieJune 27th, 2017 at 11:15 am

PS Names obviously not required!

Alex AlonJune 27th, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Speaking of painful outcomes. I played at 1/4 final Israeli cup once and the bidding started at my left with 1H, 2D from responder and they reached 7NT from the opener hand. I held in Diamonds AQ so doubled a Lightner double. My partner though very long time and led a spade. They had 13 tricks without diamonds … We didn’t reached 1/2 final by few imps .
Alex Alon

Bobby WolffJune 27th, 2017 at 4:10 pm

Hi Iain,

As usual, “right-on” with your psychological analysis.

To both EWs suffering, one going one down in 5 hearts, when oft times a heart slam will make ((as will a diamond) but then paying off to 4 spades doubled in the other room (aided by the tiny defensive mistake which loomed larger than life) is enough to see some grown men cry, especially in what must have been a grudge match (as likely always) between England and Ireland.

No doubt, with so many years (and decades) of bridge matches behind me, results of either types of what happened to those above EWs tended, for most to, and in a material way, adversely effect the rest of that session for them and sometimes even the rest of that match.

For some, when those hands are scored, meant a negative interruption in their thought process, making it wise for a competent bridge captain to rest them ASAP (assuming they had a three partnership team).

No doubt, like so much other highly emotional competition (especially mental) minds of humans cope infinitely better with success than failure.

In bridge, perhaps especially, partnerships need to be prepared to accept bad luck and as I believe Rudyard Kipling once brilliantly said about “triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same”.

Thanks for reminding us all of how important mental discipline needs to be, in order to be and remain a champion.

Bobby WolffJune 27th, 2017 at 4:28 pm

Hi Alex,

Thanks for contributing a real life example of a still very painful bridge disaster in your past.

No doubt and unfortunately you will remember that sad episode forever. Perhaps Martin Luthor King Jr’s significant quote atop today’s hand was also either directly or indirectly referring to friends sometimes being much too silent when incredibly necessary and just causes are in the offing.

At least to me, bridge competition does mirror real life
and needs to be taught to children during their early years, basically representing other mind related fierce battles, to eventually, if not sooner, to follow.