Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Oh, Vanity of vanities!
   How wayward the decrees of Fate are;
How very weak the very wise,
   How very small the very great are!

William Thackeray

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


At the 2016 junior world championships held in Salsomaggiore, this deal occurred during the quarter-final match between the Sweden and Norway juniors.

Mikael and Ola Rimstedt, who are rapidly making their way to becoming one of the world’s top young pairs, bid this hand to three no-trump. The one diamond opener was natural and unbalanced, the two no-trump call showed extras with long diamonds, the three diamond call suggested a minimum hand with only four hearts.

Against three no-trump, Christian Bakke led a low spade; this went to the eight, jack and ace. Now declarer led a spade to the 10, and took a losing diamond finesse, East’s two being upside down count.

When Bakke won this, he decided declarer rated to be 3-6 in spades and diamonds. Obviously the defenders needed to run hearts now, and the question was whether to play partner either for ace-queen-third of hearts (when a low heart would let the defenders cash out easily); or queennine-third of hearts and the club ace — in which case again a low heart was necessary. But if declarer had a singleton honor, the heart king was necessary, since it catered for the stiff heart queen.

Bakke decided that with eight hearts and six clubs visible in the two hands, declarer rated to have a singleton heart more often than a doubleton, so he shifted to the heart king to defeat the game. This was worth a 10 IMP pick-up when three no-trump came home in the other room.

In this auction a cuebid of two spades might sound like it is based on heart support, but in practice the call is very unlikely to have primary heart support (since you might take stronger action with side-suit shortage). And since you might start with a double if playing support doubles, the cuebid is likely in the first instance to be looking for a spade stopper.


♠ A 9 5
 A Q J 8 4 3
♣ A Q 4
South West North East
1 Pass 1 1 ♠

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


jim2September 6th, 2017 at 11:49 am

So, should declarer have won the KS and taken the diamond finesse at Trick 2?

Jeff SSeptember 6th, 2017 at 1:36 pm

I tried taking the first spade in hand and then just playing diamonds from the top mostly not wanting to give away anything extra about my shape.

jim2September 6th, 2017 at 2:34 pm

One advantage to the finesse is that East is more signal limited, as the winner of the trick is uncertain. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of the KS play is that declarer will still need the club finesse or more if the KD finesse loses.

In the actual hand, declarer’s play catered to a 1-3 split king on-side. Any adopting the KS play would not have that chance, but on a spade continuation the 2-2 break would allow the club finesse.

Bobby WolffSeptember 6th, 2017 at 2:59 pm

Hi Jim2,

You, more or less, beat me to your answer, when you suggested later that winning the king of spades in dummy is only right when the king of diamonds is singleton or doubleton onside.

And after playing low in spades at trick one, it “feels” wrong not to follow through by hoping the king of diamonds is onside doubleton or tripleton to chalk up the make legitimately.

However, this hand does illustrate that, since the bidding had already shown long diamonds with declarer, that fact did make it easier for West to lay down the king of hearts later. “Loose lips SOMETIME sink bridge contracts” so that everything else being equal, meaning strongly suspecting what the right contract is going to be, might as well bid it by giving as little information to worthy opponents as possible.

However, here that may have been unlikely to impossible, so credit should be given to the opponents, mainly Christian Bakke, a Norway junior who was sitting West and magically played the heart kiing to defeat the game contract.

It is not surprising how important “bridge in schools”, can teach the application of numeracy
so important, not only in playing bridge, but also in so many important projects in life.

The Western Hemisphere, and in this case, especially the USA is making such a horrible decision to not replicate what eleven countries in Europe (and growing) have already done, plus 200,000,000 students in China alone, have followed and on a daily school basis.

“As the twig is bent, so is the tree inclined” has always been true, but, at least up to now, not at home, and our parent organization (ACBL) doesn’t even appear even slightly interested in going all out to do so.

Bobby WolffSeptember 6th, 2017 at 3:08 pm

Hi Jeff S,

Yes, on today’s layout, your line of play may offer a better psychological opportunity to perhaps get “lucky” and not have West make the good play of laying down the heart king, when he wins the trick, but we’ll never know, although I suspect, with his obvious awareness, together with his learned talent for numbers, plus information learned from the bidding, that Christian would.

At least to me, this specific real life hand speaks to the beauty of our truly great game.