Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, August 24th, 2017

There is nothing in human affairs that is a true subject for ridicule. Beneath comedy lies the ferment of tragedy; the farcical is but a cloak for coming catastrophe.

Gabriel Chevalier

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


In this deal from the qualifying rounds of the world junior championships in Italy last summer, only one East-West pair hit the jackpot of six spades. Adam and Zach Grossack managed that feat, against which South led a trump. Best is to win the ace and lead a club to the 10, which leads to a painless 12 tricks unless South has a singleton club queen.

In the match between Poland and Norway, the Polish pair missed slam. However, the other room saw considerably more action, on the auction shown. Yes, maybe South could have maneuvered to the best red-suit fit via a call of four no-trump (planning to correct five clubs to five diamonds to show the red suits). Still, five hearts doubled did not look as if it was going to be enormously expensive.

At the table, West led ace and another spade. Now maybe Tor Eivind Grude, East, should have shifted to clubs. As it was, he led a third spade, and declarer seized his chance to pitch a club from hand and ruff in dummy. There followed a heart to the queen, but what next?

The cautious line would be to start diamonds – if East ruffs in, it will be with trump tricks, won’t it? Maksymilian Chodacki threw caution to the winds and played a second trump himself.

Disaster! Grude drew two rounds of trumps and ran spades, letting declarer score his low heart, but no more tricks. That was down eight in a freely bid contract – a cool 2000 and 17 IMPs to Norway.

This hand is not worth forcing to game with a two diamond response (though if you could bid two diamonds then three diamonds, non-forcing, you should do that. Equally, if a jump to three diamonds was invitational you might consider that. But failing that, a call of one no-trump should keep your options sensibly open – especially if you play it as forcing.


♠ 5 3
 Q 10 8 7
 A K J 6 4 2
♣ 9
South West North East
  Pass 1 ♠ 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 ClimieSeptember 7th, 2017 at 11:20 am

Hi Bobby,

A happy reminder to the madcap antics of youth when partner, team-mates or myself often bid and played with the safety first approach normally associated with front row lemmings. As a shocking example, consider the bidding problem I gave someone on a Team of 12 match in the early 1980s.

He held SAQJxxxx HQ Dxxx Cxx at adverse and heard his partner open 1H. I slightly woozily bid 2H (I’d been to a really good party the night before) and enquiry gets a terse “He should have spades and clubs” from my partner who hadn’t been to the party and obviously wished I hadn’t gone there either (I was 24, though, so I was not going to miss out). Double is probably sensible now but the guy passed, LHO bid 3C, partner passed and I bid 7C. I don’t think this is too hard a problem, but the full hand is well worth a look and a laugh.

Playing 5-card majors, though, should West stretch to 3S on the first round when East has a fair chance of getting near the slam?



Bobby WolffSeptember 7th, 2017 at 3:24 pm

Hi Iain,

Since my youth was tame and a great deal more boring (playing bridge being my principle vice) I am not the best person to ask about bridge problems after a scintillating evening. However an overcall of 3 spades (even at adverse vulnerability) is a reasonable risk with the idea of taking very valuable bidding space away from otherwise very accurate bridge adversaries.

When, and if, the opponents are likely to have a good fit, their bidding system does not cater to penalty doubles (very few well advised partnerships do), therefore their vulnerability becomes vulnerable to who is vulnerable.

Whether my advice passes muster or not you must admit that the rhyming nature of it should get one’s attention.

Up with preemption against good partnerships and down with pussyfooting. Al Roth, a late and great American bridge player and theorist always thought, “bid a lot and let them sleep in the streets” and though no records, to my knowledge, were kept, he did seem to win a lot.

There I go again, using the word “lot” a lot.

“Where have all the parties gone, long time ago, gone to flowers, every one” or have the flowers gone to parties?

Bobby WolffSeptember 7th, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Hi again Iain,

After re-reading your post, I may have gotten the partnerships (who was playing with who) totally confused. If so, my bidding suggestion concerned itself only with the hand with the 7 card spade suit being to the left of the opening 1 heart bidder.

There I suggested a 3 spade preempt, but after looking over your positions, perhaps that is not what you are asking. Proving only that I am vulnerable a lot to mistakes but sincerely hoping to improve a lot at the table.

Iain ClimieSeptember 7th, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Hi Bobby,

rephrasing it, then:

Partner opens 1H, (2H) alerted from RHO (should be black suits on enquiry), you pass and lurk with the 7 spades to the AQJ, LHO bids 3C, Partner passes, RHO bids 7C which does raise the question as to what possible spade holding he might have or whether he has gone completely mad….


Bobby WolffSeptember 7th, 2017 at 5:15 pm

Hi Iain,

“Mad” being either crazy, misunderstood, provocative, or still drunk. It is you who should be mad or perhaps only just more than a little, irritated.

My first thought, because of my bridge “recorder” training, might think that perhaps the 7 club bidder had access to the hand record. And then immediately discover, after seeing his hand, whether that was possible.

Iain ClimieSeptember 7th, 2017 at 7:06 pm

Hi Bobby,

It was back in 1982 and I (with the after effects of the party) held None None AKQ10xxx AK108xx. Obviously I intended the 2H as an old fashioned massive hand, forgetting we were playing some form of Ghestem, so I just bid 7C as I’m not allowed to use the info that partner thinks I’ve got the black suits. LHO doubled and partner was not tested in the play holding S10 H108xxxx Dxx CQJxx. The hand created utter mayhem though.

Someone played in 7D XX for even more while one hand with the spade length hit 6D (!) only for the auction to go P P 7D! He had the brains to pass that. Pride of place went to the pair with the spades who played in 6S (7S X is only 2 off) and the minor suit monster hand bottled out of bidding on (why, I wonder) preferring to take the safe plus score. Unfortunately his partner had the long string of hearts, had heard of Lightner slam doubles and led a heart knowing his partner had none. True, but minus 1660.

We wound up fairly well up on the board but I felt obliged to apologise to our opponents and grabbed a couple of strong coffees. Accidentally talking the oppo out of mentioning their 12 card fit still counts as one of my funnier moments in the game. An old friend used to describe bridge as a game of skill when he was winning and of chance when he wasn’t. I managed the exact opposite but I did seem to get lucky more often than I deserved in my youth.



Bobby WolffSeptember 7th, 2017 at 9:47 pm

Hi Iain,

Let me just sum it all up when I repeat to you my absolute favorite definition.

Luck seems to be best described by defining it as “taking full advantage when random chance creates an opportunity” so with that as a backdrop, it definitely requires talent to do so, and on a constant basis.

IOW’s, success is never just luck, but rather an awakening to victory. If that is true, by taking for granted that the immutable law of averages is always ever present, those who regularly win, do so by their ability, not with only fortune.

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