Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Catch-22…specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the product of a rational mind.

Joseph Heller

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

*game forcing with spade support


In today’s deal from a head-to-head match there were contrasting approaches taken by the two declarers in four spades. One relaxed, envisaging that there were just three aces to lose, and consequently went down without a fight, while the other recognized the danger signals and took careful evasive action.

At both tables South ended in four spades, and in each case the lead was a small heart, allowing East to take his ace and return the suit. That let declarer win in hand and take it from there.

At one table South simply played a spade toward dummy’s king. West won, and returned a heart for his partner to ruff. The diamond ace was the setting trick.

The second declarer, seeing the lead of the heart three, suggesting five in West’s methods, immediately played on clubs. He overtook his second honor with dummy’s ace, throwing a heart from his hand on the club jack.

It would have been easy to relax now and play a spade to the queen and ace, but South saw the risks associated with that. West could have won and played a third heart, to promote a trump for his partner.

Instead, South ruffed a heart back to hand and led a low spade toward the dummy. It now did not matter if West went up with the ace and played a fourth heart, as he did, hoping his partner had the spade queen instead of the ten. As the cards lay, declarer was safe against any defense.

There is no need to panic just because the opponents have bid game. Your target at teams is to set the game, but at pairs, perhaps, to hold the overtricks if you cannot beat it. Since neither a club nor heart lead is in any way safe, you might as well go for the lead that carries the bigger reward if it is right; and surely a low club is more likely to set the game.


♠ J 2
 Q 3 2
 J 6 5
♣ K 10 8 5 3
South West North East
    Pass 1 ♠
Pass 2 Pass 2 ♠
Pass 4 ♠ All 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


Michael BeyroutiOctober 16th, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Hi everyone,
every Monday, Steve Becker publishes an article under the title “FAMOUS HAND”. Here is today’s article by Becker where we see our Hero (the King of Endplay) in action.


West East
s.J1065 s.K732
h.J9 h.8743
d.J75 d.1083
c.KQ106 c.42


In the words of Becker:

“One of the marks of a great player is that he occasionally brings in a contract that seems impossible to make. Consider this deal from the 1985 world team championship final between Austria and the United States.
North-South were many-times world champions Bob Hamman and Bobby Wolff of the US. After a strong and artificial one-club opening by Hamman and a one-diamond response showing a fair hand, the Americans took six more rounds of bidding to reach six diamonds, a seemingly hopeless assignment. Even if diamonds and hearts divided favourably, Wolff appeared to have only 11 tricks — five diamonds, four hearts and the two black aces.
But Wolff proceeded to demonstrate that this analysis left something to be desired. He won the opening trump lead with the ace, ruffed a spade, led a trump to the queen and ruffed a second spade. He then cashed the king of diamonds — his last trump — discarding a low club from dummy as both opponents followed.
Next came the K-Q of hearts, and when the jack fell, declarer continued with the ace and 10. At this point, dummy held the A-Q-9 of spades and the ace of clubs, so Wolff simply played the ace and another spade. After East took the king, he had to return a club to the ace, and dummy’s queen of spades took the last trick to give South his slam.
Although the final contract was unquestionably a very poor one, Wolff did what all successful players do in such situations — he assumed a lie of the cards that would allow him to make his contract. He then proceeded on that assumption by ruffing two spades early in the play, and Dame Fortune took care of the rest.”

ClarksburgOctober 16th, 2017 at 1:47 pm

Becker’s column also reports the full seven rounds of that auction:
1C 1D
1S 2D
2H 3C
3D 3H
4C 4D
4H 4S

Michael BeyroutiOctober 16th, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Thank you Clarksburg,
I forgot to write the auction!

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 16th, 2017 at 2:25 pm

On today’s hand, the auction has a misprint we are trying to have corrected.

Obviously, it should have not started with 2NT,
but rather …

1S P 2NT* P
4S P P P

Bobby is following up on the rest.

Bobby WolffOctober 16th, 2017 at 2:47 pm

Hi Michael & Clarksburg,

Talk about mixed emotion!

There are major errors in today’s Monday column with the type setting of the bidding when the NS bidding should have gone: S. 1S, W. P, N 2NT*, E. P, S. 4S, all pass *game forcing
with spade support.

Also, in the text, it should have read South then led three rounds of clubs overtaking South’s jack with dummy’s queen and then cashing the king discarding his high heart.

All the above is simply inexcusable and not fair to the readers, who, no doubt, became confused by the ridiculous description, and to them I apologize for whatever role I played in this abomination.

At least it seems that bridge columns, with sometimes non-bridge players serving as type setters and careless proof readers (including me) cannot handle the moving parts associated
with that process, all leading up to what occurred.

However, at least today, both of you, Michael and Clarksburg saw fit to remind me of a long ago hand, in which I found an unbelievably lucky lie of the cards to land a horrible contract.

Undeserved success, but in the heat of battle, nevertheless, gleefully accepted, but, at the table, unobtrusively as possible.

Bobby WolffOctober 16th, 2017 at 2:57 pm

Hi again Michael & Clarksburg,

In my anxiety to deal with the column errors I neglected to thank both of you, for taking the time and energy to send and thus remind me, of a happy feeling. Between you two and, of course, Steve Becker, represent what friends are for, to shine the sun, when engulfed with rain.

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 16th, 2017 at 11:01 pm

Hi Michael,

Thanks for sharing! I have lots of articles and clippings about Bobby’s performances, but never saw the above hand until today.

It served as a reminder to get back in touch with Steve Becker whom I knew as a young upcoming star and columnist. My late husband, Norman Kay, and I often visited New York in the seventies and eighties and spent time with Steve and his folks (his dad endearingly referred to as “B. J.” .. one of the greatest players of his era).

Boy, how time flies!



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