Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Practice and thought might gradually forge many an art.


N North
None ♠ 10
 A 10 6 5 4 2
♣ J 10 9 8 2
West East
♠ 9 5 4 2
 Q 9 7 5 4
♣ Q 6 4
♠ K J 8 7 3
 A K 8 2
 Q 7
♣ 5 3
♠ A Q 6
 J 6 3
 J 9 8 3
♣ A K 7
South West North East
    2 NT* 3 **
5 All pass    

*minors **majors


Experts often play the hands better with the sight of only 26 cards than the commentators, who can study all 52 cards. At the World Championships in Paris in 2001, in the match between USA1 and Italy, the Italians bid unopposed to four hearts, and escaped for minus 100. In the other room Norberto Bocchi reached five diamonds as South, and Eric Rodwell found the killing heart lead.

But of course a ‘killing’ lead is in the eye of the beholder. Bocchi had heard East overcall to show the majors, so when Jeff Meckstroth shifted to a spade at trick two, Bocchi took what looks like a practice finesse of the queen. When it held, he cashed the spade ace and ruffed a spade, then took the diamond ace and used the top clubs as entries to eliminate the hearts. In the four-card ending he could exit to East with the second diamond.

At this point three tricks had been played in each major and two in each minor, and East had only major-suit cards to lead. Declarer could pitch his club loser from hand and ruff in dummy, to take 11 tricks and gain 7 IMPs. Beautifully played – and note that if Bocchi does not take the spade finesse at trick two, he runs out of trumps and entries to make the winning play.

This line was duplicated by Sabine Auken in the Women’s series in five diamonds – she also had the same information that East had a good hand with both majors, but it was still a very fine play.

Normally you bid with good hands and pass with bad ones. But here, although you have a 15-count, you have no guarantee of a real fit, and too much of your hand is in spades to take an aggressive position. You might balance with a double, but why shouldn’t partner have a flat Yarborough here?


♠ A Q 6
 J 6 3
 J 9 8 3
♣ A K 7
South West North East
  1 ♠ Pass 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


David WarheitNovember 2nd, 2017 at 9:49 am

You should have made clear to everybody that 5D is cold, no matter whether N or S is declarer & no matter what the opening lead and no matter what E returns at trick 2, assuming the opening lead was a H; cold, that is, if the S finesse is taken. Well, okay, you did put quotation marks around the word “killing”, so you should have made everything “clearer”.

bobbywolffNovember 2nd, 2017 at 3:13 pm

Hi David,

Yes, you are correct in my misuse of the word killing, quotation marks or “not”.

However, in order to conserve space, in a newspaper column, always a concern, I wish I would have only thought to add “potential” in front of “killing” which might have gone, at least a small way, to better describe its effect.

In this case, since gremlins, likely human ones, also should have not mangled the bidding diagram (hoping it did not show up that way in the newspaper), by explaining to all who read my two weeks later post, that North’s opening 2NT was minors, East’s 3 diamonds was a major suit TO and South, not East, then bid 5 diamonds which, of course was just to play.

And to go just a tiny bit further, shouldn’t your “so” in the next to last line of your post, be “but”?

Just kidding, since I sincerely appreciate corrective criticism which, in the long run, reminds, and thus enables me, to take more responsibility than I too often, do.

Iain ClimieNovember 2nd, 2017 at 5:19 pm

Hi Bobby,

The play also works if the minor suit holdings are reversed, although then Mrs. Guggenheim, the club rabbit and others get home by playing SA, D to Ace and taking the club finesse. Sometimes virtue has to be its own reward.



bobbywolffNovember 2nd, 2017 at 6:08 pm

Hi Iain,

Or could it be, “The meek (have nots), will inherit the earth”? But who is to say, Mrs. Guggenheim the club rabbit and/or others have lived virtuous lives?

However, since the above occurs often, usually to the dismay of the “haves”, they need to, as you so tactfully implied, accept it.

bobbywolffNovember 2nd, 2017 at 6:43 pm

Hi to everyone who understands Blackjack,

Yesterday, I, while playing with only one other player (besides myself) at a BJ table was dealt a ten and a nine (19), my right hand companion, (call him a fellow player but who turned out to be an opponent) was sitting with fourteen while dealer showed an upcard of a six. Righty then asked for a hit (horrible) and drew a seven (now 21), and dealer then with a ten underneath (16 total) then dealt himself a four.

My RHO won, I lost, and the dealer broke even.

I needed to accept it, but didn’t follow my own advice, started feeling sorry for myself, and at least for the next short period of time sulked and hated the world.

Yes, worse things have happened and continue in this unpredictable life we all live; why does it just not feel that way when minor things happen, but are exaggerated at that time, to be significant.