Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, October 20th, 2017

Between the possibility of being hanged in all innocence, and the certainty of a public and merited disgrace, no gentleman of spirit could long hesitate.

Robert Louis Stevenson

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



At the 2001 Bermuda Bowl in Paris the USA suffered maybe their most humiliating defeat against Italy ever. With 32 deals to go the match was almost tied, but then the roof fell in and they lost the last two sets of the match by over 100 IMPs, having been held virtually scoreless in both sets.

Here, for example, both tables reached four hearts, leaving the two Wests with about the same amount of information. Say you lead a top club – and infer from trick one that partner has one or two clubs; what would you do now?

For the USA, Jeff Meckstroth shifted to a diamond – which looks logical enough. Declarer won and ducked a club to Meckstroth, won the next trump in dummy, ruffed a club, crossed with a diamond ruff and ruffed a club, then drew the last trumps, and claimed 10 tricks. Had Meckstroth played back a spade at trick four, declarer could have cross-ruffed to 10 tricks.

By contrast, Alfredo Versace shifted to a spade at trick two, knocking out the late entry to dummy. This is the only defense to succeed here (a trump shift lets declarer overtake and play clubs from hand).

The American declarer could do nothing now. He chose to duck this trick — hoping to be allowed to play a crossruff or set up the clubs — but Lorenzo Lauria overtook the spade queen and gave his partner the ruff, for down one. Very nicely done after the club lead; of course most leads but a top club also succeed outright.

Your partner has made a take-out double of diamonds, suggesting a three-suiter with decent hearts, hence his first pass. I’d expect your partner to have three or four spades, but even facing a doubleton spade, playing spades is surely going to be your side’s best result rather than defending, so I bid two spades now.


♠ K 10 6 5 4
 8 4
 Q 10 7 5
♣ 6 5
South West North East
  1 Pass 1 NT
Pass 2 Dbl. 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 ClimieNovember 3rd, 2017 at 1:21 pm

Hi Bobby,

I sympathise with your blackjack travails from yesterday, especially as I did something worse last night. While still thinking about how we (but especially I) could have defended the last hand when we let a 2S contract through, I made an absurd assumption about what partner had for a delayed bid (no, he hadn’t trap passed, which straight thinking would have told me) and bid a ridiculous game 4-off vulnerable (albeit undoubled and at pairs, and we might have been on a poor score anyway). A possibly unnerved partner then missed a chance the defence had given him, but we scored well enough on that hand anyway. Advice to forget the last hand is sound, but what hope have we lesser lights got if even you aren’t immune?

On today’s hand it is just possible that 3 rounds of clubs and a ruff are needed with partner holding (say) HKxx and a singleton club and declarer holding SKx HJ109xxx DQx Cxxx but it is surely more likely that declarer has decent hearts when giving partner the club ruff could set up the long club for a spade discard. xxx KJ10xxx x xxx doesn’t seem a likely holding for South to say the least, when the spade loser is still there. hence I think the SQ is right even without looking at all 4 hands.



Bobby WolffNovember 3rd, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Hi Iain,

This hand, while in the heat of battle and approaching the apex of the match, is indeed exciting.

The judgment of South with his “no holds barred” jump to 4 hearts, with so little, but his diamond length (and likely speculation that partner had, at the very least, three supportive hearts and if only three, good ones). While only being half right, he did need the difficult defensive error which West provided at one table but not the other.

Since all specific bridge hands need to be carefully analyzed before assessing blame, this one is perhaps hard to assess, although the different switches at trick two certainly became critical.

The only general caveat I could guess to discuss, is that all players, at least from very good on up, are subject to what is happening at one’s table, and the fact that Italy, at this time, was dominating did not help the American psyche in being able to concentrate hard enough to see this defense through.

No doubt, the players on both teams were all very capable, but some (oft times different ones, raise their games, and no doubt, it is easier to do so, when other hands are going well than when they aren’t).

Positive thoughts breed positive thoughts with also the opposite of that, so just some more poisoned flowers to overcome during a long bridge career.

However, bridge does mirror life, likely causing one to prefer shying away when bad results are in the air, and thus to postpone decisions, if possible, until dame fortune changes her course.

Finally, the only advice I can offer a Captain of a contending bridge team, is that after a bad session by a particular pair, benching them, with love, for the next session, is usually the prudent thing to do.

However, along with that advice comes the sobering thought of not all World Championship bridge teams are blessed with three more or less equal, great pairs, Perhaps in the year 2117, that dream will be realized, but sadly, at this moment in time, 100 years before, all I wish for is that the Western Hemisphere will still be able to furnish “top” World teams, rather than totally disappear from our marvelous mind game, without a trace, nor even a whimper.

Mircea1November 3rd, 2017 at 6:44 pm

Hi Bobby,

How bad is in your opinion the lead of SQ on this board (in the way it had been bid)?

Bobby WolffNovember 3rd, 2017 at 7:03 pm

Hi Mircea,

Without control of the trump suit, the lead of dummy’s primary suit is not at all recommended.

Especially while holding the AK of clubs.

In spite of the above advice, obviously sometimes it will be the only lead to defeat the contract, but do not bet the farm on it.