Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, October 21st, 2017

You never appreciate your anonymity until you don’t have it anymore.

Jason Priestley

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


Our last deal from the 2001 world championships contrasts two declarers in the same contract. First let’s see the unsuccessful declarer.

For Indonesia, Robert Tobing drove to slam on finding a limit raise opposite with one key card. After a club lead he ruffed his heart losers in dummy and relied on the diamond honors being onside, once the 3-1 trump split did not allow him an endplay. Down one.

However, in the match between Italy and USA1, the commentators saw both Souths had made their slam, and hypothesized that there must have been a misdeal. How could the slam make?

Well, both Bob Hamman and Alfredo Versace reached slam after West had bid clubs. Both won the opening club lead to advance a diamond at trick two, reasoning West would surely split his honors if he held both the king and queen. When West followed low unconcernedly (yes, it was necessary to play the king), both declarers changed tack and set out to find an endplay. They took the diamond ace, then cashed the hearts and ruffed a heart, ruffed a club, ruffed a heart, and ruffed a club. Then they drew precisely one trump, and exited with a diamond.

In the three-card ending West was on lead, with only clubs left to lead. On the forced ruff and discard, dummy could take the ruff and declarer the discard. A spectacular flat board, while both West players and the vugraph commentators reached quickly (but a little too late) for the veil of anonymity.

Partner has a huge hand with something like eight to nine playing tricks in clubs. You could settle for game, but I think you are worth a splinter raise to four hearts. Let partner ask for aces or keycards if appropriate. He will be better placed to take control than you.


♠ Q J 9 2
 A J 8 7 5
♣ 9 7 4
South West North East
  1 Dbl. Pass
1 ♠ Pass 3 ♣ 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 4th, 2017 at 12:24 pm

Hi Bobby,

Can I ask for your advice on how to play a hand from last night. I opened 1H with Ax QJ106x J A9xxx. Partner splintered with 4C and I liked the hand so bashed out RKCB and bid 6H getting QJ10 AK87 A9xxxx Void. Partner muttered that we might have missed 7 as he put down his hand but my job was to make 6 (at teams). I came up with what I thought was a reasonable plan (and it worked) but how would you plan the play. It is one of those horrible hands with too many options e,g, setting up the diamonds, cross ruff, ruff out clubs or what. Opening lead is CQ (normal style).

On the play hand today, it is obvious when away from the heat of battle that declarer is home if he’s got the DQ so the DK should be dumped. These things are just so much easier when nobody is waving a warning flag, though.



Bobby WolffNovember 4th, 2017 at 3:56 pm

Hi Iain,

While I like my small slam chances, the negative elephant in the room is missing the nine of hearts, possibly enabling that animal to overruff diamonds one way or clubs the other and lead one back. Therefore and like both declarer’s on today’s hand, before the opponents can get settled to ruff the club in hand and thrust out the queen of spades intending to finesse, hoping if it loses and a trump comes back (they do not know that I have only 4 trumps, so they may be wasting their time by returning a trump.

Like war (and today’s hand), perhaps the best time to attack is early in the morning, before breakfast and those dreaded opponents have had time to “usually just guess” the best way to defend.

If left to one’s own devices, diamonds rather than clubs offer the best chance for success (starting out with seven rather than five, besides having the long trumps in dummy, where the possibly later long diamonds will already be established.

IOW the alternative line (perhaps theoretically best is to lead a diamond to the dummy and then ruffing a diamond low (since West didn’t lead a diamond, chances are overwhelming, made greater by the bidding), against him having a singleton).

No doubt, the true best percentage line is difficult to figure since there are so many alternatives in suit distributions and trump divisions.

However, nothing terrible should happen with the spade finesse, nor the diamond establishment, but, obviously something could go wrong or you wouldn’t have asked.

Good luck and like chicken soup, it may not have helped, but hopefully it didn’t hurt.

Iain ClimieNovember 4th, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for that and I too ruffed the first club (the HAK87 is dummy) and ran the spade queen. It held, so DA, D ruff low (getting DK from LHO), CA (on which East shold have dropped the King but didn’t) club ruff with the H8, D ruff high, cash SA and a high cross-ruff until late on when LHO (who had H9xx) was forced to underruff a club but made his H9 when I came down to HQ6 for tricks 12 and 13. if the spade queen had lost and a trump had been returned, I’d have tried to ruff 3C and dump one on the SQ while sneaking one D ruff through with the H2 – that was the rough plan anyway. Nice to know I wasn’t too far off while the H87 in dummy and the H6 in hand are enough to let the oppo make the H9 at some point while avoiding any overruffs.



Bobby WolffNovember 4th, 2017 at 5:05 pm

Hi Iain,

Just shows, great minds think alike and for that matter, ours do too.