Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Canada is an interesting place; the rest of the world thinks so, even if Canadians don’t.

Terence M. Green

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


When the World Bridge Federation was pushing hard for bridge to be included in the Winter Olympics they organized a competition in Salt Lake City just before the Olympics started. In the finals of that event Poland trailed Canada by 17.5 IMPs as they entered the last set of 12 deals. They held Canada scoreless till the last board but still trailed by one and a half IMPs as the last board hit the table.

Both tables reached four spades by South after West had opened one heart and had rebid two diamonds.

The Polish West led a diamond against Keith Balcombe. He finessed, then took a safety play in spades by leading the ace and running the jack, to make 420. If the Polish declarer could come to 11 tricks, the commentators estimated he would lose the match (in the absence of score corrections and appeals) by precisely 1/2 an IMP.

However, when Fred Gitelman led the heart ace followed by another heart, Michal Kwiecien won in dummy, cashed the spade ace, and noted the fall of the eight. Then he followed up with the spade jack from dummy. Joey Silver naturally played low and Kwiecien paused for reflection for quite a while.

Eventually he let the spade jack run, and Gitelman won his queen, and led a low heart, promoting the spade 10 into a third trick for the defenders. That let Silver collect the club king for down one in due course. Canada had won their first ever Gold Medal in a teams event.

When your partner cannot bid more than three spades, your side is highly unlikely to have a good slam. Even if partner has a maximum and the club finesse works, you might run into club ruffs. Just raise to four spades and hope partner can make it.


♠ A J 9 7
 K 9
 A Q 6
♣ A Q 7 5
South West North East
  Pass Pass 3 ♣
Dbl. 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


jim2November 8th, 2017 at 3:33 pm

I confess that I must be an over-simple soul. Never would have it occurred to me to run the JS under any conditions such as faced by either declarer.

In the AH and xH lead case, I would have merely cashed AS and KS, intending to play on clubs. My thought would be to lose 1S, 1H, and 1D. If spades turned out to be 1-4, I would have to hope the KC was onside, with West being 1-5-5-2, or such.

In this case, the fall of the QS would mean 420 or 450, w/o any problems. I could finesse the QD, or maybe even ruff two Ds. (e.g., AD, D ruff, AC, D ruff, concede club)

Iain ClimieNovember 8th, 2017 at 4:15 pm

HI Bobby, Jim2,

In a way the Polish player did the right thing – at least his team avoided the screaming agony of losing by 1/2 IMP!


Bobby WolffNovember 8th, 2017 at 5:21 pm

Hi Jim2 & Iain,

It so happened that I was in the audience in the vu-graph room when this final hand appeared on screen during those Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The Polish declarer then proceeded to take what happened to be an ill- fated unsafety play, but I must say there was compelling reason for doing so.

When West opened the bidding and then saw fit to rebid 2 diamonds when given the opportunity it looked like 5-6 distribution, making extreme shortness in the black suits a certainty. Also then, even though the king of clubs would ordinarily be in the bidder’s hand, if there was only a singleton there (very likely) then, at least to me, West was only trying to get both his suits in (while NV and extremely dangerous not to, in case of a large fit) and at a low enough level not to be worried about getting doubled.

IOWs, seemingly everyone present greatly sympathized with his view. However, although not an event changer, but close, it nevertheless was exciting since none of the commentators nor the audience knew (at that time) if there might or might not be a protest on any of the other boards during that session.

Of course, the anti-climax of a diamond lead in the closed room involved only an overtrick, not the contract, making Iain’s admission almost come to life.

No doubt, and at the table, one side or the other may embark on either a specific unusual defense or declarer effort (usually adjusting to the specific bidding) causing spectator interest to sometime go through the roof, and although not nearly as many people physically present still seemingly just as loud and/or intense as any stadium in the world enjoying the glow of a very close ending to a world championship physical sport.

One time in 1985 while in Sao Paulo, Brazil and during the last board of the then. semi-finals of the Bermuda Bowl, my late and great, previous wife, Debbie, had to leave the view-graph room
crying, when it appeared Brazil, the home team, was about to defeat the USA on the next to last board and the more than one thousand Brazilians present were stamping their feet and screaming, Brazil, Brazil, Brazil as it was happening,

However, the epilogue will report, because of a lucky lie of the cards on the last hand, our team
turned the tables back in our favor causing Debby’s tears, in absentia in the room, to turn to joy. Yes, those were the days!

David WarheitNovember 8th, 2017 at 6:53 pm

Let’s see. S plays 4S after W shows a hand of mostly red cards. W leads a low diamond away from the unsupported king. What does this tell you about West’s hand? If he was void in spades, E would have doubled. If he had a singleton C, he would have led it. So either the contract is hopeless, or S are going to break, and with the odds overwhelming that E has the CK, W would have to have the SQ to have justified his opening the bidding, and considering all of his bidding, showing great distribution, almost certainly no more than Qx of S. Case solved.

Bobby WolffNovember 8th, 2017 at 7:56 pm

Hi David,

1. In these days of lighter opening bids, especially when the need for defensive tricks have lessened, stray queens are not easily determined.

2. It is down the list, rather than up to lead a low singleton in a suit only declarer has bid, especially when not holding some form of trump control with specifically making clear partner’s exact holding in what may turn out to be the key suit for defensive tricks.

3. Against a really good declarer, it should probably not be wise to double 4 spades, even while holding all five spades since, because of the bidding, and otherwise unlucky placement of partners red suit honors could enable the declarer to score up 10 tricks.

4. West’s chosen lead from the king is almost certain to find the ace in dummy,and thus possibly necessary to gamble finding partner with the queen in order to establish a diamond trick, before the mice get it, especially with such poor other choices available, probably including the ace of hearts, although because the king also figures to be in dummy, a possible default choice.

5. In conclusion, although it is almost always a positive in bridge, whether as declarer or on defense, to be optimistic about solutions, to close this case as solved, will, if nothing else, risk a violent reaction from Dame Fortune, for gross over hoping, or better described, insulting her known always devious challenges.

Iain ClimieNovember 8th, 2017 at 9:53 pm

Hi Bobby,

Can I get a hand off my chest whoch has been having me kick myself all day. Partner admittted some blame in the bidding but I got given the chance to recover in the play and fell in the finishing straight. As he’ll read this, it may cheer him too. After an agricultural auction and a mix up against weak opponents you reach 6NT with diamonds the unbid suit holding AKQ86 10x AK10x Jx while dummy holds 7 AQxx xxx AK87x. The opening lead is the H9 so this is clearly doomed but it goes small, small, 10! The SAK follow, getting x then 10 from LHO and small cards on your right, then I tried the S6 which got a heart discard on my left and loses to the S9, so I have Q8 against Jx. The D7 comes through to the Ace, Jack and small. I’d thrown a diamond and a club from dummy on the 2nd and 3rd spades.

Things could be worse, so a heart to the Q wins, and the HA sees RHO shed a club while I dump a diamond. The momemnt of truth is here. I lead a diamond and, unless LHO is messing around with DQJx or Grosvenoring me with DJx I can make it. Get the diamond right and the next diamond winner plus the SQ will squash LHO in clubs and hearts – she is either 2-5-1-5 or 2-5-2-4 with DQJ alone. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG even if I’d guessed right! If I cash the CA first, I find out what shape RHO is. Instead I took the D7 to be from Q987x (unlikely that they wouldn’t throw a diamond rather than a singleton club but so what – cashing the CA exposes the position) and also applied the rule of restricted choice at exactly the wrong moment. Sorry partner!

Maybe Frank could use the hand as an ideal example of taking yourr eye off the ball.



Bobby WolffNovember 8th, 2017 at 11:33 pm

Hi Iain,

Once you fortuitously win the first heart in hand with your 10 It certainly seems right to offer the Jack of clubs from hand. True the heart length, assuming you are South as declarer, will very likely be with West, but the club combinations which will now allow four club tricks raising your total to 12 (3-3, or most double honors (including the nine), especially with East as long as West has the queen, and, of course, with Q10xx, or Q9xx with West. Probably adds up to close to 50%, while other squeeze chances do exist, but, at least to the naked, non-mathematician eye do not seem to reach even money. Obviously QJ doubleton diamond or J109 tripleton spade can be also tested before surrender as well as clubs being part of a triple squeeze, operating with several tricks to go as long as the opponents do not lead a 2nd heart after winning their first club trick.

PS: Also and of course, East not ducking the king of hearts at trick one.

Very complicated, and perhaps not our best chance, but likely the one I’d take.

Iain ClimieNovember 8th, 2017 at 11:42 pm

Hi Bobby,

West has 10x KJ9xx (!) QJ Q109x so it might not be your day either but I can see your point. CJ covered instantly, D to Ace and another club might well see west split her clubs. Thank you and goodnight with 4C 3H 3S and 2D. My way gave me the option to get it wrong and I took it.


jim2November 9th, 2017 at 12:19 am

Suspect I would have finessed the second heart and led towards the JC.

Doubt it would have been my day either.

There are lines that would succeed after that, but I probably would not find one of them. Nonetheless, once West seems to have heart length, the QC with East looks better than 50%, and there is still the 25% double diamond finesse after that, so that may be a good line for the post mortem.

Bobby WolffNovember 9th, 2017 at 1:51 am

Hi Jim2,

It would just be your TOCM TM luck for Mrs. Guggenheim to be sitting East, and rise with the queen of clubs from Q9xx and do as she was taught to do, especially vs. NT, return her partner’s lead of a heart right into the jaws of the AQ.

Wedding VideographyNovember 12th, 2017 at 4:46 pm

Heck, it WILL even make you stronger. I’m onto her game.