Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

There are two kinds of people in the world, my friend: Those with a rope around the neck, and the people who have the job of doing the cutting.

Tuco, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”

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

*Spades and a minor


The Nail Life Master Open Pairs at last fall’s nationals saw two very different approaches with the South cards. One earned a near bottom, the other a near top. Here is the good, with the bad (or perhaps ugly) to follow.

Jason Feldman, South, playing with Tom Carmichael, was one of the few to achieve par on this deal when he saved in seven hearts. He was sure West had a heart loser from his final double, or he would have passed the final decision to his partner. West therefore had to hold the club ace.

The defenders played three rounds of spades. Feldman ruffed, ducked a club (felling the ace), ruffed the diamond return, drew one round of trumps, then crossruffed the rest for three down — a good save, even against his opponents’ plus 680! Bridge is an easy game, isn’t it?

If that was good, the following result from the same board was comic or tragic, depending on which way you look at it. The names of the guilty or unlucky parties are withheld.

The difference between the auction at our second table and the one shown was that North had doubled a heart bid rather than raising the suit. In this room, South passed out six spades, also having worked out that dummy would have a singleton heart. But East’s double of a heart call convinced West to come up with the master play of underleading his heart ace-king to his partner’s putative queen. That was minus 1,460; as Maxwell Smart would have said, “Missed it by that much!”

All things considered, this is a pretty good hand. A simple call of three clubs doesn’t really do it justice — you might make the same bid with a Yarborough, after all. So I would jump to four clubs and hope partner can bid on to game with any sort of extra values or shape.


♠ 10 6 2
 Q 6
 Q J 9
♣ Q J 10 4 2
South West North East
  Pass 1 1 ♠
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


Mircea1December 7th, 2017 at 2:54 pm

Hi Bobby,

I don’t even want to think about the kind of conversation the N-S pair at the second table had after the disastrous opening lead. Realizing that this is a very difficult question to answer, I would still like to get your opinion about how best to hand these unfortunate situations. At least at my level, I find that being able to control your emotions at the table is almost as important as all the other technical aspects of the game.

bobbywolffDecember 7th, 2017 at 3:27 pm

Hi Mircea1,

When top teams get together, usually the skill level is close to equal, making what you discuss concerning table temperament, if anything, an underbid.

Bridge is a game of mistakes and, in an attempt to be more kind, unlucky judgment.

No doubt, South, with a definite purpose for his turned out to be, monstrous gaffe, went all out, but in modern terminology, possibly instead, all in, to defeat the small slam, but fate, as she too often does, intervened and determined a different result.

To me, nothing to be ashamed of, not to be discussed (what is there to gain) and only bridge business, as usual.

However, the very best players need to play the next hands which inevitably follow with no negative emotion. Easy to say, much harder to do, but without which, kiss one’s opportunity to reach Mt. Olympus goodbye until one learns.

Iain ClimieDecember 7th, 2017 at 8:53 pm

Hi Bobby, Mircea,

Once NS at the second table have sold out to 6S they’re losing 1430 regardless so there is no point in getting upset about the defence; the damage is done by not saving although I can sympathise with South. Easier said than done, of course.

One approach I took with a good natured partner was just to realise that there would be some accidents and to accept that they would happen. We went through a phase of getting a vile result on the first hand of the evening and it turned into a joke – “Whaat do you reckon then – muinus 470, 730, 990, missing a cold game or finding the only defence to let something through?” I’m not sure it works for everyone or even should do at the higher levels but it did for us.



bobbywolffDecember 7th, 2017 at 11:14 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes, a newly coined expression, “Find the truth and that truth will make ye shudder” may better be said before the first card is played, so that when it happens (and it does to everyone) those minus 730’s and 990’s may turn to only 530’s and 790’s.

Small improvements but, at least going in the right direction.

However, and on the square, a mutually well developed sense of humor is a requirement for every partnership, which values winning as a necessity.

jim2December 7th, 2017 at 11:32 pm

Iain Climie –

It was matchpoints. The overtrick probably converted an average or average-minus into a cold bottom.

Iain ClimieDecember 8th, 2017 at 9:58 am

HI Jim2,

Oops – thanks and point taken.