Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, November 24th, 2017

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.

John Powell

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


As a reporter from the first day of this Kaplan Blue Ribbon Pairs said, when you qualify almost in last place for the next day, every little bit helps.

Glenn Milgrim came through in the clutch for his partnership. He was playing against Zia Mahmood and Dennis Bilde, one of the strongest pairs in the event.

Mahmood found the best defense against four spades by leading three top hearts, on which Bilde pitched his diamond 10 as declarer ruffed in dummy.

Declarer led the spade queen, which held (though East would have done better to cover). Milgrim read the position perfectly and changed tack at this point. He finessed in clubs, ruffed a club, then played three more rounds of spades to throw Bilde in for the forced club play. The diamonds in dummy took care of the rest. That was plus 620 and 59 out of 64 match points.

Ever the perfectionist, Milgrim was subsequently kicking himself for giving East the chance to defeat the game. The line that gives the defenders no chance is to take the club finesse at trick four, followed by ruffing a club, then playing the spade queen from dummy. Now the defense has no counter. East covers, and declarer plays four rounds of trumps to pitch low diamonds from dummy, throwing East in on the last one.

East can only lead a club now, to let declarer win the ace, on which he pitches dummy’s last losing diamond. The three top diamonds take the last three tricks.

Do not get carried away here. Yes you have shape and four trumps — a nice combination, but shape only goes so far. While you would happily compete to three spades, you should not jump to three spades here. Settle for a simple raise to two; you would need maybe the heart king in addition to do more. Incidentally, with the heart ace instead of the four, a jump to four diamonds describes the hand nicely.


♠ Q 8 6 5
 8 4
 A K Q 5 3 2
♣ 2
South West North East
1 Pass 1 ♠ 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


Matt W.December 8th, 2017 at 12:33 pm

What’s the line whereby the contract can be defeated? If the spade finesse
loses and East gets a diamond ruff?

bobbywolffDecember 8th, 2017 at 4:45 pm

Hi Matt W,

If East covers the queen of spades (led, before the club finesse is taken) it puts West in hand and not, at that point able to shift gears and take the club finesse, ruining the timing which eventually enables 10 tricks for declarer.

Not easy to defensively see quickly, although possible, if East takes time after declarer leads the Queen of spades from dummy.

That type of error is common, since a defender is always hoping that declarer may miss guess if the defense responds quickly, but here it would indeed be difficult to imagine that declarer is not going to finesse the spade queen, but the quickness of mind that is necessary to avoid error, may be compatible with computers, but unfortunately, not with humans. Meaning: Advantage Declarer!

bobbywolffDecember 8th, 2017 at 4:48 pm

Hi again Matt W,

And speaking of slow witted, I said West in the second line instead of South, the declarer.

TedDecember 8th, 2017 at 6:35 pm

Hi Bobby,

On BWTA I’m having a problem evaluating what this hand is worth. After all, with normal breaks, all partner needs is 4 spades to the AK and a doubleton diamond, and he isn’t going to make a game try on that.

also wondered if partner had responded 1H and your heart and spade holding were reversed, if this changes anything. Would 3H now have some preemptive value since you don’t have the boss suite?

bobbywolffDecember 8th, 2017 at 7:27 pm

Hi Ted,

You are going to be OK, but for now you would do well to learn bridge theory, its implications, sometimes being subjective, but not perfect solutions, and thus be able to better understand its necessary compromises.

When holding a decent 6-4 with the six card suit the opening bid, but having partner respond in your side 4 card major, a jump to 4 of the opening minor, shows a playing jump to game, expecting to normally take 10 tricks but no where near the 20 points (hcps + some distributional points) needed for a jump to 4 of partner’s bid major.

With today’s BWTA only 11 hcps are held, still almost, but not quite, allowing him to jump to 4 of the minor, but warning partner that you don’t have instead: s. Q10xx, h. Ax, d. AKQx, c. K10x or s. J10xx, h. Kx, d. AKxxx, c. AK, however with, s. A10xx, h. x, d. AKJxx, c. AQ10, you would, of course, now jump to 4 hearts showing shortness, 4 trumps and game going values.

You are, of course, correct in what you say about partner having only AKxx in spades and likely passing a mere raise to 2 spades if partner had today’s hand instead. However, if so, chances are good that the opponents having over half the high card deck between them, will have entered the bidding with your side competing in spades and perhaps getting pushed into game, possibly even getting doubled and magically making.

Bridge, to keep repeating, is not a perfect science and no real bid is available to get you to 4 spades with your imaginative response. However it only goes to prove that needing 26 hcps to make game only means that normally about 5 or 6 of those points are not much good but in fact that only about 21 or 22 working points are needed, but during the bidding phase neither partner will be able to determine whether they are working or not.

Finally if partner held: s. Jxxx, h. QJx, d. Jxx, c. KQx or somewhat better, but still not a good fit, he would be holding 10 hcps but would likely go down in 2 spades, much less come close to taking 10 tricks.

Bridge definitely is not as pure a game as chess, but at least IMO much more fun, much more needed experience to play it well, and every bit as challenging since psychology plays such a large part, making confidence of knowing the above, an integral part of one day being a very successful and winning player.

Good luck and please stay interested. Never give up!