Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, December 21st, 2017

Life’s like a ball game. You gotta take a swing at whatever comes along before you wake up and find out it’s the ninth inning.

Martin Goldsmith

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


As the last deal of the 1998 Spingold hit the table, the Baze team needed a big swing to win. They would require 12 IMPs just to tie; but they had done precisely that in the semifinals.

Both tables bid aggressively to four spades. Both Souths received the friendly heart lead, and they finessed into the safe hand at trick one. When it held, they cashed the heart ace to take the discard, and there the plans diverged.

For the Nickell team, Jeff Meckstroth played a club to the ace at trick three and could not cope with the bad trump split. He tried a cross-ruff, but West could ruff in on the fourth club and drew trumps, taking declarer two down.

For Baze, Marek Szymanowski took the club finesse at once. The point is that you cannot handle bad spade splits unless clubs are very friendly, while if trumps behave, this line gains when clubs break 4-2 and the king is right.

After this start, Szymanowski had 10 tricks comfortably enough as the cards lay, by ruffing a club and cashing two top trumps to end in hand. Now he could simply run the clubs and claim his contract, giving up two trumps and a diamond.

So how many IMPs did Baze gain? Had North-South been vulnerable, that would have represented a 13 IMP swing, and a win for Baze by a single IMP. As it was, North-South were non-vulnerable, and the 11 IMPs swing meant a win for Nickell by 1 IMP.

Whether a passed or unpassed hand, you should double for take-out. Plan to correct a two-heart rebid to three clubs, on the assumption that you likely have a better spot to play than that suit. While defending on this hand might conceivably be right, it seems better to try to compete for the part-score. Your planned auction should show this approximate hand pattern.


♠ K 8 4 2
 9 8
♣ A Q 8 7 5 4
South West North East
Pass 1 1 2

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