Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

Noel Coward

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

*Three key-cards


Today’s deal from a past national event comes from the last day of the National Swiss Teams, and shows Zia Mahmood in an unfamiliar role as the victim, being the reporter of a fine play against him, rather than the perpetrator, this time.

Both tables in the match between Mahaffey and Schwartz reached six spades with East-West silent. In one room, East doubled the slam, making the play somewhat easier after a heart lead, though in fact declarer lost his way when he played clubs in routine fashion for down one.

In the other room, Jim Mahaffey was not doubled by Mahmood, since it sounded as if North-South were looking for a grand slam, as indeed they were.

Michael Rosenberg still found the heart lead, and Mahmood ruffed, then exited with a diamond. Declarer won, drew trumps ending in hand in two rounds, cashed the heart king, then advanced the club queen. When West played low, Mahaffey decided that since neither opponent had bid, East was relatively unlikely to have more than six diamonds. Accordingly, the club finesse was heavily favored to be offside, but the double club finesse had suddenly become an excellent chance. He needed to find West with only small clubs or the doubleton 10.

He overtook his club queen with the ace, cashed dummy’s two top hearts to pitch his club losers, and ran the club jack, prepared to repeat the finesse if Mahmood covered. Mahmood ducked the club jack, but Mahaffey ran it anyway and brought home his slam.

This hand seems a little too good for a raise to three no-trump. The only safe way to explore is to bid three clubs, which in this context just implies doubt about strain or level. It is easy to imagine that a seven-card fit might play better in slam or even game than in no-trump.


♠ K Q J 3
 A Q 10 6
♣ A J 9 8
South West North East
  Pass 1 Pass
1 Pass 2 Pass
2 ♠ Pass 2 NT 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact