Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, March 12th, 2018

Take note, take note, O world!
To be direct and honest is not

William Shakespeare

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


At the Spring Nationals in Kansas City, Missouri, last spring, Mel Colchamiro showed the bulletin this nice defense. It was found by longtime tournament director Mike Flader, who was playing with Barry Purrington.

On this deal from the second final session of the Baldwin North American Pairs, Flight A, Colchamiro was playing with Alex Ornstein. The South hand offers an insoluble problem when the opponents pre-empt. Colchamiro guessed to double, then bid what he thought he could make once his partner showed values.

There is certainly a reasonable case to be made for a trump lead against six clubs, but Flader dutifully led the heart jack. Colchamiro then inferred that if West had the spade ace, surely East would have the club queen. If West had both those cards, he would probably have led the spade ace. So Colchamiro decided to rely on the diamond break, or that the hand with short diamonds would have short clubs.

He won the heart ace, cashed the diamond ace-king, ruffed a heart and led the diamond queen, which was ruffed with the club queen and over-ruffed. Now Colchamiro took a second heart ruff, and in the seven-card ending he led the spade king from dummy, trying to force an entry back to his own hand. Had he been able to do so, he would have drawn trumps and claimed the rest.

However, Flader won his ace and led the diamond jack. Purrington ruffed his partner’s winner with the club nine, over-ruffed by declarer’s 10, and now Flader’s club seven was promoted to the setting trick!

Even though declarer rates to be relatively long in clubs, it still feels logical to lead that suit, since partner can hardly have a decent five-card major without having overcalled. Partner’s failure to act means that the best bet to set the game may be to find dummy with both majors, relatively short in clubs.


♠ Q 4
 J 5 3
 J 10 6 2
♣ Q 10 5 2
South West North East
  1 Pass 1 NT
Pass 3 NT All 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


David WarheitMarch 26th, 2018 at 9:13 am

Win the HA & lead a S, hoping either to guess whether W has the A or the Q or that W will let you know, either by playing the A or by hesitating. You can now ruff a H, pitch the other H on SK & win C finesse. Seems simple to me.

A V Ramana RaoMarch 26th, 2018 at 10:14 am

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
I think declarer misplayed the hand when east ruffed diamond Q with club Q. Instead of overruffing, South can simply pitch his spade and he will make the contract irrespective of any defense

A V Ramana RaoMarch 26th, 2018 at 10:20 am

Why provide a chance to EW to show their brilliance with the uppercut?

A V Ramana RaoMarch 26th, 2018 at 10:35 am

Sorry , my analysis is flawed. Please ignore. But perhaps after ruffing second heart , south should have played a diamond linstead of spade which would provide re entry to hand and would work fine today with the lay of the cards as east’s nine comes down when south plays club A

bobbywolffMarch 26th, 2018 at 11:07 am

Hi David,

Yes, but the definition of simple to you, guessing the spade against experienced opponents and the likely short club hand holding the queen of clubs is likely an overbid to mere mortals.

No doubt, at least using simple bridge logic, the ace of spades figures to be with East since he opened a vulnerable weak 2 bid with a weak broken suit, although sitting 3rd seat, a position high-level players seem to agree requires partner to open something, but when vulnerable, perhaps only optional.

At least to me, not ordinarily conservative, but perhaps judged somewhat respectful, even at pairs, to the particulars, would intend to play East for the ace of spades and lead one at trick two. Whether West will either rise or give the location away we will never know (nor care), but in any event, if West ducks smoothly down I would go.

IOW David, I agree with you, and trust your use of the word simple as facetious, and intended as so.

Now, before others think to ask. Would you call a quick thinking declarer (and to be highly successful in this competitive bridge world one needs to be), would an instantaneous play of a spade at trick two, before the defense has settled in, be considered, at least slightly unethical, or would it not?

Perhaps the trick one option of East taking a legal beat or two before following suit at trick one might prevent South from practicing his prompt voodoo and allow West to duck the ace in non-telltale tempo. And whether or not this hand is made or not will depend on that guess, making declarer’s strategy the determining factor.

With this hand (and many like it) as a backdrop for what it takes, can anyone deny that in order to super achieve at our great game, one has to become aware of what needs to be guessed right and go to all legal extremes to try and make it happen, making that trait at least (and IMO), one step more important than impeccable technique.

bobbywolffMarch 26th, 2018 at 11:25 am


It is interesting and worthwhile to see your mind working, since your thoughts are the same ones which go through a declarer’s mind when confronted with choices of play.

And as you continue to prove, sometimes the first thoughts, while immediately appearing valid, turn out not to be. Therefore, and FWIW, I think more time should be legally allowed to players who have tough and complicated decisions, which, in the event of complaints by opponents, should be taken into account by responsible TDs and possible committees.

However to be chronically slow on relatively simple problems (not always able to differentiate, but still necessary to try) should cancel out that players privilege to interfere with the enjoyment of the game for others.

Like the warmth of good porridge, not too hot, not too cold, but only when necessary should an otherwise responsible player be allowed to use more time than his usual.

And to those who want to toss out all subjective reasoning, I say FIE, simply because our beautiful game requires it.

A V Ramana RaoMarch 26th, 2018 at 12:16 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
Thanks for the kind words but what actually happened was I underwent catarct surgey three days back ie on 23rd and as I was feeling slightly comfortable today, I coulld not resist the temptation of opening the column and obviously my thinking reflexes were not at rheir best. Perhaps I should have postponed . But anyway. once again thanks & regards

BobliptonMarch 26th, 2018 at 12:49 pm

I think that Mr. Colchamiro took a reasonable line, but failed to combine chances. Had he won, cashed his high diamonds, and then tried a Spade towards dummy, he would have guarded himself against the actual hand. While he would still risk the hand when East held something like A QTxxxx Qxxx Qx, the line he chose seems more unlikely.


bobbywolffMarch 26th, 2018 at 4:05 pm

Hi Bob,

Combining chances does not, onto itself, always represent a higher percentage effort since it will depend on the likelihood of the whole layout.

Yes, we both agree that East, on the bidding (and vulnerability) is more likely to hold the ace of spades, and you are trying to find hands, where, with that location, will produce a make.

While that is an admiral enterprise, I am loathe to only tie my success to that fact, since this particular hand is just too complicated to proceed with that assumption since a 3-3 diamond break (in your diagram you meant East having the Jxxx in diamond rather than the Qxxx) very much needs to be considered.

After due consideration, I do agree with David as to what the best combination of plays needs to be, plus the tempo to be noticed, in order to bring home the make.

Remember, the result of this hand was made possible by the seven of trumps being promoted to become the setting trick, not an everyday occurrence.

jim2March 26th, 2018 at 4:46 pm

Well, I played with the math until my head began to hurt and then quit.

Declarer took a line more-or-less presuming there was a trump loser. That is, if Ds were 3-3, there would be a S pitch and 2 H ruffs.

We know the QC is doubleton, and it is tough not to play to the AS or ruff 2 Hs, draw trump, and bridge is an easy game.

David WarheitMarch 27th, 2018 at 8:27 am

Thank you for all your kind remarks. My partners and I always write on the top of our card: “On defense, we always hesitate at trick one”. This gives both defenders the chance to plan all of the play, not just what to lead or play at trick one.

Bobby WolffMarch 27th, 2018 at 2:52 pm

Hi David,

Even though it is unlikely that all players, especially relatively new ones, know about the rule or perhaps better said, process, of automatically hesitating at trick one as a 3rd seat defender, it is thoughtful of your partnerships to write it on your convention card (and, no doubt, if necessary, have the opening leader hand or point to your convention card for the declarer, if there is any doubt that he or she may understand).

Such behavior is all part of being Actively Ethical, a condition which helps both partnerships seek a normal tempo after, as well as being good role models to others who are just getting acquainted to their ethical responsibilities.

If more experienced players would embrace that educational behavior for others to follow in line (unless a partnership prefers to just always play at normal tempo at trick one), there would be fewer temptations for rascals to practice to deceive, too often with, but sometimes without their even knowing that they could be better behaved.

Thanks to you and your partners, as well as no doubt, others, who make it clear as to what will continue to make our game a fairer one, for all.

bluedarttrackings1March 29th, 2018 at 6:08 am

thanks a ton for such a nice comment.