Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

Those who invoke history will certainly be heard by history. And they will have to accept its verdict.

Dag Hammarskjold (on Nikita Khruschev)

S North
None ♠ A 8 4 2
 A 7 5
 A 10 8 4
♣ 5 3
West East
♠ Q 10 5
 K J 9 4 2
♣ Q 10 9 2
♠ 3
 10 3
 Q J 7 5 3
♣ K J 7 6 4
♠ K J 9 7 6
 Q 8 6
 K 9 2
♣ A 8
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 2 NT * Pass
4 ♠ All pass    

*Forcing spade raise


This week’s deals come from last year’s summer NABC in Toronto. Our hero was Marc Cohen, playing with his wife Stasha in the Freeman Mixed BAM Teams. To make his contract, Marc managed to make the most of his club spots; yes, that 5-3 of clubs had a part to play.

Marc reached four spades, and after the diamond-six lead to the jack and king, Marc cashed the spade ace-king to get the first bad news, then led the diamond two to get more bad news as West showed out.

But there was some good news when West pitched an odd-even heart nine to encourage the suit, a card that he could not afford. Cohen ducked the diamond in dummy, and East won to return a diamond. Yes, a club would have been better, but the obvious power of the 5-3 was evident to all.

After West ruffed the third diamond, he shifted to the club 10. Marc won the club ace, crossed to dummy with a trump, took his diamond winner, discarding his club, and then led the club five from dummy. When East followed lazily with the club four, declarer pitched a heart and took the rest after West won the trick and was endplayed to lead hearts.

Cohen would have ruffed to lead the heart queen. With West obliged to cover, the blockage in hearts would have led to South being endplayed upon winning the heart 10 at the next trick.

The double of a four-heart opening (or any auction where the opponents bid hearts and raise to four hearts) is primarily for take-out. It is less clear how to play a similar sequence where the opponents get to four spades — I personally believe that is takeout-optional. But here you should have no problem bidding four no-trump to get partner to choose between the minors.


♠ 3
 10 3
 Q J 7 5 3
♣ K J 7 6 4
South West North East
  4 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 2018. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieAugust 8th, 2018 at 11:11 am

HI Bobby,

What did you make of West’s choice of lead today given his likely trump trick? I think I’d have preferred a club (although a heart could be right too, albeit not today) even though TOCM will give North CKx and South CJx(x) or similar of course. Nonetheless, he may well not want a ruff and just managed to wreck his partner’s diamond holding. Left to his own devices on a passive lead, South might well have found himself reduced to hoping for the HK onside, at least assuming West doesn’t open his mouth about its location.



Iain ClimieAugust 8th, 2018 at 11:15 am

To be fair, South can cash two top spades and exit with a club but East should be able to find a heart switch, despite the risk that South has HJ98 or similar.


jim2August 8th, 2018 at 11:34 am

I confess that I do not understand the last paragraph of the column text.

My guess is that it maybe it should have been (changes in all caps):

Cohen COULD have ruffed to lead the heart queen. With West obliged to cover, the blockage in hearts would have led to EAST being endplayed upon winning the heart 10 at the next trick.

Or, maybe:

If East had played a club higher than the 4C, Cohen would have ruffed to lead the heart queen. With West obliged to cover, the blockage in hearts would have led to EAST being endplayed upon winning the heart 10 at the next trick.

However, even those appear not quite correct. If Cohen had had Q10x of hearts, then West is truly endplayed. Thus, West should (upon capturing the QH) lead the JH (sweeping East’s 10H under) and follow with the 9H.

jim2August 8th, 2018 at 11:36 am

That last offered change should have had more all caps:

IF EAST HAD PLAYED A CLUB HIGHER THAN THE 4C, Cohen would have ruffed to lead the heart queen. With West obliged to cover, the blockage in hearts would have led to EAST being endplayed upon winning the heart 10 at the next trick.

Iain ClimieAugust 8th, 2018 at 11:45 am

Hi Jim2,

Don’t forget that West has squandered the H9 at some point, to add to his dodgy lead.



bobbywolffAugust 8th, 2018 at 12:42 pm

Hi Iain & Jim2,

I’m arriving, late to the party, but in retrospect, at least I feel, that our choice of choosing this hand to publish, was not up to what I think and hope our standard for selecting hands to be.

While it was a “real” hand, played exactly that way by a really nice guy, Mark, playing with his well known especially liked wife, Stasha (and very good players) it just had too many flaws by the defense (that nine of hearts discard was especially horrible).

Yes, hands (and defenses) like that do occur and unfortunately too frequently across the whole USA bridge tournament scene, it becomes, at least to me, not a pleasant task to advertise it.

However, among the great unwashed bridge world, many have suggested that the Aces column caters too much to the high level players, while ignoring how bridge is really played in the trenches. I agree, but still think that our game itself is better presented by emphasizing the very good, rather than (sigh) much less.

With the above, I agree with Iain (and the column description) once that nine of hearts appeared, then allowing for the lead of the queen and forced cover, does to the defense (allows a successful endplay) once the crucial heart nine has been eliminated from West.

However, after re-reading Jim2’s response, he is also correct in stating what was happening should have been stated in CAPS and happily I will totally agree with him and only sadly add to what was apparent, a bad choice of hand.

However, perhaps that choice makes a large variety of other fallible bridge players at least, slightly pleased.

jim2August 8th, 2018 at 5:58 pm

I feel like an idiot. I read right past the 9H discard. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect that to be discarded so it simply did not register.

After getting my AC ruffed, my senility is only getting worse.

bobbywolffAugust 8th, 2018 at 6:34 pm

Hi Jim2,

Back with you, after an outside appointment.

What you consider your senility, is another’s person’s giant achievement. Oh, through the never ending years, if only you were every player’s partner, including mine, how few of my actual and unequivocal mistakes I would have to have owned up to.

However, your ever present TOCM TM may have taken a tiny toll, perhaps and probably to have, more or less, balanced the overall results. TO EACH HIS OWN!

Iain ClimieAugust 8th, 2018 at 8:15 pm

Hi Jim2,

A few years ago I went through a phase of counting 14 diamonds per pack so the suit was 5-4-3-2 or 5-5-3-1 or 4-4-3-3 etc. Only diamonds, for some reason. I got over it, you’ll be fine!



jim2August 8th, 2018 at 10:34 pm

I am still hoping to hear the Paul Harvey from Brandon Taylor.

bobbywolffAugust 9th, 2018 at 12:28 am

Hi Iain,

Speaking of a 14 card suit, it reminded me of a long ago hand, which my partner, an attractive older woman named Miriam was declaring. While being very easy going and polite as well as smart enough, her long suit (if you’ll excuse the pun) was not bridge, even though she loved to play. On this occasion she violated an unspoken rule of making a direct effort to be declarer by opening 4 spades, while holding 10 solid with three losing singletons (hard to blame her too much). I came down with no aces nor kings but she now was left to declare.

The first two tricks took two of her singletons, but the opponents then continued one of the off suits, so Miriam ruffed and started to draw trump. One by one they disappeared from her hand until at about trick nine or ten a card fell from her discard pile onto the floor, so she reached to pick it up and by mistake put it back in her hand. On she went until after playing at trick twelve she had left her forever loser, but also another trump. Thus when she played her umpteenth spade no one but her had any cards left. Thus the deuce of clubs took the last trick since no one followed.

At this moment a big smile came over Miriam’s face as she proudly exclaimed, ” Bobby, I hope finally after all this time, thanks to you, I learned how to execute a squeeze.”.

So Iain, those 14 card diamond suits sometimes can be a plus, that is, if you know how to execute squeezes.

Iain ClimieAugust 9th, 2018 at 8:55 pm

Hi Bobby,

Lovely story, I like it and we need more fun in the game! Too often I see players at club level with an air of desperate concentration who surely can’t be getting any pleasure from the game. Tournaments are different but why do so many players at relatively informal club sessions look like the “Before” photo in a constipation cure advert?


DeangeloAugust 12th, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Baccarat is a simple guessing game. Don’t compromise.