Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, July 27th, 2018

The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else. If it had been possible, he would have settled the matter otherwise, and without bloodshed.

Umberto Eco

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



On this board from the NABC Life Master Pairs in Toronto last summer, Glenn Eisenstein was able to bring about a very attractive ending in his contract of three spades.

Having received the club queen lead, Eisenstein made the natural play of winning the ace rather than putting up the king (since he was planning to develop clubs against a normal trump break). As the cards lay, that made the later play more complex, though.

He led a trump to the ace, getting the bad news, then played a heart to East’s king. Back came a diamond to the king and ace, followed by a top club to dummy’s king, ruffed by East, who exited with a diamond. Eisenstein won the diamond queen and played the heart queen from hand to East’s ace, observing the fall of West’s 10. That was his fourth loser, but he could ruff the third round of diamonds in dummy and reach a five-card ending with four trumps and a losing club in hand, while dummy had the 9-8 of hearts, two losing clubs and the spade king.

Eisenstein now ruffed a heart, under which the jack fell, crossed to the spade king, cashed the heart nine to discard his club loser, then led a club to score both his remaining trumps in hand, no matter what East did, to bring home nine tricks.

This is a genuine trump coup, in which declarer can effectively take a trump finesse despite one hand (in this case dummy) being out of trumps altogether.

I am normally an aggressive overcaller, especially when bidding spades over a minor. Here, though, when facing a passed hand with a weak suit and a hand so playable in suits other than spades, I would tend to pass first and plan to back in if the opponents limit themselves or find a fit. Give me a top honor in spades instead of hearts, and I would feel differently.


♠ J 8 6 5 2
 A K 7 2
 J 7 3
♣ 8
South West North East
  Pass Pass 1 ♣

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


jim2August 10th, 2018 at 11:55 am

This is one of those hands that appears to me to be greatly affected by conditions quite apart from the cards themselves.

At a different vulnerability, many Wests will venture 2N. N-S are still likely to reach 3S, but declarer would choose a different line of play, starting with winning the KC on the opening lead.

At IMPs, declarer probably would not have been thinking about developing a 3rd club trick at all and, instead, be trying to find a line to make 9 tricks as safely as possible.

bobbywolffAugust 10th, 2018 at 12:47 pm

Hi Jim2,

A definite yes to your 2nd paragraph, since with your side NV I think it nothing short of both wimpy and simply wrong, not to venture 2NT over one’s RHO opening of 1 spade. As evidence of that opinion, most times West will catch partner with at least 4 of one minor and even here by not being lucky enough to have that happen the EW cards will still produce, on average (with many play variables) around 9 tricks.

Again with this overall layout, the above happening will likely not be effected one way or the other (except for a better blueprint) when South wins a spade contract, but especially at favorable vulnerability (them yes, but us, not) the chances for a very favorable result, by taking a high-level minor suit sacrifice against a vulnerable game or even possible slam is just too great a swing to give up on. IOW, and IMO, it is just too dangerous to not bid 2NT, of course, showing the minors.

And as for your last paragraph, again yes, whenever a side opts for aggressive action, whether the offense or the eventual defense, often key information is leaked which tends to lionize the play or defense as the case may be, and, of course, then, as here, favors the quiet “mouse” but if it turns out negative, change the mouse to a rat (at least usually thought, by partner).

jim2August 10th, 2018 at 1:56 pm

On that last paragraph of mine, if I were declaring 3S at IMPs, I would want to make 9 tricks for two reasons.

First, the +140 itself, but I would also keep in mind that the other table might get to 4S. If they do and I can make 10 tricks, then so might they. Thus, I would play safe and not strain for a 10th trick because I would be hoping there WAS no 10th trick to be had.

bobbywolffAugust 10th, 2018 at 5:21 pm

Hi Jim2,

It is no mystery that your mentioned strategy, while a slam dunk at IMPs, needs to be tempered a bit (feeling it, that is) when if playing matchpoints scoring +170 will be as much as 1/3 of a board gain, instead of only +140. When that high percentage of a board is at stake, it becomes doubtful to play it ultra safe and thus settle (having not bid game) for a well below average result with +140 (if the play for that extra trick +170 requires only reasonable skill).

IOW the play at matchpoints, on a regular basis, contradicts what I consider the major tenet in what makes our game spectacular, making (and thus while defending) setting the contract that was bid.

Yes , matchpoints is far more difficult a game than is either rubber bridge or IMPs, but that greater difficulty both involves much luck, and less exactness both in the bidding and play, therefore resulting (in my eyes) leaving it significantly inferior.

However, none of the above, does anything other than confirm you right on with your above described thought process.

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KrystynaAugust 15th, 2018 at 12:30 am

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