Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, May 18th, 2019

Every advantage in the past is judged in the light of the final issue.


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


The most popular win at the 1997 Dallas Spring Nationals was in the final event, the Open Swiss Teams. Edgar Kaplan had been battling cancer for a couple of years and had not been able to play all that much, but he paired up with Geir Helgemo to win the event.

Kaplan was dummy when Helgemo produced the play of the year. Put yourself in the South seat and cover up the East and West cards to see if you, too, can win a brilliancy prize.

Richard Pavlicek opened a weak two-bid in hearts, raised to game by Ralph Katz. Helgemo tried six diamonds, and all passed. Helgemo ruffed the heart lead, drew trumps and inferred that the hearts were surely 5-4, so Pavlicek probably had a little extra distribution for his bidding.

Since the contract would be easy if spades were 3-3, what if Pavlicek had five clubs, so that spades were 4-2? There was only one remote chance to play for, and Helgemo took it. He led a spade to the seven, playing West for a doubleton eight. Katz won the jack and returned the five — and Helgemo ran this to dummy’s nine!

This deal produced awe from the other professional players in the event when they heard about it. Duplicate boards were in play, but few had found the initial move in the spade suit, and no-one else had had the nerve to make the second play.

Of course, if East had played the eight on the first round, declarer would have had some losing options.

Do not allow your nice spade stopper to tempt you into bidding two no-trump. When you have a fit for partner, you can raise to three clubs and allow him to make the next move. Imagine partner with, say, the spade ace plus five diamonds to the ace-jack, and four clubs to the king. Nine tricks seem a long way away — and even eight may not be easy if the defenders lead hearts or diamonds early.


♠ Q J 10 5
 A 10 6 4
♣ Q J 7 3
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 Pass 2 ♣ 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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


A.V.Ramana RaoJune 1st, 2019 at 9:52 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Absolutely brilliant play by Helgemo taking the only chance for the contract. It also proves that Dame Luck always smiles on chance takers.( And reading this hand, strangely , reminds of the Bridge hand Bond plays against Drax in Moonraker )
And perhaps, had west worked out that somehow south appears to be prepared for a heart lead and if only he led a club initially !

Bob LiptonJune 1st, 2019 at 10:26 am

Absolutely brilliant to spot this chance at the board! Yet once conceived, the range of hands needed to make the contract (2=5=1=5, 2=6=1=4, 1=6=1=5), the only question is if there is a better play. I couldn’t see t idouble dummy, so ‘m going to say no.

The only card west must hold to make this work is the S8, although as Bobby points out, playing the 8 on the first spade opens up various choices. I hate to think of how Helgemo would have reacted had West’s doubleton been the H8, and he had played the 8. I think Edgar wold have smiled and quoted Macauley to himself.


bobbywolffJune 1st, 2019 at 2:59 pm

Hi AVRR & Bob,

A profound thanks to both of you for showing the appreciation of Geir Helgemo’s brilliant play.

First the aggressive bid, next the analysis and finally and sometimes the toughest task of backing his own judgment by playing for the weak two bidder to be 5-5 rather than 3-5-1-4 or 3-6-1-3.

If a player possesses any of those three qualities, particularly the last two, he will have the power of talent to compete at any level, and to both have and act on all three is nothing short of breathtaking.

This hand represents what can be achieved in bridge, which requires both knowledge of cards, the strengths and weaknesses of his or her opponents plus what might be called numeracy, joining with exquisite judgment, in its application.

Both of your posts recognized its magnificence.