Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, October 19th, 2019

Man in portions can foresee His own funeral destiny.

Lord Byron

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


At his second turn, North correctly judged his hand to be worth a double raise of spades. After some cue-bids and the application of Roman Key-card Blackwood, South invited a grand slam with five no-trump, but when North could not do more than respond at the six-level, South ended in six spades.

West led his club singleton. Declarer saw that there would be 12 easy tricks if trumps were 3-2: He could draw trumps, concede a club to East and then take a ruff in a red suit for his 12th trick (he would make nine tricks in the black suits and the three additional red-suit winners).

So, declarer turned his mind to what could be done if West had four trumps. After realizing that it would be best to ruff a heart in hand if that were so, declarer began by carefully calling for the club eight from dummy at trick one.

After winning the club ace and drawing two rounds of trumps with the ace and jack, discovering that West did indeed have four trumps, declarer cashed the heart king and ace before leading a low club toward dummy. West discarded a diamond; declarer won with the club king and continued with the club nine to East’s queen. East exited with the heart jack, but declarer could ruff this with the trump queen.

Next, he led a low trump and covered West’s eight with dummy’s nine. After drawing West’s last trump, declarer led dummy’s carefully preserved club six to his seven to cash the club five. The diamond ace was declarer’s 12th trick.

This is a common problem. If we respond in our weak spade suit and partner rebids two clubs, we will not be able to get our diamonds into the game. (Two diamonds would then be fourth suit forcing.) Best is to lie with one no-trump, enabling us to bid a natural and non-forcing two diamonds if partner finds the likely rebid of two clubs.


♠ 10 8 6 4
 Q 3
 K 9 7 6 5 3
♣ 2
South West North East
    1 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


Iain ClimieNovember 2nd, 2019 at 2:29 pm

Hi Bobby,

Playing the C8 or 9 can’t possibly cost as far as I can see here, potentially preserving the C6 as an entry. Nonetheless, how many people would just call for a small club at T1? Clearly North leads to lay his hand down as A968 in that order just as a safety play. I recall something similar in Mollo.



bobbywolffNovember 2nd, 2019 at 3:16 pm

Hi Iain,

Of course those farsighted specific club spot plays are not always necessary, but when one sees such a thing in action, whether necessary or not, a bridge fan of knowledge will learn, if he has not already, who is gifted and who is only working on being so.

In the very early 1970’s Victor Mollo visited me in Dallas to work on a book to be named, “Bridge With the Aces”, a manuscript, which was never published. Unlike all his other hugely popular works, very little humor was injected, only cold hard bridge history, which was later deemed to not be worth the effort and cost of releasing it, since the material did not lend itself to a comedic theme.

Since now, many years later, I do not now know what happened to what I remembered as not a yet completed project, but one which was apparently eventually abandoned. Ira Corn’s estate (original backer of the beginning of the Ace’s team) might be the source of where that unfinished work is now located.

However, I do remember sitting up late nights with him (his apparent habit) sipping cognac, talking practical bridge, and him missing his beloved wife, labeled affectionately as “Squirrel”, (part of his menagerie) who had not made the trip with him.

I believe he was born Russian and emigrated to the UK as a relatively young man. A very original personality he was very entertaining with his keen wit always present, resembling his prolific writing about our favorite game and its animal like characters.

Sadly, he died perhaps over 30 years ago and with him went one of our great game’s superlative authors, who obviously had an uncanny “feeling” about the special characters who frequented playing it.

A.V.Ramana RaoNovember 2nd, 2019 at 5:19 pm

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Bridge like life is total Paradox. The expected things do not happen but unexpected provide gains. A diamond lead should have beaten the slam but how many West players would lead a diamond. But declarer played well on club lead

bobbywolffNovember 2nd, 2019 at 7:00 pm


Similar to myself, you have a philosophical side, which often turns its attention to the unpredictable aspect which undoubtedly is wed to our great game.

Even more so, that very characteristic makes it next to impossible to accurately judge or even begin to rate high-level players as to where they stand compared to others.

Obviously, like other major competitions, the best time to compare value is when the toughest players compete against one another.

However, in order to even come close to learning which and whom, the hands played at that time need to be scrupulously analyzed, keeping in mind both the exact effort expended and, very importantly, if it in fact mattered, the proper psychology of the moment.

Still, the desired result, rates to be muddled.

My guess is that the end result would also include aspects to which I didn’t include, but should have.

David WarheitNovember 2nd, 2019 at 8:00 pm

6S is a fairly strong favorite to make, but 6C essentially only requires C not to be 4-0. Assuming we are not talking matchpoints, how do you think the bidding should have gone to reach the ideal contract?

Patrick CheuNovember 2nd, 2019 at 8:01 pm

Hi Bobby,This hand at pairs possibly echo what you always said..that Bridge is the master of us..NS vul dealer: west Q97643 void 86 AQ973 north K8 92 KJT42 K652 east AJ5 AQ74 Q73 T84 south T2 KJT8653 A95 J. W 1S-N p E 2C S 2H,W 3C N p E 3N S p,W 5C N Dbl E 5S S p,W p N Dbl..passed out. North leads the 9H and 5S makes. Nobody found the diamond it just too far fetched to expect North to find that lead based on the bidding? Regards~Patrick.

Iain ClimieNovember 2nd, 2019 at 9:54 pm

HI David, Bobby,

I’m not sure there is an easy way to avoid the obsession with major 4-4 fits unless North’s club suit is real (or 3 at a pinch) and South passes 6C on today’s auction.



Bobby WolffNovember 3rd, 2019 at 4:21 am

Hi David & Iain,

How about:
North South
1 club 1 spade
3 spades 4 clubs
4 diamonds 4 hearts
4 spades 6 clubs
pass at
IMPs or rubber
and 6 spades
at matchpoints

Bobby WolffNovember 3rd, 2019 at 4:40 am

Hi Patrick,

No doubt West was aggressive with his opening one bid and then feeling compelled to raise his partner’s club response (but who wouldn’t raise clubs. East then was somewhat unilateral to prefer 3NT to supporting partner with 3S.

While East’s 3NT is certainly understandable as an opening 2 over 1 with 3-4-3-3 and opening bid values. However, the cards got even with East for his 10xx 2 over 1 suit causing his partner to not ever find out about the spade fit forcing EW to reach the dangerous level of 11 tricks. However lady luck then did an abrupt turn and cause North to then double and lead his partner’s suit (who wouldn’t) allowing a miracle make of a totally unilaterally bid hand by East.

However, what East picked up here will likely come back to nip him on his back side in the future, at least when he is playing with the same West who witnessed it all.

However, it is next to impossible to blame anyone except lady luck for the fortune favoring EW, since everyone knows that lady is fickle.

And yes, I cannot believe anyone could lead anything but partner’s suit (hearts) while defending 5 spades doubled, except perhaps the person who made the boards.