Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019

The best liar is he who makes the smallest amount of lying go the longest way.

Samuel Butler

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


France made a good start at the 2014 European Team Championships, but then lost heavily to Monaco, the eventual silver medalists, in the third round.

Having agreed hearts as the trump suit, East, Tor Helness, tried for a slam, but was happy to defend against five spades doubled. Geir Helgemo led the club king, which was won in hand by declarer Michel Bessis, who drew trumps in two rounds ending in dummy. Now came the critical point. The diamond nine hit the baize, and Helness showed his class by ducking in tempo. Now Bessis had a decision to make. When he rose with the king, he no longer had a way to make his contract.

Had he run the nine, he would have been home free — he could come to hand by ruffing a heart, then establish a diamond with a double loser-on-loser play in that suit, thus making 11 tricks.

Of course, had the diamond nine lost to the queen, South would almost certainly have been two off, but Helness’s strong bidding perhaps indicated the diamond position. You could certainly argue that gambling plus 850 against minus 500 is better odds than a guaranteed minus 200.

In the other room, again the five-level was reached, and the first three tricks were identical; but this time when the diamond nine was played from dummy, East hopped up with the ace. That was a pardonable error, but one that made life easy for declarer. France had not doubled the contract, but it was still 13 IMPs to Monaco.

Your hand has improved considerably now that you know of a heart fit. Your singleton diamond will prove useful opposite partner’s likely 1=4=3=5 shape, as will the spade ace and the club intermediates. (Picture partner with king-jack-fifth, for example.) What is more, partner has shown extras with his reverse, so jump to four hearts to suggest no slam interest.


♠ A 7 6 5 4
 J 9 6 5
♣ 10 9 8
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 RaoNovember 5th, 2019 at 11:42 am

Hi Dear Mr. Wolff
Perhaps East at second table too should have ducked the diamond . If East had another club, taking A would have made sense as defense can cash a club trick before playing hearts and now the loser on loser play does not work as South has already lost two tricks but since East did not have another club, he could have played low

Iain ClimieNovember 5th, 2019 at 2:57 pm

HI Bobby,

Was the double of 5S DOPI (or D0P1), I wonder? Interesting as to whether East should bid 5D trying to help West judge what to do, although the D lead that would probably ensue would NOT be helpful, while West would probably be encouraged to hit 5S anyway. It just goes to show the power of a big fit and shortages opposite length.



Bobby WolffNovember 5th, 2019 at 3:19 pm


It’s plays like Tor Helness (Norway) made, ducking the ace of diamonds when and, of course, having no more clubs and positive that even one heart will not cash, which make a champion bridge player.

Simply put, and in order to both “feel” and understand what is necessary to so do, a defender (not being privy to actually seeing all 26 of his combined assets with partner) must imagine (almost always with help from the bidding) quickly visualize as much fact as he can, especially when combined with partner’s opening lead.

We can all see how necessary the diamond duck became, and with Michael Bessis of France and South having exactly KJ10x opposite the lady luck 9 in dummy, the duck by Tor became crucial. No doubt, from Michael’s position it may have become a “trick saver” to rise with the king (if West had the queen) but to do so would only have provided apple sauce instead of the whole apple by scoring up 5 spades doubled in such a grand style. When two players of that ability square off against each other, our great game wins with its magnificence.

To repeat, in answer to what it takes to make such sensational plays by our two heroes: 1. analysis of the bidding, 2. counting suits without pause (hearts around the table) 3.
understanding of whole hands, rather than just single play winners and losers, and critically 4. quick and accurate thinking so as to, in many cases, not giving even a wily declarer any additional help by sometimes telltale hesitations (not necessarily here) which often tend to give the farm away instead of extracting the proper price for it.

AVRR, please excuse the long rant above, but brilliance by both the defender and then the declarer (by letting the nine ride) does not grow in trees and thus, at least to all of us, deserves the recognition that bridge itself, and the special ones who rise to the occasion (but, in this case, neither East nor South, not brilliantly rise, at least with the diamond played).

Thanks to all who made it through the above and hopefully wound up with perhaps just a tiny smile of satisfaction for their effort.

Bobby WolffNovember 5th, 2019 at 3:32 pm

Hi Iain,

Although I do not know the answer to your question for sure, my guess to West’s ace asking response, 4NT, was DOP1 (double zero, pass 1, instead of DOPE, double odd, pass even) since zero aces and, or, key cards is what he held.

Yes, I totally agree with your analysis and Michael’s allowing the beautiful (to him) nine of diamonds presented to him by partner allowed him to get maximum mileage, not to mention necessary, in order to score up this very elusive final contract.

JudyNovember 6th, 2019 at 4:23 pm

I have been working on getting Wednesday’s column posted. So far .. no response. Hang in!

Iain ClimieNovember 6th, 2019 at 4:49 pm

Will do, Judy. Thanks for that,


Bobby WolffNovember 7th, 2019 at 12:50 pm

Hi Iain and everyone,

Our handsetter is ill and currently out of touch, but both Judy and I are both concerned for her and, of course, trying to overcome.

Please accept our apologies. Your time, responses, and allegiance to both our project and to our game itself is sacred to us and inconvenience to all of you is both untimely and unsatisfactory.

We sincerely appreciate your patience.