Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 23rd, 2019

But war’s a game, which, were their subjects wise, Kings would not play at.

William Cowper

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




This week of tournament deals is taken from the 2007 Bermuda Bowl, held in Shanghai. Today’s deal was played in an early round-robin match between Italy and Poland.

The contract is uninspiring here, since unless the major-suit kings are well placed, you are not favored to make your game — and maybe not even then! Four spades by South is more challenging than by North, where East is likely to lead a diamond and clear up your problems. On Vugraph, declarer (who shall remain nameless for reasons that will become apparent) received a trump lead.

After drawing trumps in three rounds, the correct technical play is obvious — you need the heart king onside, so lead a heart to the ace, then another back toward the queen. You can then strip away the hearts before exiting in clubs. The defenders will then have to open up diamonds. This gives you a 75% chance to avoid a loser, as opposed to the 50-50 chance you would have without their help.

Declarer missed this and instead exited with a low club after the third round of trumps. East won this trick cheaply and could have set the hand by returning a club. But he assumed declarer needed discards for heart losers, so he shifted to the heart jack — close, but no cigar!

Declarer could now revert to the winning line. This resulted in a flat board because the Italian pair in the other room had reached the superior three no-trump.

You have a control card in the trump suit and not much in terms of high-card strength, so you can expect partner to have an entry or two. This is the ideal time to lead your doubleton in search of a thirdround ruff. A seemingly passive spade will probably cost a trick as often as a diamond.


♠ 10 8 7 2
 K 8 4
 7 5
♣ K 10 7 6
South West North East
Pass 2 Pass 4
All 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 ClimieJanuary 6th, 2020 at 5:25 pm

Hi Bobby,

In such events, are West and North on the same side of the screen? If so, they could have exchanged knowing looks about their partners’ performances.



bobbywolffJanuary 6th, 2020 at 6:24 pm

Hi Iain,

As long as those knowing looks are not seen, nor ever disclosed, perhaps those two partnerships will be enabled to have some future success.

At least with my experience, any public criticism or obvious disgust, shown by one partner to another is a sure fire road straight to the bridge graveyard.

Yes, some unequal partnerships will usually dissolve (excepting professional partnerships which tend to join together with
future gaffes accepted but improvement desired), however in reality, not any bridge partnership, no matter how majestic, is ever error free and that always (at least to my experience) involves allowing one’s partner some leeway before his or her ax is wielded or possibly worse, sadistic sarcasm appears.

Great bridge partnerships are rare, if only because respect to and for each other is always shown by both partners, especially when the stakes are at their highest level. Which in obvious fact, will tend to produce their best performances.

Iain ClimieJanuary 6th, 2020 at 7:12 pm

Hi Bobby,

Wise words indeed but how much easier to say that (or think it) than to put it into practice at the table I fear.



bobbywolffJanuary 7th, 2020 at 12:43 pm

Hi Iain,

Yes and no doubt, the pressures of winning at high-level bridge, mirrors the strain of merely working hard, with the responsibilities nowadays of maintaining a worthwhile marriage. This, in turn, likely is a major factor in causing the current high divorce rate, even in highly civilized countries.

And especially so in bridge, where not even an official license nor blood test, required to indulge in a bridge partnership, highly expert or not.

Finally, since a very high-level bridge partnership is a condition to be cherished, any time either partner seems to take less seriously his crucial role in their success, it may seem (rightfully or not) exaggerated in his or her partner’s mind, allowing, at least in that moment in time, the disappointed player to consider a major change.

It is indeed folly to not then expect a long term partnership, no matter their superior talents, to not have periods of, at least semblances of the above, sometimes relatively out of the blue, and, at least to my mind, every necessary effort should be made by both partners to try to fix it, since, at least in my view, flying to others is usually, if not almost always, the lesser solution.

To visit “The theater of the Absurd”, at the level of expertise I am referring to, it is akin to Romeo and Juliet’s apparent but still, fictional love.

BTW, your last above post is very true, and, if anything is perhaps an understatement,

However, since the choice is still available, not putting “saying it” into practice, instead of just thinking it, has proven, at least in my mind, up to and including 100% better.

Later, when emotions have relaxed, may be the convenient or right time (if there ever is one) to then discuss the bother.