Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, April 6, 2009



Vul: Both

J 8 7 2
K J 7 6 5
A 7 3
West East
5 3 10
A 10 9 8 Q 4
Q 6 4 J 10 5 2
K 10 7 6 A Q 9 5 4 3
A K Q 9 6 4
3 2
K 9 8
J 2


South West North East
1 Pass 3* Dbl.
4 All pass    
*Limit raise in spades with an unspecified shortage


Opening Lead: 6

“Time has too much credit … I never agree with the compliments paid to it. It is not a great healer. It is an indifferent and perfunctory one.”

— Ivy Compton-Burnett

When I started playing bridge, there were no world championships for women, let alone for seniors and juniors. Times have changed. All the deals this week come from a relatively recent Junior World Championship in Florida. Since then, many of the participants have gone on to fame and maybe even to fortune.

Counting is one of the most important exercises at bridge, but sometimes you have to combine the exercise with a fair amount of inference and conjecture.

In the semifinal match between Israel and Italy, both tables made four spades, but the Italian declarer, Matteo Mallardi, had the tougher task.

While the Israeli declarer had plenty of time on a trump lead to play on hearts, Mallardi had reached four spades after the Israeli East had the chance to double an artificial club bid.

On a club lead to the ace and the accurate switch to the diamond jack, declarer won in hand and drew two rounds of trumps. Now it looks to be a blind guess as to how to play the hearts, but West’s low-club lead implied he did not have two of the top three honors in that suit. Since East, a passed hand, apparently had six decent clubs to the ace and queen plus the diamond jack, he had no room for the heart ace or he would have opened the bidding. So Mallardi led a heart to dummy’s king for his 10th trick.

ANSWER: “When in doubt, lead your best suit” may be a trifle too simplistic. But here, if you lead a heart and find your partner with a high honor, you may be able to establish something. Any other lead either requires partner to deliver rather more or may hurt your own side and not establish anything.


South Holds:

J 8 4
Q 9 3 2
J 7 6 4
Q 5


South West North East
1 Pass 1
Pass 1 Pass 2NT
Pass 3NT 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 2009. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


bruce karlsonApril 20th, 2009 at 11:54 am

For the great unwashed that struggle and fail to keep strict count of defenders honors, there may be another approach: It would not work in today’s layout but, if West has Q or QX (given declarer’s spots) it is unbeatable (I think) , and it does not cost in any case. If East has 3 diamonds to the q, and is sleepy, it always works. Any reason not to try it first??

Take out trumps ending in dummy, lead to the diamond K ruff the club (perhaps using the diamond K as an entry might not alert the defenders to the coming end play), play the diamond A and out. Any chance an expert East, with toxic diamonds, would not see it coming??

Happy to say that “The Lone Wolff” has arrived. Hopefully I will have a chance to meet The Lone Wolff in person sometime, but, until then the book will have to do.

Bobby WolffApril 20th, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Hi Bruce,

I guess the only reason to not lead diamonds first would be, if the diamonds were 5-2 and, after misguessing the heart, the defensive hand with the 2d defensive heart trick had originally only the 2 diamonds and was unable to cash the setting trick, leaving time for declarer to be able to ruff the hearts good for an eventual diamond discard.

However, that doesn’t detract from your suggestion, if, in fact, it does not take away from your detective work in your determination how the heart honors are probably distributed.

At least to me, this type of hand shows the real beauty of our game showing the detective work involved (here the dog which didn’t bark being East with his original pass) and then improving on the execution by possibly following your line of play, instead of brashly tackling hearts prematurely.

Again it might be worth noting that the Bergen raise employed by NS gave East the opportunity to direct a better lead than was made at the other table and created an up tempo for the defense. Always remember that the enemy is also listening to our bridge conversations which take place by our bidding.

Since I was the coach of this particular USA Junior team, held in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in 1999 (Bob Rosen of Florida was our great Captain), I thought the showing of our team, finishing 2d and winning the silver metal was a tribute to our players since so many of the European Juniors had been exposed to bridge early in their primary school days (taught in the primary and secondary schools in many European countries). We will always be a dollar short in bridge until we realize that the thinking required to be a good bridge player involves itself with logic, cunning, arithmetic, and problem solving which, in turn, makes it a responsible subject to teach in our schools. At least many countries in Europe (Scandanavia, France and Italy to name a few) and also China think of it that way.

Maybe, far after I leave the scene, my (and others) dreams will be realized and bridge will get its rightful place in the sun.

Dusan KrautsakApril 24th, 2009 at 6:05 pm

I’m from Rijeka, Croatia that is only 70 km from Trieste where Mallardi lives and know him very well. After winning the Championship in 1999 he stoped playing bridge. What a waste.