Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, May 4, 2009

Dealer: South

Vul: E/W

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


South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass

Opening Lead:K

“The multitude is always in the wrong.”

— Earl of Roscommon

It is easy to predict the defense to today’s three no-trump at most tables. West will lead the spade jack, won by declarer’s queen. (The queen is more deceptive than the king, letting East think that West might have the king.) Next will come the diamond nine to East’s queen for a second round of spades. Declarer will win in hand and clear the diamonds, leaving the defenders to take the last trick if they defend accurately. East-West will record their minus 430 and move on to the next deal without realizing that they had the opportunity to alter destiny. Can you see how?

East should realize that if he wins the first diamond lead, declarer will be able to establish three diamond tricks. Since declarer has only one entry card to dummy, West can limit declarer to only one diamond trick by ducking the first diamond; proper defense from that point on will hold declarer to eight tricks.

The key to the successful defense is the number of side entries to dummy. If it had two or more entries, this defense would not work. Declarer could establish diamonds even after the holdup. If there were no dummy entries, East simply has to win the second or third round of diamonds to prevent South from taking more than one trick in the suit. When there is just one entry to dummy, the holdup must come on the first round of the suit.

ANSWER: Do you go active with a spade lead, or passive with a diamond lead? I doubt if anybody could say for sure that one play was right and one wrong, but your trump and club holdings suggest no great need to be a hero. Lead a diamond and let the defensive tricks come to you rather than forcing the pace.


South Holds:

J 2
K 7 3
10 6 4 2
Q 9 5 3


South West North East
  1 Pass 1

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 2009. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


RobMay 18th, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Interesting deal! I think that declarer can actually still prevail if he endplays East. Of course, he’d have to be almost omniscient in order to do it…

After East ducks the diamond 9 on the second trick, declarer ducks a heart on the third trick. He wins the return and plays off his top spades, clubs, and hearts. Then he loses a club to East. East can take his two clubs and diamond ace, but on the last trick he has to lead his diamond queen, giving declarer his ninth trick.

bruce karlsonMay 18th, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Re: The Lone Wolff”; About halfway through it and Judy’s caution has been vindicated. I knew it was nasty at the top but, when it is laid out, it is ugly in the extreme. I doubt that you made any friends with this effort… It is a great read and puts our local club “politics” to shame. I am hoping the second half shows a brighter side to the “wizards” and tournament bridge in general. I understand that there are very few “bad apples” (at least in the USA), but it is painful to read what a few cheaters, etc. can do to our wonderful game!!

In any event, Bravo!!


Bobby WolffMay 18th, 2009 at 10:35 pm

Hi Rob,

As Lew Corso, the former football coach of Indiana University and now a major TV college football announcer, might say, “Not so fast, my friend”. When declarer ducks a heart, he cannot keep West from winning and then, of course West leads a diamond through dummy so that the defense still will prevail. Since the play up to then, would indicate to all who were at the table, that the cards were about where they were supposed to be, it would not be terribly difficult for that defense to occur.

Thanks for watching, analyzing, and writing. Next time you’ll be right on and besides it is fun discussing these possibilities and believe it or not, can become very instructional to those who do it. The lesson to be learned here is that with concentration and dedication it will become easier and easier to improve one’s defense, undoubtedly the most difficult part of the high-level game.

Bobby WolffMay 18th, 2009 at 11:36 pm

Hi Bruce,

Thanks for your always sophisticated comments.

Yes, it has been nasty at the top of high-level championship bridge, but what about baseball and its steroid users, professional basketball with its complicit NBA referees being on the take and college basketball with its paying significant money to OJ Mayo to entice him to come to USC, professional football with Michael Vick’s hobby and college football with an easily corrected 5th down being allowed with only a few seconds left in the game and then after scoring the “winning touchdown” not forfeiting the game they had not really won, but still got credit for, Olympic ice skating with Mafia type mayhem to a female competitor in addition to obvious bias by shameful world official judges. Is it really any better when a reasonably wealthy, but guilty to the nth degree famous former football player and actor, commits a cold blooded double murder, but because of political factors, a very weak judge and high-priced unethical (at least to my view, but surely not agreed by many) defense lawyers, is set free, only years later for the culprit to be convicted on trumped up charges in order for the state to get even in the name of justice (what justice?).

Perhaps if honest or at least reasonably honest people (especially the ones who sit on powerful bridge boards with the ability to influence our future) would rise as one and protest these directions we are taking, then possibly even the current absolutely awful economic collapse of the world’s financial system would not have occurred. The only thing it would take, is for all of us to point our minds and our actions toward revering those who play out all of life’s choices in a straightforward way and stop playing devil’s advocate to those who don’t. Unlikely, of course, impossible, probably, but the thing to do, you betcha!

We could start with bridge and you are right on, that I didn’t make many friends with TLW, but at the same time the good news is that no one has questioned me, or anyone who has gotten in touch with me, with any of the many material facts presented. Yes, I have been discarded (like the deuce of clubs) by many who I have adversely touched, but to tell the truth I, with Judy’s undying support, wear those discards like badges of honor while we all travel down the yellow brick road in search of bridge Nirvana.

You are also right in your realizing that there are not so many “really bad apples” (in the USA, or for that matter, in the whole bridge world), but the calling of attention to what has transpired in the first 82 years since the invention of Contract Bridge by Harold Vanderbilt in 1927 might eventually help us get the game under control during the next 82. Where ever I will be in the year 2091, you can bet I’ll be watching and will be pulling for any and everyone still enjoying our unique, challenging and superbly entertaining passtime.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 19th, 2009 at 12:26 am

Dear Bruce:

It was not bad enough that my appeal hearing was a farce and the decision and AWMW were even worse. Did you take notice where not only was the write up of my “case” which contained mostly contrary opinions of the Appeals Overseers surreptitiously omitted from the last printed Case Book (they now appear on the internet). However, after the public announcement that my AWMW was ‘vacated’, the Board of Directors took immediate steps to prevent a recurrence of this humiliating backlash by banning appeals of all Awards Without Merit Warnings. How much humiliation and embarrassment could the administration endure. It was like a sixteen month series of The Keystone Cops (if you’re old enough to remember them)!

If you can’t appeal a decision and now cannot have an AWMW reversed — what is your recourse? Sad state of affairs and no sign of relief in sight!

bruce karlsonMay 19th, 2009 at 11:55 am

B/J- Bad behavior is condoned by corrupt adjudication. The age old question of “who will guard the guards?” has been too frequently answered…no one. When “judges” do not judge, one must simply soldier on, confident of his or her position. Bridge, can be exhilarating, infuriating, humbling, humorous, and revealing when played “straight”. It is corrupt and demeaning otherwise.

(I still fume at the self absorbed adolescent behavior of the “We did not vote for Bush.” crowd. Insofar as there was no sanction, it will be repeated…)

Judy Kay-WolffMay 20th, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Bruce — No one in this entire world could agree with your last statement more than yours truly! With our blatant lack of leadership and disclipine, we have no assurance we willl not witnesss a humilliating repeat performance on the Awards Podium in Sao Paulo, Brazil at the next WBF championship this fall by Obama malcontents.