Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dealer: South

Vul: None

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


South West North East
1 Pass 4


4 NT Pass 5** Pass
6 All Pass    
*A heart raise with short diamonds
**Two keycards out of the four aces and trump king, but no trump queen

Opening Lead:


“Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune.”

— Walt Whitman

It is sometimes hard to tell what a good result looks like. Consider this deal from the Cavendish Teams, where one East-West pair was allowed to play four spades doubled for plus 590. Since their teammates had collected a quiet plus 450 in four hearts, that added up to a substantial 14-IMP gain.

But that plus 450, did not look quite so good when it came to scoring up in a different match. At their teammate’s table, Paul Chemla opened the South cards one heart, bid Blackwood over the response of four clubs (which showed a singleton diamond), and then bid slam over the keycard response.

On the spade lead, Chemla won the ace, crossed to the diamond ace to discard a club loser on the spade king, and exited with a club. East won the club queen and returned an uninspired spade. Declarer ruffed in hand, and now he could ruff three diamonds in dummy, the third with the heart king. At trick 11 he was able to lead a club and ruff low in safety, with two high trumps for the last two tricks.

Had East returned a diamond at trick five, the timing for the crossruff is altered. Declarer is left with one more trump in hand and will have to read the ending very well to avoid losing a trump to East’s guarded jack. (In the four-card ending, having ruffed the fourth diamond high, he must take a trump finesse, playing for trumps to be 3-0.)

ANSWER: It is important to understand that your partner will be playing you for an opening bid with short diamonds and at least three spades. In that context you have a terrible hand (only three spades, a minimum, and a bad heart-holding). Pass quietly and await developments, if any.


South Holds:

K 8 3
K 8 5 3
J 10 9 8 2


South West North East
Dbl. 1 1 2


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


Michael VeterMay 26th, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Hello, Mr. Wolff.

Concerning today’s (5/26) “Aces on Bridge” column [the one that starts with a quote from Victor Hugo], the deal has a third subtlety. After declarer ducks the opening club lead, West can beat the hand by switching to spades. I freely admit that it’s a virtually impossible shift to make.



Bobby WolffMay 27th, 2009 at 11:52 am

Hi Michael,

When you are right, you are right! As that real May 26th hand is yet to appear on this sight (and won’t till June 9th) we will be getting ahead of ourselves for those who don’t have the Aces column in their local newspaper.

However, your correct analyst points out to me, just what a great game bridge is. Since it is pointed out, within the column itself, that declarer must duck the first club to make the hand, obviously it follows, that against the best defense, the hand cannot be made. However, as you also now point out, it is VERY difficult for West to find that killing spade shift, since he, like you, would probably need to be looking at all four hands for him to succeed.

The above scenario is not uncommon, making bridge, especially the hardest part defense, the one which requires the most imagination and correct technique in order to triumph. Is it any wonder that just considering the above I, like so many other bridge enthusiasts, cherish the ability to merely be able to play the game? If only the bridge bug would bite youngsters during their formulative years allowing them to have our wonderful passtime with and for them for the rest of their entire lives.

Getting bridge into the schools in North America, like it is in many countries in Europe and now in China, would be very enabling. It not only teaches its players to think logically, but, perhaps even more importantly, it also causes great respect among the world’s top players, that bond resulting bridge to be properly called a “Bridge to Peace”. And all that great commonality without having to give one’s adversary a “head butt” to win.

Of course, taking it from one who knows, sometimes being “outwitted”, probably hurts the same or more as would a head butt.

Thanks for writing and good luck.