Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dealer: East

Vul: All

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


South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 3 Pass
4 Pass 6 All Pass

Opening Lead:9

“No man ever followed his genius till it misled him.”

— Henry David Thoreau

To mark the the U.S. trials currently taking place, I am using one of my favorite deals from the finals of the 2005 trials. This deal, which came up in the last segment of a very close match, shows both sides making noteworthy plays.


First, consider how you would play in six spades. Since everything comes down to the play of the trumps, do you cash the ace early, or take two finesses? The percentage play is to take two finesses and make the contract as the cards lie.


However, put yourself in Fred Gitelman’s shoes. Fred was sitting West and knew that if the spade ace was to his left, the slam would go down, but what if it were to his right? To try to prevent declarer from following the percentage line in trumps, he led the heart nine to the first trick!


Surely declarer would not now risk a losing spade finesse, given the threat of a heart ruff. Would that induce him to play spades from the top? No sale! Michael Rosenberg, smelling a rat, won the heart lead in hand to pass the spade jack. Well-done, both sides, but the swing went to Gitelman’s opponents.


Still, Gitelman had the last laugh when his squad won the event and went on to take the bronze medal in the World Championships.

ANSWER: The quality of your hearts is bad, but the control-rich nature of your hand, coupled with your 16-count, argues for aggression. Jump to three hearts, and if it goes wrong, tell your partner you thought the heart two was the 10.


South Holds:

A 6 3
A J 8 6 5 2
A 4
K 7


South West North East
1 1 Dbl. 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

1 Comment

Anthony MoonJune 27th, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Gitelman was unlucky that his partner’s heart holding was a complete giveaway. Nice try.