Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dealer: East

Vul: E/W

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


South West North East
Pass 4 Dbl. Pass
4 All Pass    

Opening Lead: Can you guess?

“But search the land of living men,

Where wilt thou find their like agen?”

— Sir Walter Scott

The Alcatraz Coup is a deceptive but illegal play by which declarer exploited a loophole (now blocked) in the revoke law. No illegal subterfuge took place in today’s deal, but Tom Townsend and David Gold did break a seemingly unbreakable contract. How on earth could anyone defeat today’s heart game? It looks easier to make 11 tricks than 10.


The auction to four hearts was normal, though Townsend’s three-club pre-empt showed a respectable hand in their methods. Nonetheless, Gold, who was desperate for tricks against the heart game, tried the diamond four as his opening salvo! Declarer got the suit wrong, of course, putting in dummy’s jack. Townsend won and cashed the club king, on which Gold gave count to show that he had originally started with three clubs, and thus no more club winners were cashing.


Townsend now went back to diamonds, and West won with the ace and continued to conceal the diamond two by returning the diamond six, consistent with an original four-card holding.


Now what is declarer to do? South guessed wrong by ruffing with the eight (playing East to have begun with three diamonds, or any heart holding without an honor), rather than committing himself to the less likely 2-2 trump break. One down!


At the other table East led a mundane club against four hearts and very soon declarer wrapped up 11 tricks by guessing diamonds after drawing trumps.

ANSWER: This hand is far too powerful for a jump to four spades, which is consistent with a near-Yarborough. Far better even than a constructive raise to three spades is the splinter jump to four clubs. This shows a raise of spades with a singleton club and, in principle, either moderate values or at least one high-card control (here, the heart king).


South Holds:

9 8 6 5
K 9 6 3
10 9 8 3


South West North East
    2 Pass
2 Pass 2 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


RossDecember 23rd, 2009 at 4:00 pm


Bobby WolffDecember 24th, 2009 at 1:11 am

Twas a beauty, no doubt.

Townsend and Gold made quite a sensation at the Beijing Olympiad. It will follow that, after doing that as Freshmen, it will take some extraordinary follow-up to continue as Sophomores.

Since the Bridge Puppeteer is in control, some of those ace underleads and other assorted brilliancies will no doubt as Donald Duck might philosophize, ‘those bids and plays do not always turn out as well as they are quacked up to be”. Time alone will tell, so keep your eyes and ears tuned.