Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, October 25, 2010

Dealer: East

Vul: All


J 4

5 2

K 4 3

A Q J 9 8 5


Q 9 8 7 3 2

9 7 3

7 5

K 10


A 10 6

8 6 4

Q 8 6

7 6 3 2


K 5

A K Q J 10

A J 10 9 2



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

Opening Lead: 7

“Now and then there is a person born who is so unlucky that he runs into accidents which started out to happen to somebody else.”

— Don Marquis

Today’s deal shows that sometimes when the fates (and bridge percentages) have pointed a player toward the winning action, an outside influence may step in and wreck his plans.

The deal comes from last year’s European championships in San Remo. Six diamonds is a delicate slam, but on a spade lead the percentages in the diamond suit indicate that you will get the suit right. To pick up a singleton queen in either hand and any diamond queen in East, you would lead to the diamond king and finesse on the way back. Running the diamond jack on the first round loses to a singleton queen, while cashing the ace and running the jack loses out to any four-card diamond suit headed by the queen in West.

Given that spades rate to be the unbid suit on just about any auction North-South might have, you would expect West to lead a spade and South to bring home his contract. And that was generally the case.

But there were two awkward leads that the defenders might find. A heart lead, unlikely as that might seem, would leave you short of entries to the North hand needed to play on both spades and diamonds, and now you might misguess diamonds. The alternative is the even more diabolical lead of the club 10, found by Jan van Cleeff against the diamond slam. Now declarer opted to take the ace and misguessed the trump queen, and no one can hardly blame him.


South Holds:

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


South West North East
1 Dbl. Pass 2
Pass 3 Pass 3 NT
All Pass      
ANSWER: Partner’s failure to raise spades suggests we look elsewhere. The choice is the passive heart, or the active club lead. Since I’d expect dummy to have hearts, some spade length, and at least a doubleton diamond, partner rates to have club length, so that would be my first choice. A second reason for this choice is that even if a heart is right, partner may not read me to have only a doubleton.


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 2010. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2November 8th, 2010 at 4:24 pm

I know it’s been 35 years, but I still think of Eddie Kantar whenever I see that club holding of West’s. And there you were, innocently and correctly in 6N in the other room, where only a heart lead right into the teeth of your suit would have created a bit of drama.

bobbywolffNovember 8th, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Hi Jim2,

Your memory belongs in Ripley’s “Believe it or Not”.

Yes, in Bermuda in 1975 and playing in that unfortunate Bermuda Bowl where the “Vegetables” Facchini-Zuchelli were caught touching toes during the bidding and before the opening lead and yet were not required for the team to forfeit, (I guess the authorities present suspected they were only giving each other the weather report), but rather still allowed to play until the Italian Captain decided to bench them for bad bridge or perhaps better stated, with now “kick boards” added underneath the table, they would have to guess a little like most everyone else, and then to “blow” a 75 IMP lead culminating with your “HAND” where Garozzo-Belladonna reached 7 clubs holding J9xxxx opposite AQ doubleton in dummy and over Eddie’s K10.

It has been speculated by some that if Eddie would have risen with the King when Giorgio led a club to dummy he would have played for a Trump Coup and gone down, but I do not think so for reasons which will probably die with me.

BTW, Bob and I should have reached 6 clubs rather than 6NT in order to avoid the possible “killing” heart lead so in the larger scheme of things we didn’t deserve to win after all.

As a further aside, just a day earlier Eddie had almost played a wrong card and allowed the Italians to make an unmakeable game contract, but did not and stated that if he would have, he probably would have jumped out of the window (15th floor of the hotel) wherein Bob Hamman replied instantly, “You wouldn’t have had to”.

It is indeed gratifying to know that someone like you remembers “The perils of bridge teams and its downsides”.

As far as I am concerned the drama of high-level bridge has been forever unmatched and should go down as the greatest mind sport ever to be known.



jim2November 8th, 2010 at 5:52 pm

I do remember, and raise my mug to you and all your accomplishments and trials.

On your “BTW,” you are over-modest, methinks, so let me clarify it a smidge for anyone else who might read this.

Your 6N would have failed after the heart lead only if the club finesse had been wrong, in which case 7 clubs also would have failed, making it a flat board. (Your heart jack would have stopped the damage after down one.)