Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 6, 2010

Dealer: South

Vul: None


6 5

A J 10 8 5 2

A J 2

6 3


10 3 2

6 3

10 8 4

J 9 7 5 2


9 8 7

Q 9 4

K Q 7 6 3

K 4


A K Q J 4

K 7

9 5

A Q 10 8


South West North East
1 Pass 2 Pass
3 Pass 3 Pass
3 Pass 4 Pass
4 NT Pass 5 Pass
6 All Pass    

Opening Lead: 4

“To squander away the objects which made the happiness of their fellows would be to them no sacrifice at all.”

— Edmund Burke

A Merrimac Coup is an attempt to disrupt declarer’s communications by the strategic shift to an unsupported honor. You normally cannot be sure with a Merrimac Coup that it will cost you a trick, whereas today’s play was a more cold-blooded surrender of a winner.

When France defeated England in their annual encounter in the Entente Cordiale Trophy, Michel Lebel was the player confronted with the tricky defensive problem against six spades. You can view it from Lebel’s perspective by taking the East seat.

The auction was entirely straightforward, but South’s Blackwood inquiry had elicited the fact that North did not have the heart queen (not entirely a surprise to Lebel). Philippe Cronier led the diamond four, and declarer played low from dummy. How would you plan the defense?

It is all too easy to defend passively, but Lebel worked out that on a passive black-suit return, declarer would make 12 tricks easily. He would draw trumps, play the top hearts, ruff a heart, then cross to the diamond ace to run the hearts. Hoping to find his partner with the club jack, Lebel found the Greek gift of winning with the diamond queen and returning a diamond into dummy’s tenace, giving declarer a cheap trick, but taking away the entry to the heart suit. The best that declarer could do was take the club finesse and try to ruff a club, but Lebel could overruff for one down.


South Holds:

9 8 7
Q 9 4
K Q 7 6 3
K 4


South West North East
    1 NT 2
ANSWER: You have a real problem if you are playing standard methods. A cue-bid is unattractive without four hearts, and three diamonds is nonforcing. One solution is to play that a call of two no-trump acts as a puppet to three clubs, allowing you to show a weak hand with either minor, while a direct three-diamond call is forcing. This is called Lebensohl. More on this in my Sunday column later this month.


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