Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, January 21st, 2011

Dealer: West

Vul: North


7 5 3 2

A J 7

A Q J 9 7 2


Q J 9 8 6 4

Q 4 3 2


8 3


A K 10

6 5 3

A K J 9 6 5 4


K 10 9 8 6 5

K 10 8

Q 10 7 2


South West North East
Pass 1 2
2 2 4 4
5 Pass Pass 5
Pass Pass 6 Dbl.
All Pass      

Opening Lead: eight

“Nothing defines humans better than their willingness to do irrational things in the pursuit of phenomenally unlikely payoffs.”

— Scott Adams

At the Bermuda Congress last year, this deal decided the winner of the teams tournament. McKenzie Myers, South in six hearts doubled, ruffed the club lead in dummy and ran the heart jack. It is tantamount to instant surrender to take this trick, but can West do better? No! If South is allowed to hold the heart jack, he crosses to a top diamond to ruff a club with the trump ace, then ruffs a spade back to hand to play the heart king and 10. Since West has no club left to lead, declarer can win the forced spade return in hand and draw the last trump, then cash the diamonds.


In the other room Myers’ teammates (Bill Souster and Joe Wakefield) reached five spades doubled with the East-West cards after Souster opened the West cards with a bid of two spades.


Against five spades doubled, North led a low diamond, looking for a ruff, but South had clubs under control, so shifted to a low heart. Declarer ruffed and tried to cash the club ace; North ruffed this, and had to be careful now, but exited calamitously with the heart ace. Declarer ruffed, then crossruffed two more diamonds and hearts. That left him in hand to draw three rounds of trumps. In the three-card ending, the last trump squeezed South between his heart king and his guard in clubs. That was plus 650 and a whopping 20 IMPs for Myers.


South Holds:

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


South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
ANSWER: You have a complex hand, but the simplest way to describe it is to raise hearts and forget about spades, since your partner rates strongly to have five or more hearts, or a very good four-carder. A jump to three hearts gets across the general values of your hand, if not the precise shape, fairly accurately.


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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


John Howard GibsonFebruary 4th, 2011 at 4:15 pm

HBJ : Looking at all 4 hands the contract still poses a problem. When looking at just two hands making 12 tricks becomes even more of a problem for those that lack vision.

It seems obvious that 12 tricks can materialise from 6D, 1 club ruff and 5 hearts ( conceding only one to the queen ). But it is all about elimination, safety play and timing……the latter being crucial element. Playing the jack of hearts at trick 2 is clearly an act of an expert, and for anyone else an inspired piece of guesswork !

jim2February 4th, 2011 at 7:02 pm

The hand plays so much easier with a non-club lead.

Perhaps I am mistaken, but I would have expected the double to ask for a spade lead. (“Partner, don’t lead my suit; lead yours.”)

bobbywolffFebruary 4th, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Hi Howard,

You’ve added a deft touch to your already professional judgment.

High-level declarer’s play in bridge must be somewhat like the thinking of Olympic type ice skaters or acrobats. In addition to landing rightside up in your first endeavor you must plan your follow up move to impress everyone watching.

Expert declarer’s play involves original basic truths (such as drawing trump or better said, “getting the kiddies out of the street”) while at the same time being in the right hand to execute your follow-up necessary move. Add trying to anticipate and find an antidote to an adept defender’s counter move and you are almost there.

Please consider what this declarer needed to do with this fantasy hand consisting of 4-0 trump breaks (off side at that) and one’s vulnerability to a clever defender’s duck.

For statistical purposes one can play perhaps 50 years (I’ve already played around 60) of high level bridge or sort-of, and hands and degrees of difficulty like this one may occur perhaps a grand total of only 8 to 10 times, but when they do (and, of course, there is never any warning) one needs the pride present to be ready for it.

We need preparation, experience, understand the language of cards (better to play 2nd and 4th than 1st and 3rd), total concentration and a drumroll announcing the most fun part of detective work (where the cards are most likely to be) before we commit.

When I was about fifteen and already well on my way I used to dream of playing in a bridge World Championship against Terrence Reese and partner and wondering how I would react (other male kids were thinking about girls). Yes it can be nothing short of thrilling, but devoting one’s life to such a thing is a big gamble and parents would be wise to be very careful how they deal with their kids.

See what your introspective comment gleaned. lol

David WarheitFebruary 5th, 2011 at 12:21 am

How about: ruff the opening lead, ruff a spade, ruff a second club with the ace of hearts, then lead the remaining heart to the king and continue hearts. I think this line is better than that of Myers, because it caters for west having a diamond void.

bobbywolffFebruary 5th, 2011 at 12:59 am

Hi David,

But what if East started with the singleton Queen of hearts and diamonds were 2-2? And if you don’t think the bridge gods prey on all of us who even begin to think that we know what we are doing, try another think. Perhaps East would not have doubled with only 2 sets of AKs since he also held the Queen of hearts, but are you ready to bet the farm on it?