Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

Vulnerable: East-West

Dealer: East



K Q 8 5

A 8 5 3 2

8 5 2


J 9 6

A 9 6 2

K J 7

7 4 3


A K Q 8 7 2

J 7

Q 10 9 6



10 5 4

10 4 3


A K Q J 9 6


South West North East
2 4 5 Pass
Pass Dbl. All pass South

Opening Lead: Take your pick!

“Those magnificent men in their flying machines.”

— Lorraine Williams

At the halfway point of the 2010 Canadian Trials, the eventual winners (team Gartaganis) and their opponents were running neck and neck. After that, Gartaganis ran away with the match, with the help of deals like today’s.

Both tables reached five clubs, but in one room the defense started routinely with a spade to the ace and a diamond switch. Nick Gartaganis won this, ruffed two spades in dummy, drew trump, and led up to the heart honors to chalk up an easy 400.

Just as the Vugraph spectators were beginning to speculate on the fate of the contract on the highly unlikely trump lead, Piotr Klimowicz selected the club three for his opening salvo. Declarer won this in hand and played a heart. On this trick, Klimowicz made his second nice, and highly necessary, play by ducking the ace. If he wins the heart ace, declarer can come to three heart tricks — but more importantly, the hearts give him entries to ruff out diamonds. He gets home with six clubs, three hearts, and two diamonds.

Now declarer, in dummy with the heart king, called for a spade, and it was Gordon Campbell’s turn to shine, as East. He “rose” to the occasion when he ducked his spade A-K-Q to allow partner to win the spade and play another trump. After that, it was all over — wriggle as he might, declarer was always going to lose the two aces, and either a second heart or a second spade.


South holds:

K Q 8 5
A 8 5 3 2
8 5 2


South West North East
1 1 2
ANSWER: This is a classic example of a double that goes under many names, but is essentially a takeout double for the unbid suits. Call it competitive, responsive or Snapdragon, but it comes to the same thing — it suggests values and the unbid suits. Ideally, you would have more tolerance for partner than here.


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


jim2April 16th, 2011 at 2:12 pm

On the opening lead, can I pick a small heart?

bobbywolffApril 16th, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Hi Jim2,

Yes you can, but in the future we will try and hide the hand records from you before you play.

Let us take another look at this relatively simple bridge hand which took place at a major championship:

1. Spades were a focal trump suit in the bidding and for a successful defense at one table a defender had to duck the AKQ, chancing looking like an idiot.

2. Hearts presented an interesting combination which, again for the defense (vs a 5 club contract) required ducking twice with the ace in order to not allow 3 natural heart tricks to the declarer. assuming he had the time and entries to untangle them.

3. Diamonds represented the possible establishment of the game going trick in 5 clubs by being able to ruff 3 of them to establish the 5th one, again assuming he could time the hand to get it done.

4. Clubs, of course was the final trump contract in both rooms and a possible hidden entry to the dummy with the 8 became one when the singleton 10 fell.

All of this was integrated in the discussion of the best line of play and, of course, the defense.

Sometimes all of us, especially including I sometimes forgets what a superior game bridge really is and how difficult it is to play it at a consistent high level.

Thanks for reminding all of us what a good analyst can come up with in the form of winning (but not likely by any standards) opening leads.

jim2April 16th, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Awww, you were the one who issued the challenge with:

“Take your pick!”