Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Vulnerable: East-West

Dealer: North


Q 9

A Q 7 5 4

10 6

J 8 5 3


8 3 2

10 9 3


A Q 10 9 6 2


6 5

K J 6

Q J 9 8 5 4

K 4


A K J 10 7 4

8 2

A K 7 2



South West North East
Pass Pass
1 3 3 Pass
4 All pass

Opening Lead: Diamond three

“Frightened? Child, you’re talking to a man who’s laughed in the face of death, sneered at doom, and chuckled at catastrophe…. I was petrified.”

— Noel Langley and Florence Ryerson

Over the past 20 years or so, some of the chief executive officers of the ACBL have tried to play bridge, and as Samuel Johnson once commented, it was not done well, but you were surprised that it was done at all.

By contrast, Jay Baum, who has just announced his retirement from the ACBL after nearly 10 years of service as the CEO, was a keen and regular player. He and his wife, Kathy, were a good enough partnership to finish second in a National Mixed Pairs. Here is a deal Jay enjoyed.

Imagine that you were in a pairs game, playing four spades after an uncontested auction, facing repeated club leads. You would surely ruff the second club, then try to crossruff the minors. You might even be able to try the heart finesse for 12 tricks.

As you can see, however, Baum was faced with an entirely different scenario. The combination of the pre-empt and the choice of opening lead suggested that the lead was most likely a singleton.

If so, trying to cash both high diamonds and ruffing diamonds would fail if West returned a trump after ruffing. So Baum made the neat play of a low diamond at trick two in order to ruff one diamond in dummy and hold his losers in diamonds to one. The play after that was easy for 10 tricks.

Any bridge players with prior CEO experience interested in the job should send their resumes to


South holds:

Q 9
A Q 7 5 4
10 6
J 8 5 3


South West North East
1 1
Dbl. Pass 1 NT 2
ANSWER: When your partner opens one club, he will have at least four clubs unless he has four hearts (impossible on this auction) or four spades — which your opponents’ action make less than likely. Your club length argues that you should compete to three clubs. It may not work, but bridge is a game of percentages, and here you are likely to have a club fit.


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


Bob BrylawskiJune 14th, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Leading a low diamond at trick 2 was a creative attempt to save the contract, but I don’t see a path to 10 tricks for Jay with proper defense – specifically if East returns a trump at trick 3 after winning the diamond lead.

While declarer can win the trump return in his hand and ruff his remaining low diamond in dummy, he has no immediate reentry back to his hand to finish drawing trump. Either a heart or a club will allow East to win the trick and lead a fourth round of diamonds to give West a ruff for the third defensive trick, as dummy has no trump left for an overruff, with a club or heart trick still to come to the defense to set the contract.

And of course, if declarer leads a heart or club at trick 4 to create a reentry to his hand, a second trump will beat the hand by preventing the ruff of South’s other losing diamond.

In brief, with the 6-1 diamond break and the heart K offside, I don’t see a way for declarer to avoid the loss of two diamonds along with a club and a heart, with proper defense.

GalJune 15th, 2011 at 8:01 am


The easiest way to make the contract is to lead a club at trick two. The defence must play a trump and declarer can eliminate clubs from the east hand and later endplay him.

By the way, did West really bid three clubs at these colors?

bobbywolffJune 15th, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Hi Bob,

Yes your analysis is 100% correct, so chalk it up to very poor proofreading by yours truly.

Since it was a real hand, actually played, obviously the defenders did not defend to maximum advantage.

Please accept my apology with the saving grace, at least to me, the sharpness of a player like you who is able to think for himself.

bobbywolffJune 15th, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Hi Gal,

Thanks for the clever declarer’s play, which you suggest, and is well within Jay’s talent to execute at the table.

Between you and Bob together, all the readers who are able to read your points and counterpoints, will be treated to what this column sadly lacked, accurate reporting.

Like a good team, all together we can get it done. Thanks for allowing all the readers (unfortunately, only those who were able to follow yours and Bob’s corrections) to profit from the explanations.

In answer to your closing question, evidently West did, in fact overcall a vulnerable 3 clubs, adding teeth to the late and great Al Roth’s old adage, “Vulnerbility is for children”.

BruceJune 16th, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Bob got to the point before I could respond, and Gal added a fine analysis, which I later found, but, I admit would be unlikely to find at the table. Omitting this ‘alternative’ line might even be considered a tiny flaw.

It leads me to the “stunning” conclusion that bridge is a highly complex game, and also that analzying / writing about high level thinking and plays, even after the fact, is sometimes no easier.

Fancy that.

It takes nothing away from the overall quality and entertainment of your writing and this column, however. It is something I have long been meaning to thank you for, and so take this opportunity to do so. Thank you.

I’ll note, in passing, that “Dr. Roth” was not only an outstanding tactician, and had the best nose at the table in the business, but also generally found everything most bridge players did to be “for children”.

bobbywolffJune 16th, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Hi Bruce,

Yes, reporting bridge, in some respects, is more difficult than other competitions, especially in the would of, could of, should of discussions, when proof of what is right often varies from expert to expert.

I do appreciate your thanks, which, especially in your case, only encourages me to do better and search for more accurate reporting as well as interesting sidebars.

Al Roth never lacked for self-confidence, nor what he thought was the only logical way to bid, play the dummy or defend. Also, he never suffered fools, nor the timidity to keep from being heard.

Perhaps one of his more famous retorts occurred in the mid 1960’s while playing on the US team in Europe during a Bermuda Bowl, but after an un Roth like error filled session which caused his name to not appear in the next lineup, he replied, “To my knowledge the Yankees never benched Babe Ruth just because he struck out”.

From then on and among his teammates and other close friends he was always referred to as Babe Roth.