Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Vulnerable: Both

Dealer: East


K 8 6 5 4

J 9

8 6 3 2

Q 7


Q J 9

A Q 10 5

9 7 5 4

K 8



8 7 4 3 2

J 10

J 9 4 3 2


A 10 3 2

K 6


A 10 6 5


South West North East
2 NT Pass 3 Pass
4 All pass

Opening Lead: Diamond four

“Justice is justly represented Blind, because she sees no Difference in the Parties concerned.”

— William Penn

Occasionally a deal crops up that causes even the best players to have a blind spot. This one caught out world champion Norberto Bocchi.

First cover up the East and West hands and consider declarer’s problem. South declares four spades, and West leads the diamond seven to the 10 and king. Declarer plays the king and ace of trumps, finding that West started with Q-J-9. How should he continue?

What happened at the table was that declarer played his other two top diamonds and then led a low club. However, this allowed West to win with the king, cash the spade queen, and play the diamond nine, forcing declarer to ruff in hand with his last trump. Declarer could now play a club to dummy’s queen, but couldn’t get back to hand to cash the club ace. When the heart ace was wrong, he had to go down.

Can you see where he went wrong? After the spade king and ace, he should have played a club immediately. This does not give up on any of his chances since, once trumps fail to break, he needs either the club king or heart ace to be right. Now West again wins the club king, cashes the spade queen, and plays a diamond, but this time declarer can win, play a club to the queen, a diamond back to his hand, and the club ace, discarding a heart from dummy. A club ruff followed by a diamond ruff sees him home.


South holds:

K 8 6 5 4
J 9
8 6 3 2
Q 7


South West North East
1 Pass
1 Pass 2 Pass
ANSWER: It is primarily a matter of partnership agreement as to how to continue over reverses. A simple way is to play that responder’s rebid of his own suit is forcing for one round but not to game, while all direct three-level bids are game-forcing. Responder uses a bid of two no-trump as weak, without five cards in his initial suit. Using these methods, South can bid two spades happily enough.


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


GalJune 23rd, 2011 at 10:11 am

That immediate club gives up chances. If the diamonds are 33 and east has the club king and another minor honour in the rounded suits for example .

Dick Freeman played the hand better and earned a game swing for USA against Brazil at the 2005 Bermuda Bowl. After cashing the diamond honours he played a trump. Branco had to play a diamond back which Freeman ruffed, played a club and dropped the queen under the king. Well played. The difference between his line and Chagas’ (who played the same way as Bocchi) was that the opponent had no exit card after taking the trick with the club king. (Price versus Italy played the same way as Freeman from the West position after the jack of diamond lead – so a deserved game swing for England as well)

Bobby WolffJune 23rd, 2011 at 10:38 am

Hi Gal,

Thanks for your nothing short of magnificent follow-up to this real hand, giving (excuse me, Paul Harvey) the Rest of the Story both as to the bridge of the matter as well as the correct historical significance of what did actually happen and exactly when.

It always gives me a great feeling when a particular comment, not only is on target, (a huge percentage of them are) but one which requires careful, sometimes tedious research, which always symbolizes a love for the game and its glorious history.

Yes, at least IMHO, bridge is worth every bit of the above, and thanks GAL for representing your interest, not to mention your analysis.

jim2June 23rd, 2011 at 12:25 pm

The Freeman/Price line is indeed magnificient.

I must confess that, back when I read this column in print, I did not spot the QC drop even looking at all four hands.

John Howard GibsonJune 23rd, 2011 at 1:51 pm

HBJ : In my humble opinion, it seems declarer has two chances of pitching a heart – either one from his own hand using dummy’s fourth diamond, or one from dummy on the club Ace ( both lines requiring of course the club king being with West ).

Logic dictates that plan B ( the clubs) must implemented first, because plan A will fail even if the clubs are right, because declarer will experience entry problems back to hand when diamonds break 4-2…….as revealed in the original article.

This is a lovely hand demonstrating great judgement by top class players.

GalJune 24th, 2011 at 5:08 am

Hi John,

If West has less than four diamonds declarer doesn’t need him to have the club king, the jack is good as well. After cashing a diamond honour and playing a trump if West has no diamonds he must lead a club, declarer play small from dummy and if West has the jack he is home. If East produce the jack, he takes the trick and play back a club. So the only way to go down is East having both club honours and after the club trick the defence can cash two hearts.

In fact I don’t see a single distribution where leading up to the queen early wins against cashing the diamonds and then playing a trump.