Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Vulnerable: North-South

Dealer: South


Q 7 3 2

A K 7 6

A Q 4

4 2


K 9

J 4

9 7 6 3

A 9 7 5 3


6 5

Q 10 9 8 5

K J 8

10 8 6


A J 10 8 4

3 2

10 5 2



South West North East
1 Pass 2 NT* Pass
4 All pass

*Game-forcing with spade support

Opening Lead: Diamond six

“What mischief cleaves to unsubdued regret,

How fancy sickens by vague hopes beset.”

— William Wordsworth

As a recent Cavendish Pairs demonstrated, light opening bids sometimes backfire; and if ever there was a reason not to open light, this deal demonstrates it. When one South passed initially, a transfer bid got North to four spades, and he wrapped up his game on a club lead. From the North seat there is no lead that can put the game in jeopardy.

By contrast, both Geir Helgemo and Fred Stewart opened the South hand, the one fueled by youthful exuberance, the other by a strong club system. After a game-forcing trump raise, both played four spades on a diamond lead to East’s jack. It looks natural for the defenders to play clubs now, but as you can see, that would deprive them of their second diamond trick. In fact both Easts at their respective tables (Alain Levy and Roy Welland) found the devastating trump shift. Declarer took his ace, but had lost his hand entry. He tried the club king, but both defenders in the West seat (Paul Chemla and Bjorn Fallenius) continued the good work on defense.

They ducked the first club, won the second, and played a second diamond. Both declarers inferred that the diamond finesse would lose. They rose with dummy’s ace and played heart ace, heart king, and ruffed a heart high, hoping to be able to get back to hand to cash the club winner and pitch dummy’s diamond queen. No such luck! The defense could overruff and cash the diamond king for down one.


South holds:

6 5
Q 10 9 8 5
K J 8
10 8 6


South West North East
Pass Pass Dbl. Pass
ANSWER: Your partner’s second double simply shows extra values and is for takeout. With decent hearts but not much else, you should simply bid two hearts for the time being. With the same hand, but the heart king instead of the queen, you might be worth a jump to three hearts.


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


David WarheitSeptember 10th, 2011 at 5:31 pm

I, too, would not have opened the south hand, but you are being much too unkind to M. Helgemo and Stewart. In order for them to fail at their contract when north would have made it, all of the following had to happen: 1. West had to lead a diamond. 2. East had to have both the jack and king of diamonds. 3. West had to have the king of spades and at least one more. 4. West had to have the ace of clubs. 5. Hearts had to break 5-2 with west having the doubleton. 6. After winning the opening lead, east has to find the spade shift. I estimate the combined possibility at less than 1%. On the other hand, by opening one spade, south might have gained by pre-empting his opponents or by getting his side off on the right track. I’m sure that there are days when it would be best not to get out of bed, but I would never criticize anyone for doing so.

Bobby WolffSeptember 12th, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Hi David,

Since you worked long and hard relating this sad saga, you possibly missed the possibility of West having 6 diamonds to the king, while deciding to lead the 6th best and now even though declarer rose with the ace of spades to lead the king of clubs West won his ace but secured the setting trick by giving his partner a diamond ruff with his original K65 of trumps.

Then we can all really sympathize with poor South who went down with both the diamond king finesse and the spade king well placed.

What power all bridge columnists have at their disposal for making good (even great) declarers to sometimes look foolish.

OhanaSeptember 13th, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Hi M. Wolff

At the 3rd trick, when S played the C King, would not be better to play a Heart to dummy and then a Club to the King, making perhaps more difficult for West to duck than when declarer clearly shows that he has KQJ in the color ?

Thank you again for your columns and your kind explanations


Albert Ohana

Bobby WolffSeptember 13th, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Hi Albert,

Yes indeed, it would have been better to do as you suggest.

“Little by little we can do great things” or at least consistently improve.

Thanks for your worthwhile contribution to just such an end.