Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, November 19th, 2011

Dealer: North

Vul: North-South


9 7 5 4

A Q 10 7

K 5

10 8 2



K J 9 4

A 10 8 6 2

9 7 4


Q 10 6 2

3 2

Q 9 4 3

A K 3


A K J 8

8 6 5

J 7

Q J 6 5


South West North East
    Pass Pass
1 Pass 2 Pass
Pass Dbl. Rdbl. 3
Pass Pass 3 All Pass

Opening Lead: Club Four

“The essence of lying is in deception, not in words.”

— John Ruskin

In today’s deal from a recent Invitational Teams event, John Mohan protected in the West seat after the opponents’ bidding had died in two spades. The three-club call found by his partner Zia Mahmood might not have been the majority choice, but it created a bit of excitement.


Looking at a dead minimum hand, Victor Silverstone as South elected, perhaps unwisely, not to double, so Zia never got to demonstrate that his three clubs had been merely lead-directional.


Mohan obediently led a club against three spades. Left to his own devices, Silverstone would almost certainly have made the contract, playing East for the spade queen and West for the outstanding red honors. Indeed, there is little else he can do, and both Vladimir Isporski and David Horton made nine tricks in spades on just that line of play. However, Zia won with the king and switched to the heart two. From Silverstone’s point of view, this was clearly a singleton, so he rejected the spade finesse and cashed the ace and king, getting the bad news. He exited with a club to the ace and Zia played the heart three, a real singleton this time!


Silverstone won in dummy and led a spade. Zia went up with the queen, played a diamond to his partner’s ace, and Mohan had no difficulty giving Zia his heart ruff. Thus three spades went down a trick — a small swing to Zia’s team but also a big psychological victory for East-West.


South Holds:

A K J 8
8 6 5
J 7
Q J 6 5


South West North East
  1 Pass 1
ANSWER: Do you feel lucky today? The normal action would be to pass now, but if you feel you can’t stand to pass, backing into your opponents’ auction with a one-spade overcall might work well. You are supposed to have five spades for that action of course, but doesn’t this suit look like a five-carder? Additionally, you really don’t want to see partner lead a heart against a no-trump game, do you?


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


jim2December 3rd, 2011 at 1:07 pm

At the table, reflexively concluding the heart deuce is a singleton is perhaps understandable.

If Zia really has a club suit headed by the AK, he should be able to give his partner club ruffs right now before trump can be played. Zia cannot see the trump ace in his hand, and so cannot expect to win the first trump and proceed with a defensive crossruff. If the heart deuce is a singleton, then West has a quite respectable five-card heart suit but somehow chose to pass Zia’s 3C T/O double response holding only a singleton (or maybe small doubleton) for support.

Also, would West have balanced with a double holding more than two spades? Even with a doubleton spade, the supposed 5-card heart suit and club shortness would force West to hold a diamond suit, making it a red 2-suiter. Why not bid 3D over 3C to essentially offer Zia a choice of reds?

The heart deuce as singleton just does not add up.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonDecember 4th, 2011 at 12:22 am

HBJ : If West had 5-5 in the minors would he have bid 2S over South’s one ? Yet he is prepared to protect against 2S with a double in the pass out seat. Does this suggest a heart suit but only to the 4 ? East 3C is clearly a clever move : if West has clubs then all is well, and if he hasn’t then he will surely have ( and bid ) his diamond suit. Moreover if defending 3 spades a club lead gets E/W off to a good start.
Personally, the 2 of hearts has to be a ploy. Firstly, it is giving declarer a free finesse… which was always there for the taking anyway. But the object of course is to panic declarer. However, if West had five diamonds then he would have surely bid 3D instead of 3 clubs THEREFORE HE HAS 4 OR LESS in diamonds….giving West 5. Moreover West must be short in spades to justify his take out double. This leaves him with 7 cards in hearts and clubs… and if he had 5 hearts then we are back to the argument that would 5-5 in the red suits he would spring into action straightaway.
THe singleton 2 is an illusion…….and one deception that can be revealed by careful analysis.

Alex AlonDecember 4th, 2011 at 9:56 am

the analysis you have made is correct, but at the table one is not always calculates the same way as at the drawing board. The game is a game of mistakes and one can do very well by inducing the declarer to a wrong thinking path. i played at the league yesterday and had QJ962 at dummy and 874 in my hand, the lead was 3. After a consideration i played the 2 from the table only to kick myself when the 10 held the trick …. lucky for me it did not cost us.

Alex Alon

Bobby WolffDecember 4th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Hi Jim2, HBJ, and Alex,

All of your above comments constitute a winning trifecta, which is, above all, the purpose for writing.

However, in my experience, Zia and perhaps Benito Garozzo, had a quality about them, which at the table, had the ability to mesmerize, even competent declarers, into thinking that fantasy is real.

Just another reason to lionize our game by forcing all of us to realize just what defensive gambits (in this case) are out there to serve as weapons for victory and, for that matter, to suggest to us the significant depths and peaks to which our game can roam.

You do not have to either experience it up close or personal, to enjoy the imagination required to effect it, and as a matter of keeping one’s ego in tack, it probably is more satisfying to just merely read about it.

To repeat, all of you are entirely correct in your reasons for not falling for the ruse, but many of us have bought those bridges before and have the scars, empty pockets and most sorrowfully, lost events, to prove it.

Howard Bigot-JohnsonDecember 4th, 2011 at 3:42 pm

HBJ : Or perhaps some of us don’t even notice the ” 2 ” and play the hand like everything was behaving !