Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

The people are like water and the army is like fish.

Mao Zedong

North North
Neither ♠ 9
 A K Q J 5
 9 6 2
♣ K 8 5 2
West East
♠ 10 3
 9 7 3
 K 5
♣ J 10 9 7 4 3
♠ 8 6 4 2
 8 4 2
 A Q 10 7 4
♣ 6
♠ A K Q J 7 5
 10 6
 J 8 3
♣ A Q
South West North East
1 Pass
2♠ Pass 3 Pass
3♠ Pass 4♣ Pass
4♠ All pass    


Today's deal from the old days was played by Dr John Fisher of Dallas, one of my great friends within the community of Texas bridge players. He won the McKenney trophy for the most masterpoints earned in a year in 1973, and was a great doctor as well s a bridge player. He was one of Barry Crane's regular partners, and together they formed a fearsome pair.

After a strong jump response, Fisher played four spades, but he had reached that contract in an informative auction that got West off to the best attack. The incisive lead of the diamond king saw East encourage and West continue with his second diamond. East won his ace, cashed the queen, then played a fourth diamond. Fisher ruffed high and cashed the spade ace and king.

When the spade 10 fell, he decided to play East for two trumps remaining. He took the heart ace and king; then the heart queen, which he ruffed in hand, the start of a grand coup.

The club queen to dummy’s king left a three-card ending where South had the Q-7 of spades and the club ace, while East had the 8-6 of spades and the 13th diamond. When Fisher led a winning heart from dummy, what could East do? If he ruffed in, declarer would overruff and draw trump. He chose to discard, so Fisher pitched his club ace and led another heart to achieve the trump coup at trick 12.

Once partner shows a club suit, you can describe your big club fit and spade shortage by jumping to three spades. This is a splinter raise, putting your partner in position to decide on the appropriate level and strain in which to play. One caveat: will your partner know that is what this call should mean? Yes — with hearts and spades, you would just bid two spades now, wouldn't you?


♠ 9
 A K Q J 5
 9 6 2
♣ K 8 5 2
South West North East
1 Pass 2♣ Pass

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 2012. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2January 31st, 2012 at 1:29 pm

The spade 9 in dummy made the 10 and 8 equals after the first round of trump, thus the 10 could have been a false card from 1083. Kudos to Dr. Fisher for getting it right, whether by Restricted Choice or simply table feel.

Still, that would have been a nice defense!

jim2January 31st, 2012 at 2:45 pm

On the bidding quiz, what should South bid if North calls four clubs?

(opponents silent)

Howard Bigot-JohnsonJanuary 31st, 2012 at 2:50 pm

HBJ : This is card reading at its best since many declarers might take the view ( or pray for ) the spades to split 3-3.
Even then to engineer and envisage trump coup is not always that obvious when beguiled by club and heart winners in abundance. The exquisite play of pitching the club ace under the unruffed heart is so beautiful to see.
Lovely hand which demonstrates yet again the gulf in class between players.

Jeff HJanuary 31st, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Of course, had the contract been 4H instead of 4S, there would probably have been no story. East is on lead and might not start with the diamonds, NS take all 13 tricks! In fact he has to underlead the AQ at trick 1 to avaoid an overtrick. Even if he does so, the 4th diamond gets ruffed with South’s 10, so it takes a 5-1 or 6-0 heart break to beat the contract.

Bobby WolffJanuary 31st, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Hi Jeff H,

Yes, everything you say is true, but since bridge is the master, simply because there is not room enough with language available in the bidding to emphasize five hearts to the AKQJ rather than six spades to the same AKQJ.

This, in turn, sometimes leads us to the wrong contract (this hand for example as pointed out by you), but it doesn’t and certainly shouldn’t, preclude us from, after arriving at where we arrive, giving it our best effort in order to recover.

Isn’t the same troublesome problem present in most all competitive sports where, for example, a weak shot in golf forces the golfer to make up for it on his next shot, or errors in baseball, fumbles in football etc.?

Thanks for your reminding us of this anomaly since, of course, to survive in bridge one has to deal with it all the time.

jim2January 31st, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Jeff H –

If I had been South and bid 4H instead of 3S, to show a tolerance, it would have been North with the doubleton spade, and West with the singleton. The defense to 4H would have begun with three top diamonds letting West pitch the spade and then get a spade ruff. 🙂

Bobby WolffFebruary 1st, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Hi Jeff,

Yes, I understand, but have the card gods really gotten that malicious, with especially you, the most likely victim?

After witnessing some of the recent playoff football games, it has often become breathtaking at the finish with constant and sudden changes in fortune before determining the winner.

In high-level (or perhaps all level) bridge matches, between equal strength teams often do the same thing, leaving the winning team to rejoice and the losers to consider self-destruction.

If ever, some off-the-charts talented bridge loving, producer type, could cage the drama, make the viewer aware of the goal(s), like in basketball and golf, getting the ball in the hole, nothing could surpass the originality bridge offers because instead of physical challenges, it is instead mental, which allows much older participation and interest.

Probably not to be done in some of our lifetimes, but never give up the possibility for it to be done some glorious day.

Bobby WolffFebruary 1st, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Hi Jim2, (and Jeff)

Please forgive my gaffe and whether I read it wrong or not, I should have known better because the comment sounded like your fortune, felt like your fortune, and thus by all logic was and is you.