Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, February 13th, 2012

I only took the regular course … the different branches of Arithmetic — Ambition, Distraction, Uglification and Derision.

Lewis Carroll

North North
Both ♠ 4 3
 9 7
 A J 8 7 5 4 3
♣ J 2
West East
♠ A Q J 2
 Q 10 6
♣ 9 7 6 5 3
♠ 9 8 7
 Q J 5 4 3
♣ A Q 10 8
♠ K 10 6 5
 A K 10 6 2
 K 2
♣ K 4
South West North East
Pass Pass
1 1♠ 2 2♠
3 NT All pass    


To mark the fact that the NEC championships are taking place now, all this week's deals come from last year's event in Yokohama. A field of 64 teams reduces to eight, using a Swiss Teams formula, with a knockout event to follow. The field normally includes up to 16 of the world's stronger teams and a contingent of local Japanese squads.

In today’s deal, game was bid and made seven times — eight if you count the result of three spades doubled making nine tricks by one East-West pair. David Bakhshi of England as South was one of the careful declarers who brought home three no-trump via a nice exercise in counting.

North, David Gold, did not think he had enough for a vulnerable pre-empt; however, his delayed route into the auction persuaded his partner to take a shot at the no-trump game.

West led a high club spot to East’s ace for a shift to the spade nine, covered by the 10 and won by West’s jack.

West now went back to clubs, leading declarer to conclude that the spades were 4-3 and that West had started with five clubs, else East would surely have continued the suit at trick two or put in the queen at trick one.

That being so, Bakhshi cashed the heart ace and king, and when West showed out, he knew to take the diamond finesse against West rather than to play for the drop, since West had to have three diamonds to make up his 13 cards.

Your partner cannot have five spades or he would have acted already. So the choice is to lead your top club (hoping to hit the 'jack'pot), or to play for partner to come through with unexpected length in one of the red suits. Leading through dummy looks like a better chance to me. If so, there may well be a case for leading the heart jack rather than a small card, unorthodox as that might appear.


♠ Q 10 2
 J 5 2
 Q 9 7 4 2
♣ J 3
South West North East
Pass 1 Pass 1 NT
All 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


jim2February 27th, 2012 at 2:12 pm

It would have been an amusing Flannery auction.

bobby wolffFebruary 27th, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Hi Jim2,

I’ve been playing Flannery for perhaps 30+ years and like it since it seems to serve an important need in my preferred bidding methods (I played 4 card majors most of my life, up until about 10 years ago, when partnership changes and other circumstances forced my hand).

I also preferred playing a wide range Flannery (because of the need it fulfilled) 12-16. Therefore I would have opened 2 hearts then which Bob Hamman and I played as Flannery, reserving 2 diamonds for Roman (17+, and a random 4-4-4-1, which is extremely accurate with a detailed follow-up), although it didn’t come up very often. Now, I open the conventional Flannery 2 diamonds which would then probably entice partner (instead of just choosing pass), into bidding a pushy invitational 3 diamonds. I, of course, would carry on to 3NT with an almost book example of that rebid (the ace queen of clubs replacing the kings of clubs and hearts might be considered perfect).

However, back at the ranch, on this hand with a club lead and continuation, declarer would be faced with a choice with it being, after cashing the king of diamonds with no surprises, whether to first lead the AK of hearts hoping for West to show out or just, probably a more practical way, of just leading out the AK of diamonds and going down usually 2 tricks rather than grasp at leading the hearts first in order to guess the diamonds, which would be a bell ringer on this hand, but on most other hands go set 4 or 5 if nothing revealing happens in hearts and, of course, the diamonds turning sour.

The interesting phenomena or perhaps better described as amusing (as you say), part of it is how numeracy helps determine the choices. Without lingering significant lengths of time before making the decision, most of the top players, will just do something, perhaps not choosing the best percentage line, but always coming close when measuring possible gain against possible loss. Exact percentages, at least in my experience are not necessary, contrary to some who seem to thrive on it, even if fate frowns, on crossing every t and dotting every i.

I’ve given you an insight into my bridge soul and fully understand that others feel very differently about their special orientation.