Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

And new foul tricks unguessed before
Will win and justify this War.

Robert Graves

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


Martin Schaltz is furthering the Danish Schaltz family's illustrious bridge tradition — he is the third generation of bridge players to be capped internationally. In this deal he sat East in the Youth Individual tournament at the first World Mind Sports Games.

Against two spades West led the club queen, taken by declarer’s king. South, eyeing dummy’s trump void philosophically, played the spade ace, then a low spade, won by East with the 10. Martin Schaltz now tabled the heart queen, which declarer instinctively ducked. South naturally expected East to hold the heart jack as well, with the ace in West’s hand. His thinking was that with the heart 10 on the table, he was “guaranteed” a heart trick. If East continued with the heart jack, he would cover; the ace would win, establishing dummy’s 10. And should East next play a low heart, South would duck, and West’s ace would beat the air.

But none of this logical reasoning allowed for Schaltz’s trickery. East continued with a low heart, South confidently ducked — but it was West who won with the jack. Back came a heart to East’s ace, and only now did Schaltz give his partner the club ruff. West cooperated in this fine defense by returning his fourth heart, enabling East to ruff with his last trump, the queen.

With the spade king and the diamond ace still to come, it was the defenders who made the requisite eight tricks, leaving declarer three in the mire.

When the opponents have agreed on a suit, as here, your partner's double is for takeout, not penalties — and this does not change despite your rather unlikely spade (non)holding. Get your partner to pick a minor at the five-level by jumping to four no-trump, which suggests a two-suiter, logically — clubs and diamonds.


♠ —
 10 3 2
 K 10 7 6 2
♣ A 9 8 5 4
South West North East
Pass 3♠ Dbl. 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


jim2March 21st, 2012 at 2:01 pm

The bidding quiz fascinated me.

I am not sure what a redouble would have meant, but East’s pass surely declines the game invitation as though North had not bid.

It seems safe, then, to place about 11 points in both the West and East hands (though West might be a little lighter with 5 or 6 spades and shape). That leaves only about 11 more unaccounted for but partner North has compelled passed hand South to bid at the 10-trick level, and must be ready to hear four hearts.

Would 3N by North have been for the minors? Certainly 4N would have been. In any case, North did not bid either. Thus, the signs seem to point to North having a hearts plus a minor two-suiter. Our chances look good to find a 10-card fit with 4N, making it a good bid.

On the other hand, making 11 tricks will probably require setting up a second suit. That could be a problem, but it should be fun to play!

bobby wolffMarch 21st, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Hi Jim2,

Much of what you say is true, but more often than many will realize, is still speculative. If I was asked to guess the distribution around the table rather than thinking that North had a 2 suiter I would probably say: 1-4-4-4 with the opener having either 6 or 7 spades, but a relatively bare opening bid. West, because of holding at least 5 spades shaded his limit raise (or premptive since we do not asterisk conventions for the BWTA hand).

As you suspect since we do have a 7 count it is unlikely that if North had 2+ spades that he would have enough hand to make a TO double at the 3 level.

In any event our side is facing a guessing game as far as number of tricks to be taken is concerned, but it seems 11 is about the right number and so our 4NT bid for partner’s best minor will validate that choice. Do not be surprised to take anywhere from 10-12 (partner has: x, Axxx, AJxxx, QJ10 in the mix with the opening bidder holding the King of clubs).

If we wind up in 5 diamonds and against a spade lead we should hope for the king of clubs to be offside so that a heart lead may have defeated the game and also the opponents will be able to take one more trick making their save probably down only one. Rule out a 3-0 diamond break since if held, one of our adversaries would not sell out to 5 diamonds

Years ago when I took time out to mentor young juniors attempting to play for the USA in International competition but still very inexperienced in high-level competition I would ask questions about (on this hand) after seeing the dummy and about to play the hand in 5 diamonds what should we know about the opponents hands and the key answer is that the diamonds have to be 2-1 because of what we just discussed.

Yes bridge, in so many ways, can be utterly fascinating.

jim2March 22nd, 2012 at 11:58 am

I will defer to you on this, as I did on the previous column hand exchange on tactical advantage of being declarer. With that said, I sure expect my partner’s to have more shape or more points than you suggested when they drag me into a live auction (East was not yet limited when North doubled) at the FOUR level!

bobby wolffMarch 22nd, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Hi Jim2,

Thanks for your followup, because without it, the points discussed before have less meaning.

When faced with the oft times problem you mention about the dangers of coming into a “live” auction before some hands become limited, our flexible game is frought with poisoned flowers with the end result more times than not, of it turning out more dangerous to pass than, (usually with the right distribution which is almost always shortness in the opponents suit), venturing in at the lowest level available.

All of the top bridge players have many scars to show for their battles, but seemingly the most painful ones are the refusals to take chances by bidding. Bridge at the top is in the middle of a renaissance to bid early and risk sleeping in the streets as against passing and becoming an easy opponent by being run over.

Since the level you are capable of rising to is probably higher than you can imagine, bid and then bid some more, and charge it up to necessity. Faint heart rarely wins anything worth winning.