Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Don't strew me with roses after I'm dead.
When Death claims the light of my brow,
No flowers of life will cheer me: instead
You may give me my roses now!

Thomas F. Healey

East North
East-West ♠ K J 10 7 6 3
 K 9 3
 8 5
♣ J 6
West East
♠ A 5 4
 J 7
 A Q J 4
♣ K 10 9 7
♠ —
 10 8 4
 9 7 6 3 2
♣ Q 8 5 4 2
♠ Q 9 8 2
 A Q 6 5 2
 K 10
♣ A 3
South West North East
1 Dbl. Rdbl 2 NT*
Dbl. 3♣ 3 4♣
4 All pass    



Today's deal comes from a pairs event at the Gold Coast tournament in Australia last spring. Many a bloom is born to blush unseen, as the poet says, but fortunately Steve and Betty Bloom have teammates who can relate their deeds of derring-do.

The auction had made it hard for North-South to find their spade fit, and they ended in their eight-card heart fit not their 10-card fit. However, they had at least managed to declare the hand the right way up, and thus had avoided the killing diamond lead.

When Betty Bloom led the club 10, declarer, Sartaj Hans, knew that with spade ruffs looming and an unpleasant diamond shift from East on the horizon, he needed to tread carefully. He covered the club 10 in dummy and captured Steve Bloom’s queen with his ace, drew trump and played on hearts. East had followed up the line in trumps (suit preference for the lowest suit), then pitched a discouraging diamond nine on the fourth trump, and a suit preference diamond two on the fifth. Betty got the picture. When she won the spade ace, she underled her clubs, playing the club seven, overtaken by Steve with the club eight for the fatal diamond shift and one down.

This was a clear top for the defenders. At every other table in the main final, 10 tricks were taken in spades or hearts by North-South (even when North was declarer and a diamond lead would have defeated four spades by force).

Hide this answer from my friends, but I think there is much to be said for opening one no-trump. The problem with a one-heart opening is that you have no sensible call over a response of one no-trump. Equally, if you have a major-suit fit, you are quite happy to be declarer and protect your tenaces. It may not work out, but it is probably the most prepared bid available.


♠ Q 9 8 2
 A Q 6 5 2
 K 10
♣ A 3
South West North East

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


JaneApril 14th, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Thanks for the lesson yesterday Bobby. It was fun, and nice to see you in the teaching mode again. I remember you offered a lesson every Tuesday years ago at the old club, and it was appreciated then, as it is now.

I would have opened this hand one NT, so I was glad to see you would also. To me there is little downside, and in this case, spades will easily be found and played in the right hand. In my past life I would have been hesitant to do so holding both majors, but not anymore. The rebid problem rears it’s ugly head with hands like this, so throw the big rock in the ring and see what happens.

Makes me feel good to know that I would have opened a hand the same way you might. I might eventually learn this game!

Jeff SApril 14th, 2012 at 2:35 pm

This hand sure shows the importance of the opening lead. Sure, a spade lead also defeats the contract, but that would have been a very strange choice on the bidding.

If I am not missing something (which I usually am), underleading the KC was the only other lead to defeat the contract. Very nice!

bobbywolffApril 14th, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Hi Jane,

Thanks for your kind note and your remembrance of bridge discussions, both past and as of yesterday, present.

Under normal circumstances, which we always need to consider, choices in the bidding are sometimes determined by the specific conventions a partnership is playing. There is no doubt that a Flannery bid of 2 diamonds would be best with the AOB hand which shows 4 spades, 5 hearts and 11-15 points.

However since the vast majority of world bridge players probably do not incorporate Flannery in their repertoire (system) they need to make due, by making a choice of so-called evils. While 4-5 or 5-4 holdings in the majors is not perfect for 1NT, the ability to show the approximate value of the hand, plus no side singletons, and an additional stategic bonus of major honors in both short suits makes 1NT a serious consideration. You and I think alike, but that is not surprising to me.

BTW, Judy and I do play Flannery, which is our way of saying that we think that the use of 2 diamonds is best used for it, rather than that oft used utility slot available (2 diamonds), being used either for some other specialization or for a more common simple weak two bid.

We hope to see you next Friday or even before.

bobbywolffApril 14th, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Hi Jeff S,

Your brief comment merely emphasized which all serious bridge players, after some experience, come to realize. Bridge requires at least some luck and like Betty Bloom proved, some daring.

What if she had decided to lead the seven of clubs (4th best) instead of the ten, then when Sartaj covered with the jack in dummy forcing Steve to play the queen, all defensive communication would have been removed, allowing a game to be made which, under different choices, might have been defeated?

Some bridge players who also love chess (and there are many of them) might say, “That is why I like chess better, since it is a much purer competition with no luck involved”. I guess that some of that sentence is, at the very least, correct, however, my humble opinion is that the luck involved in bridge quite often narrows down to choices made which, in turn, and with experience tend to make both the player(s) involved more effective in the future, and, even more importantly, adds an off-the-charts superior and exciting aspect to bridge which if properly analyzed adds to the the magnetic allure our game (particularly the very high-level kind) brings to all its competitors.

Some like chocolate while others, vanilla.

David Memphis MOJO SmithApril 14th, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Do you agree with North’s redouble? He missed his chance to get his spades into the picture, imo.

bobbywolffApril 14th, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Hi David (MOJO),

Since this was a real life hand, I suspect that North was trying to mislead his (probably) expert opponents into thinking that he, North, had a better defensive hand than he did. On that subject, his strength and especially his length in spades together with his only other major honor being in his partner’s 5 card or longer heart suit caused him to worry about his partnership’s overall defensive strength, so by redoubling he might create at least a modicum of fear in them to possibly not compete as high as they might. Also, of course, since their partnership had already shown at least an 8 card major suit fit, he, to his regret, did not think that spades would ever be his partnership’s final resting spot.

In other words, his redouble was (at least IMHO) only a legal suberfuge in order to buy the hand as cheaply as possible. THE BEST LAID PLANS OF MICE AND MEN………..

Sometimes, as you so rightly explain, simply bidding where one lives is the most effective choice, but again a philosophical, “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive”.

Please forgive my poetic mood but, in truth, I’ve been personally guilty by engaging in that sort of bidding obfuscation before, no doubt with mixed results, especially against good opponents.

Jeff SApril 14th, 2012 at 6:28 pm

I am one who greatly enjoys chess as well as other games. After playing bridge (or poker) for awhile, it can be very relaxing to retreat to a chess game where you can SEE everything that is going on. But after playing chess for awhile, I start to long again for the excitement of trying to work out what is going on with imperfect information even if there is a bit of luck involved (not as much as many people think, but definitely some).

I’ll be interested to see your response to David’s question above as I wondered the same thing.

Alex AlonApril 15th, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I wonder what would have happened if the declarer did not played the J club on the 10…
Yes a spade Ace and another is setting the contract 3 tricks, but many players would continue clubs and thus there would not be a communication to go to east.
It is risky but offers a chance ( even very small one) to make the contract.

I must add that i am now trying to master this “cutting communications” issue and so far gave away many contracts that would have been done by a very simple play 🙂

Alex AlonApril 15th, 2012 at 1:24 pm

I wonder what would have happened if the declarer did not played the J club on the 10 and ducked the Ace club…
Yes a spade Ace and another is setting the contract 3 tricks, but many players would continue clubs and thus there would not be a communication to go to east.
It is risky but offers a chance ( even very small one) to make the contract.

I must add that i am now trying to master this “cutting communications” issue and so far gave away many contracts that would have been done by a very simple play 🙂

bobbywolffApril 16th, 2012 at 12:45 am

Hi Alex.

Yes, only the shadow knows what would have happened (an expression from 1940 radio when they used to present a detective series of cases involving a mysterous character named the Shadow who was always on the good side and, of course, knew everything there was to know about the mysteries of a human’s mind).

However, once declarer studies before ducking, the opening leader may get the drift and switch to some spade. But if the declarer does not study but plays quickly, he may have walked into a land mind that he could have avoided since he knew for sure that a spade ruff was eminent (assuming the defense was sharp enough to capitalize on it and West did have East’s bid of 2NT (showing the minors) to suggest that he might have a singleton or in this case a void in spades.

Only the Shadow could have told us!

David WarheitApril 16th, 2012 at 12:57 am

Two questions: 1. You say that south cashed all his hearts before leading spades. This can’t be, since now the opponents can run clubs plus their two aces. 2. You say that everyone made 10 tricks except Hans, but I wonder if anybody made 11 tricks. If south plays 4 spades, as I assume happened at least once or twice, west probably leads the club ten, ducked and continued. South now knocks out the ace of spades. Unless west cashes the ace of diamonds right now, it goes bye-bye for a top the other way.

bobbywolffApril 16th, 2012 at 4:00 am

Hi David,

Sorry for another gaffe. Obviously, declarer did not cash his 5th heart, but led spades after drawing those fangs from his opponents. Then at that point was when Betty, in with the ace of spades, needed to lead her 7 of clubs to her partner’s lucky 8, for the killing diamond switch.

This was a real hand, but not reported well, which shouldn’t detract from Betty Bloom’s timely club underlead.